Summit Elevations (m): 3001, 2901
Total Elevation Gain (m): 2200+
Round Trip Time (hr): 13
Total Trip Distance (km): 45
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or die.
Difficulty Notes: One of the most difficult and exposed scrambles on this site that isn’t rated 5th class. The south ridge is just plain dangerous and will use at least one of your luck coins to complete it safely.
Technical Rating: SC7+
Map: Google Maps
GPS Track: Download
First Ascent: Summer 1988 by John Martin (solo) via class 4 route up the west face.
In 1985 John Martin made the same error that I nearly unintentionally repeated when he ascended a high point at the south end of Mount Allenby and assumed he’d made the summit (pg 89, 1986 CAJ) . Of course he’s not the only one to be confused where exactly Mount Allenby is – every topo map still has the wrong peak labelled “Allenby”. Even the title image for this trip report is of the “wrong” (false) peak. According to The Rocky Mountains of Canada South (1979 edition by Boles, Kruszyna, Putnam) Mount Allenby is,
6 1/2 km E of Assiniboine Pass; in NE angle between Allenby and Mercer Creeks; 2 km N of Mt Mercer. W of the main summit a sharp outlier reaches 2895m. E of the main summit and separated by a deep col is a subsidiary point in excess of 2925m.
The west outlier is the one all the map makers think is Mount Allenby and the east outlier helps ID the proper high point along the Sundance Range between Mercer and Beersheba. Making things more confusing is the fact that Beersheba is unnamed and the highest point on the Sundance Range and the “real” Allenby isn’t visible from the popular trails running below it, making me wonder if the lower peak is indeed the one that was originally labeled “Mount Allenby”. Bivouac.com gets around the issue by simply calling true Allenby, Palestine Peak for fairly non obvious reasons. Confused yet? Welcome to the obscure peak bagging club my friend!
Martin later realized his error and went back in 1988 to build a cairn at the 3001m summit and claim the first ascent (pg 86-87, 1989 CAJ). Rick Collier obviously never read about Martin’s trips and he wondered who’d built the small rock cairn that he, Reg Bonney and John Holmes found in July 1996 when he finally nabbed the summit on his 3rd attempt and very likely only the 2nd ever. In July 2018, Peter Nelson ascended both Allenby’s and wrote a trip report detailing what is likely the 3rd ascent and giving me a some more up-to-date beta for my own attempt.
Over the years I’ve stood on many of the peaks around the Assiniboine Provincial Park area on both the BC side and the AB side in Banff National Park. Looking back at my summit photos I never quite knew which peaks to label as “Beersheba” or “Allenby”. Originally I was hoping to combine both Allenby peaks with Mount Mercer over two days, but circumstances had me planning a long day trip and just the two Allenby’s instead. I was feeling very under the weather as the planned day arrived and only settled on my plans the evening before while lying in bed reading Peter’s trip report one more time. For some reason I never realized that the route left the Bryant Creek trail directly – I thought it left the Allenby Pass Trail which flirts with an annual hiking restriction and bear closure. As it was, I was going to be ascending along the very SE edge of the closure.
I decided to leave YYC at 04:45 hoping to arrive at the Mount Shark trailhead just in time to not need a headlamp. This worked beautifully. The first 6.5 kilometers went by quickly in cool morning air to the “no bikes” signs at the start of the official Bryant Creek trail. There’s 3 signs indicating “no bikes” past this point – no excuses for the many folks to whom the rules apparently don’t apply.
It’s been a while since I was on the Bryant Creek trail. I hiked into the Mount Assiniboine area way back in 2008 via this route and Phil and I used it on exit from our trip up Mount Morrison and Owl Peak in 2018. I biked the trail to Turbulent Creek in 2021 with Phil and Wietse for our Cone Mountain adventure. In 2017 I skied into the Bryant Creek shelter and then up Mount Turner the next day with Wietse and Ferenc. I had forgotten how flat and bikeable this trail is and apparently I’m not the only one that noticed how bikeable it is. I saw bike tracks all the way to the BR19 campground and on my exit I met two guys on bikes with big backpacks WAY past the “no biking” signs. Without enforcement I can see this becoming an issue – the fast downhill sections on this trail will definitely result in hiker / biker conflicts.
For some reason the trail was very busy early on Friday morning and I passed at least a dozen backpackers that must have started their exits in the dark. About 75 minutes from the bike drop I was hiking past the Bryant Creek warden cabin and had my first views to some of the peaks over the Bryant Creek meadows including Turner, Morrison, Marvel and Elys Dome.
It took another 30 to 40 minutes before I was at the point in my day where there would be no more human trails to follow for many hours. Almost as soon as I started up SW forested slopes under Mount Mercer I heard a group pass by on the trail below me. It’s so strange how some peaks are visible from a popular trail like Bryant Creek and very rarely get ascended despite their relatively easy access. As promised by Peter in his report, the bushwhack was relatively short and painless and before long I was staring up at an endless rubble slope.
The morning was glorious as I put one foot in front of another up the endless scree and boulder field under the SW face of Mount Mercer. As I ascended, views back over Bryant Creek to the Cautley Traverse stared back at me, reminding me of many previous trips into the stunning Mount Assiniboine area.
The rubble slopes were the kind that allow quick ascent and before long I was traversing north towards treeline in the upper Mercer Creek valley. Views of false Allenby with larches confirmed my suspicions that this was a good objective for larch season, even though the forest here is small, it was very scenic.
As I worked my way into the small, hanging valley of upper Mercer Creek I couldn’t help but notice how fierce the west face of Mount Allenby was. False Allenby looked very straightforward but the real deal was certainly not! For whatever reason I hadn’t bothered reading Rick’s report on the mountain recently and only remembered Peter mentioning “moderate to difficult scrambling” to the summit. I had his trip report saved on my phone but the way up to the south end of the south ridge looked obvious enough. As I approached the end of the valley around the north face of Mount Mercer I spotted a shortcut up grass and slabs to the end of the south ridge, rather than ascending to the Mercer col like Peter did.
As I hiked beautiful alpine meadows and started up the SW slopes of Allenby I reminded myself that the summit was going to a bit of a traverse north – it wasn’t the first high point I’d come across. For some reason this thought didn’t stick like it should have. After ascending some fun, easy steps I started up steeper terrain under the ridge, trying to find goat tracks next to SW cliffs. Alas, there weren’t any hoof highways to be found and I grunted and swore my way up some pretty loose scree just climber’s right of solid cliffs above.
I managed to grovel my way up one last scree and rubble slope and took my first steps onto the south ridge of Allenby and looked ahead to the 1st summit at its south end. GULP. This certainly didn’t look easy terrain! I wasn’t expecting it to be easy but for some reason it was even more intimidating than I was expecting. One other thing I noted was that I was already higher than false Allenby – I didn’t have a heckuva lot of height gain left on this peak.
As I worked my way up to an impossible looking cliff along the ridge I noticed a slabby bypass climber’s left off the crest. What I didn’t notice until I was right on it was a short but very exposed and loose section before I could traverse to the slab, a foretaste of what was laying in wait for me above. In this case I could put my whole arm over the loose ridge crest and walk a small, crumbling ledge on the west side. The slab was steep with rubble sitting on top but was only moderately exposed. I scooched up it – happy to be 6 feet tall – and looked up another series of rubble covered slabs to the top of the south ridge above.
The second set of exposed rubble covered slabs were also moderate scrambling but I’d add a “+” symbol to that (SC6+). The terrain wasn’t horrid but it was loose, exposed and there were no bypasses or workarounds. I hurried my way up the loose terrain, hoping it might at least solidify before getting harder. It didn’t.
After taking in the incredible morning views from the southernmost of Allenby’s summits it was time to figure out what was left. I think my brain was a little fried already at this point because I almost made a serious boo-boo that wouldn’t have made me very happy on getting home. I could see that there was another summit nearby looking very similar in height to the one I was standing on but almost certainly a little higher. There was no cairn on either my summit or the one nearby but cairns have a way of getting blasted by lightning or other natural destruction events so that didn’t really bother me much. What did bother me a bit was the unbelievably loose and exposed ridge between the two south summits!
It’s hard to convey on photos but the ridge was so loose and so exposed that I had to concentrate on pushing the rocks DOWN so that they wouldn’t collapse and push me off either the east or west face! The traverse between south summits only took me 5 or 10 minutes and I confirmed that the 2nd one was about 3 feet higher than the 1st. And then I lost my mind for a few minutes. I think the loose and narrow ridge had me distracted and for some reason I was convinced that I was done – Mount Allenby was ascended! I even built a cairn at the 2nd summit and traversed back to the 1st. I stood on the southernmost high point and took some telephoto shots of surrounding peaks, feeling a bit smug that the 2nd summit had to be reached in order to claim the peak and that I’d done it. Something nagged at me. Something was off. I remembered my earlier thought that I had to traverse quite a ways to the true summit. Then I took a telephoto towards Beersheba and realized with a sinking feeling what the next few hours of my day would look like.
CRAP. I’ve had this feeling before and I have to admit it kind of sux. When you really think you’re done a peak and then you look way off in the distance, over very challenging terrain to a summit far off that has to be the real one, part of you dies a little. The next 10 minutes or so were funny and sad at the same time. I immediately stopped taking photos and packed everything up, dropping onto the ridge towards the 2nd south summit again. Looking north along the ridge to what had to be real summit from the 2nd one was disheartening to say the least. If I thought the terrain had been difficult so far, I was in for a surprise. I kept trying to make sense of the terrain, swearing at myself for not reading Rick’s report and making sure I knew where exactly the damn summit was on this mountain! I read Peter’s report on my phone and noted a key phrase when he talked about continuing on to Beersheba from Allenby. He mentioned being 1km from Beersheba’s summit when he turned around. Looking at my GPS I was still 3kms from Beersheba – there’s no way I was close to Allenby’s true summit yet!
As I told my wife when I got home late that night, I haven’t been on terrain this loose and exposed for many years – especially for how long it goes on. I started down the ridge from the 2nd south summit, almost immediately running into concerning terrain. Downsloping with snow and ice and very loose with extreme exposure on both sides. East would certainly kill me but west was no picnic either. I delicately kept going, wondering what the heck I was doing risking so much on a silly peak. I even turned around once, questioning the terrain and wondering again about the summit. I think I knew where it was but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Eventually I gave up and decided to just go for it unless the terrain stopped me.
The next 30 or 40 minutes were pretty intense and the terrain almost had me turning back at least twice. It reminded me of the short, difficult section Wietse and I did the year before on Nasswald Peak. On Nasswald we had 1 or 2 moves that were extremely loose and exposed but on Allenby there were dozens of these moves. One concerning section was an exposed, polished slab with only a few tiny indentations for holds. I was again, very happy to be 6 feet tall here. The worst section was a gap in the ridge where I had to sit on a loose pile of rubble, exposed on both sides, and delicately reach my feet across the gap to another loose pile of rocks. When I slowly moved forward the pile I was sitting on collapsed into the void and the pile I was now standing on was also shifting! I quickly scrambled higher onto more “solid” terrain and watched the 2nd hold collapse behind me. I had no idea how I was going to return but noted an exposed rubble ledge on the east side below – hoping I could use that somehow. I didn’t take many photos but did finally make the true summit. Ironically it wasn’t even that much higher than the other 2, but definitely was higher – thank goodness for that!
After coming home and reading up on everything I now realize that when John Martin ascended the south ridge in 1985 he made the exact same error I nearly did – he assumed he was at the top. Unfortunately for him, he had to go back years later for the true summit. He must have really hated the south ridge because he found a class 4 route up west cliffs rather than deal with the ridge traverse. I don’t blame him. Solid 4th class rock would be quite a bit safer than the traverse I did. Rick Collier mentions the section I thought was easiest (SC6+) in his labeled photo of the south end of the ridge on bivouac.com as one of the harder sections but I obviously disagree. The ridge is so loose that a rope won’t help much – it’ll simply get damaged with rockfall and there are no places to put reliable pro either.
Summit views were very respectable but they were a little muted due to anxious thoughts of returning along the ridge. When Nelson did Allenby, he continued on even more difficult looking terrain towards a still very distant Mount Beersheba. When he finally ran into 5th class terrain he was far enough into things that he was forced to find another way back into upper Mercer Creek – descending to the west before climbing all the way back over the false / true Allenby col. I had to return along the ridge and wasn’t totally keen on it. I’ve done enough summits to know when things are getting a little dicey and this was one of those trips.
I managed to sneak my way around the east side of the section that collapsed on my ascent – very exposed rubble strewn slabs here. The down sloping, polished slab was interesting on return with one tiny hold for my foot to assist me as I heaved my way up it. Needless to say, by the time I was back on the southernmost summit I was just hoping to survive the next few moves and be done with this mountain. As expected, there were a few more delicate balancing acts and long reaches to get down the SC6+ terrain and off the end of the south ridge to finally breathe a sigh of relief that I’d survived a series of somewhat questionable decisions.
As I descended loose rubble around SW cliffs and started an easy, scenic westward traverse towards the south ascent gully for false Allenby, I was happy to be alive and breathing the fresh fall air with views of larches and meadows below. I decided that Allenby would get the same “not recommended” rating that I’d given Puzzle (OXO) Peak years before. Allenby is much more exposed than OXO but similarly loose and concerning. I know people will follow me up this peak but don’t say I didn’t warn you what to expect or what could happen if you do. I hope you have some coins left in your luck jar because you’ll need ’em.
Traversing to the south gully on false Allenby was quick and easy and I saved myself a few hundred meters of height loss / gain by sticking higher up above the valley floor. The pressure was off as I enjoyed a beautiful, sunny fall day. I really hoped false Allenby was as easy as it looked.
After crossing a few gullies on a wonderful goat highway I found myself at the south ascent gully now many hours into my day and wondering if my exit would be in the dark. The south gully was pretty easy scrambling for the most part. I tried sticking to slabs on ascent, the terrain was very loose everywhere else. You certainly don’t want a large group on this peak and I was happy to wear my brain bucket.
It felt like forever but finally I was over a high col between the summit and an outlier and taking the last few steps up SW slabs and rubble to the summit ridge. It felt good to finally be walking the summit ridge despite the fact that it was already 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It only took me an hour to ascend the peak and was therefore well worth doing it as I was walking right under it anyway. Views were similar to others I’d already had today.
I didn’t linger long at the summit of false Allenby, time was now slipping by quickly and I had a long way to exit – hopefully in as much daylight as possible. Views of the upper Allenby Creek, Allenby Pass and west face of Beersheba stole the show. I also really like the way the unofficial “Bashan” peak looked from this angle. I have no idea why such a prominent mountain wouldn’t be named in this well traveled area. Descent was quick on VERY loose terrain. Rocks came crashing down around me as I slid my way down, loosened as I passed them by.
As I neared the bottom of the south access gully my views over Mercer Creek were amazing in late afternoon lighting. The larch forest lit up and glowed yellow making me very happy. I wandered across Mercer Creek, noting some big grizzly diggings across the way.
As the sun continued to slip down the west horizon I ascended out of the Mercer Creek valley and traversed back to the SW rubble slopes under Mount Mercer. The larches glowed fiercely around me as I glanced back one more time and continued on my way.
It was already 18:00 hours as I exited forest onto the Bryant Creek trail and started the long walk back to my bike. The trail was extremely quiet and I enjoyed the hike very much – my mind slowly relaxing after several hours of high excitement and off trail travel. There was nobody around the Bryant Creek shelter (it’s closed for a rebuild) or any of the campgrounds. The forest was eerily quiet as I walked kilometer after kilometer but I didn’t mind – I loved it actually. The only two folks I ran into were on bikes with large packs – long after the “no bikes” boundary.
Darkness finally caught up with me just as I got back to my bike. I managed to quickly exit forest to the more open trail across the Mount Shark ski area before switching my headlamp on. I ran into a dozen hikers exiting in the dark and one of them offered me money to carry her huge pack to the parking lot. I kindly declined as I zipped past, very happy not to be walking anymore.
Mount Allenby is a trip I won’t soon be forgetting. As mentioned earlier, I can’t recommend the south ridge as a scramble due to its disturbingly loose and exposed nature. I’ve noticed a trend on Social Media where folks with limited technical climbing experience are confidently giving 5th class ratings to their scramble routes. I won’t do that, but I’ve been up enough mountains to know what’s safe and what isn’t. Mount Allenby’s south ridge is not a safe place to be, no matter what technical rating you might attach to it. When holds are falling into the abyss underneath you and moves are made downwards to avoid pulling critical holds off the mountain as you ascend it, this is cannot be called safe terrain. I certainly used some of my luck coins on this trip. The hike up Bryant Creek and into the upper Mercer Creek valley with its larch forest was beautiful and exactly what I needed out of one of my last trips of the year before snow starts falling in the Rockies.