Mount Lady Macdonald is a familiar profile above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.
The hike begins with a casual, flat, one kilometer path walk along the edge of nearly dry Cougar Creek until reaching the second trail marker indicating the left turn for the trail which ascends Mount Lady Macdonald.
Within a few meters the relentless climb begins. Forest is fragrant from recent rain however the trail is almost completely dry. Gaining elevation rapidly, this aerobic workout soon provides spectacular views of surrounding mountains and the town of Canmore below. The trail is steep and becomes progressively more rugged. At 7,100 feet (2,588 m), breaching half a kilometer of rock-fall slows progress.
This rock-band overlooks a grassy plain hosting a herd of mountain sheep on Mount Lady Macdonald against the background of challenging Grotto Mountain, whose summit was achieved in August of 2000.
On the approach to the abandoned, never-completed, derelict teahouse at 7,800 ft (2,377 m), there is a nearby gazebo below and off to the right, perched dramatically on the edge of a 1,000 foot cliff. Weddings were held here. Since removed.
If you love the mountains, it would be a romantic choice. The wedding party needs to be in fairly good physical condition and to be able to maintain a positive attitude. The top of the tea house was intended to be a helicopter landing pad. From the tea house the summit appears tantalizingly and deceivingly close.
The scramble on scree to the summit ridge (8,680 ft; 2,646 m) is rigorous.
At the top remains the 60 m (196 ft) of attention-getting, horizontal ridge scramble to reach the true summit. Hiking solo, the camera is propped up on rocks to capture a self portrait with the ridge to the summit behind. The pack is left behind to scramble the final distance on the pointed and narrow ridge.
There is a 3,000 sheer, vertical foot (914 m) drop on the right and 2,500 ft (762 m) of 80 degree incline on the left. Focus is important. The final 20 feet is a difficult scramble with very little tolerance for error. The incredible view is breathtaking.
On return to the backpack, time is taken to enjoy lunch in warm sun tempered by a cool breeze and spectacular vistas over surrounding mountains and the Town of Canmore in the Bow Valley beneath.
An attempted alternate route down along the east ridge is unsuccessful so retreat becomes a descent on the same steep, slippery scree slope to the tea house, followed by continued descent to Cougar Creek on the original trail.
Back in the valley there is time remaining in the day to explore Cougar Creek between Mount Lady Macdonald and Grotto Mountain. Many rock climbers are working on the bolted and anchored canyon walls. Photographs following show the appearance of Cougar Creek prior to June 2013 flooding when the canyon floor was virtually swept clean. Photos of Cougar Creek post 2013 can be viewed here.
The hike to the summit of Mount Lady Macdonald is an exhilarating and memorable experience.