Mount Lady Macdonald – Canmore – Hiking Alberta

 

Mount Lady Macdonald is a familiar profile above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

From the Cougar Creek parking area in Canmore, Alberta, Canada there is a great view of Three Sisters, Mount Lawrence Grassi, Ha Ling Peak and Mount Rundle across the Bow Valley to the south.

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada The abandoned, derelict teahouse on Mount Lady Macdonald above Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada The view of Mount Lady Macdonald's false summit from the helicopter pad on top of the teahouse

 

The scramble on scree to the summit ridge (8,680 ft; 2,646 m) is rigorous.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

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.

 

Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady MacDonald – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike to the summit of Mount Lady Macdonald is an exhilarating and memorable experience.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for sharing your story, David. The summit of Mount Lady MacDonald is a very memorable experience.

What a wonderful description! I too have enjoyed the incredible awe and experience of this climb along with my daughter, Kristin (11 years), and Benjamin (8 years) on Saturday, June 10, 2000. We went up from the Silver Tip Golf Course (West Side) and proceeded through an incredible canyon. The town and area of Canmore was framed magnificently from inside this canyon. We proceeded up and met the main trail just above the shoulder (paraglide jump, helipad & "tea hut" area. We enjoyed our sandwiches and hydration along with a spectacular view from the scree, encountered a bit of wind and brief rain & snow shower and proceeded to the summit. What an awesome view from this razor-edge ridge. As was mentioned, the drop to the right (Mt Charles Stewart side) was sheer and 2 - 3 thousand feet. We enjoyed making a few snowballs and winging them as far as we could over that sheer edge. I cannot remember hearing the snowballs hit bottom! Sadly, the Summit registration book was ripped off its moorings and there was nowhere to indicate our successful ascent. Our descent was awe inspiring too. I was reminded in some places as we advanced on the flow of the ridge being like the backbone of a huge dinosaur. At the bottom of this area I was inspired to sing from the Sound of Music, "The hills are alive, with the sound of music!". The descent finished with, as was mentioned, a walk through a beautiful rain forest area and then along the side, if pretty much dry, (massive) Cougar Creek and back to our vehicle. The descent was more strenuous, in many ways, than the ascent for me. What an incredible event. The fabulous views and excellent scramble are enough to encourage me to take good care of my health with good diet and exercise.

The final few feet is definitely an attention getter. Not for everyone. Thank you for your comment, Wayne. Glad you had the opportunity and presence of mind to achieve the true summit of Mount MacDonald above Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

Seeing this post brings back fond memories of when I did this. Great description of that scary part.

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