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Rockies :: Canmore and Bow Valley :: Mt Lady MacDonald

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Panoramic view of Bow Valley and peaks south of Canmore from upper slopes.  Grotto Mtn. to the left

Trip Summary

September 20, 2018


Lady Mac is probably most popular Canmore peak.  Similar to Vancouver Grouse Grind,  locals often hike here after work for exercise -- one can even sometimes spot from the town tiny light flashlight dots descending in the dark!  Starting from parking lot at top of Benchlands Trail, approach follows Cougar Creek drainage for about 1km then starts relentless ascent - watch for marker just before the berm at mouth of Cougar Canyon.  Most hikers ascend only to helipad ~250m below summit ridge.  This location is site of failed teahouse project that was met with strong resistance by local community and eventually abandoned.  It provides spectacular views of Bow Valley and is logical turnaround point for non-peakbaggers.  Elevation gain to this point is ~1000m vertical and more than adequate exercise.  Continuing above is scrambling territory and has been well documented in Alan Kane guidebook.  If going for the summit, ignore beaten scree trails angling right above the helipad; instead ascend diagonally towards obvious skyline notch (cairns).  Final part is very narrow ridge walk with unforgiving exposure on both sides.  Views on the summit are not better so it is perfectly acceptable to stop here.  


When I first ascended the peak in 2005 photography was not my interest, so Gallery does not have photos past the helipad.  On all subsequent trips I turned back on small rise ~100m above.  See Bob Spirko report for summit ridge part.


Continuing past the summit across craggy ridge towards Buffalo Point (Charles Stewart SE) is not scrambling anymore, but it has been done.  It is also feasible to ascend (or descend) directly to Silvertip Golf Course from the false summit where you first intercepted summit ridge.   Most return the same way to Cougar Creek enjoying fantastic Bow Valley panoramic views along the way.



Lady Mac from Cougar creek approach.  Marked trailhead is roughly center of the  photo
Cougar Peak from lower ascent slopes
Grassy slope (seen from Canmore).  It would be possible to ascend by heading up off-trail here
Crossing the boulder field poses minor navigation problems
Tree marker near the end of boulder field
Past the boulder field, looking back
Nearing the site of old abandoned teahouse and helipad.  Easiest way does NOT follow obvious trails on the right side to the summit ridge - instead, if heading for the summit ascend diagonally R-L owards the obvious skyline notch.  This avoids awkward and lengthy traverse from right end of the ridge.  (Crux is still unavoidable)
Lady Mac TeahouseLady Mac Teahouse Old Photo of unfinished teahouse structure that has been dismantled and does not exist anymore
View back just past the helipad. Wooden planks are slowly starting to rot
Mt. Grotto on east side of Cougar Creek
Lougheed Towers telephoto
Mt. Sir Douglas in the distance;  Little Sister to the right



Overall Difficulty D4(D7) Trail hiking to helipad, followed by talus ascent and summit ridge scramble.  Crux is exposed and very dangerous - it should be attempted only in dry and calm conditions
Snow Factor S3 Trail portion frequently ascended in winter conditions (low avi danger).  Not recommended continuing past the helipad in winter conditions
Scenery Fantastic views of Bow Valley and many distant Kananaskis Peaks
Trail/Marking Very Good/None Well defined trail to helipad.  Section of minor route-finding crossing the boulder field has cairns and markers.  Way above is obvious
Suggested Time 5hr (8hr) Return time to helipad (summit)

Start: 1370m     Max: 2300m (2605m)  Total: ~1000m (~1300m)

Round Trip: ~10km(~13km)
Gear Day Hikers with good ankle coverage and hiking poles
Water No water past Cougar creek at the start -- carry 2-3L
Dog Friendly Yes To the helipad only;  summit ridge dangerous and not feasible for dogs