Sitting just east of Banff, Mount Lady MacDonald is well known among Canmore residents and avid hikers in the region. Perhaps best known for her magnitude, she towers over the Bow River Valley, peaking at a staggering 2,606 m (8,550 ft). Mount Lady Mac is definitely one of the most challenging and beautiful hikes in the area, in my books, and my favourite hike in Canada to date! Let me tell you why.
It’s About Fulfilment
We all know that feeling…you work really, really hard for something. It’s tough and you maybe even think about giving up, but you grind through it and feel this HUGE sense of pleasure and accomplishment in achieving your goal. Think of this feeling x 100,000,000 with Mount Lady Mac. It’s hard – prepare yourself for 6-8 hours to get up and down depending on your fitness level and break times (unless you are a trail runner. In this case, it may only take 3-4 hours – rock on!). The trail is steep, with an elevation gain of 1200 m (3,937 ft), which will leave you breathless and with burning muscles for the duration of approximately 6 km (3.73 mi). This is definitely not a season opener, but it’s manageable with some effort and determination.
It Puts Things into Perspective
There is something so special about standing on top of a mountain – it feels like you are on top of the world. Standing high in the sky in solidarity with nature and the mountains, you notice the enormity of the universe and realize just how tiny you and your problems are. I never fail to leave a hike in the mountains with perspective on whatever issue I’ve been dealing with, and with a fresh and balanced attitude. Lady Mac is no different.
It’s Every Photographer’s Dream
The hike up the well-defined, dirt trail rewards you with epic views even from only half way up. Every now and then, the mountains across the highway peek through the trees, looming in the distance and serving as motivation for the view to come. I tend to take a little longer to summit my hikes because I love to stop and take pictures along the way – who can blame me with scenery as magnificent as this?
Soon enough, the trail plateaus into a flat, open shoulder where at 2,300 m (7,544 ft), the foundation still exists for the infamous abandoned teahouse. Apparently, the teahouse was meant to serve as a lunch and rest stop, but the construction was abandoned after noise pollution concerns arose for the town of Canmore. Without the teahouse attracting hordes of tourists, this area remains quiet and serene, with wildlife still scampering in and out of the scree and scrubs. With this view, the shoulder is still a great spot to stop for a snack or water break, perhaps with a mountain goat or two watching you from the distance.
It’s a Natural High
Some folks turn around at this point and head back down, as up and onwards is a steep and rigorous scramble to the ridge over loose rock. But for the adrenaline junkie, the extra time and effort to climb over the scree is SO worth it! After all, this isn’t just any mountain top you are about to summit – it is the epitome of mountain tops; it is the quintessential, stereotypical, triangular peaked tip of a mountain top. The stunning panoramic mountain views and the thrill and euphoria as you stand on top of the peak are like nothing else. I think Mount Lady Mac is the steepest ridge walk I have done, and rightly so, there is a sheer, vertical drop on either side of the ridge. This does not leave much room for error!
All in all, Lady Mac is a jaw-dropping, show-stopping, beautiful, one-of-a-kind mountain and hiking experience. If you are in the Canmore area, seriously, do yourself a favour and pay her a visit!