Oh Mount Temple. I shake my fist so hard at you right now. They say the third time’s a charm; however, this is the third year that efforts for a Temple summit have been thwarted. It’s not that it’s an impossible climb, it’s just that I have promised two other nerds that we would reach the top together. Between a combination of weather obstacles and logistics between Paul, Dan and myself, conquering Mount Temple will wait another year. Sigh… clearly we needed another epic mountain to take its place. But which one??
There are many incredible mountains to climb, and our focus quickly turned to the Mount Lady Macdonald (elevation: 2605 metres). Lady Mac has been on the list for a long time, and with the trailhead in Canmore, I’m quite surprised that I haven’t crossed it off the list sooner. But everything happens for a reason, and it was the perfect time for Paul (after a year long absence from Calgary), Dan (who was visiting from Guelph for adventures) and I to catch up on the going-ons of our lives. Of course, there was no shortage of the hilarity that usually characterizes our hikes.
Following Cougar Creek north along the post-flood rebuild of the canal, we found the trailhead and followed a well-worn path up through forest and rocks until reaching the helicopter pad. Many parties will stop here to eat before making their descent; however, continuing onward up scree slopes to the summit makes for a challenging scramble to the top. First is the false summit, and once there, it’s evident that an intense ridge walk lies to the west.
Now I’ve done ridge walks before: Tent ridge and Pocaterra come to mind. But Mount Lady Macdonald is known for its ridge walk. It’s, like, THE ridge walk, and requires you to be comfortable with pretty extreme exposure. There are times that require crawling, crouching, and very sure footing. For me, I love this stuff, so the high from it was great. Of course, Paul, Dan and I assessed safety every step of the way. Dan and I decided to make a go for the true summit, and things were dicey. There’s a reason it’s sometimes referred to as a knife-edge: fall to one side, and you’re rolling down the hill to Canmore. Fall to the other side, and there’s a good chance you’re facing sure death.
Unfortunately, as we attempted the true summit, dense storm clouds loomed to the south, and with the wind direction, we knew rain was imminent. Dan called it: we should head back. And thank goodness we did, for once we returned to the false summit, crazy winds, along with snow and ice pellets were on the attack. Alas, we would have to attempt the full ridge-walk another day. But for the exposure we had and the adrenaline that pumped through our systems, the scramble was a great success and definitely worth it! I wouldn’t recommend it to those not comfortable with exposure, or a “knife-edge” type of ridge.
We left the lot around 10 am and returned to the car at 5:30 pm, including quite a bit of time slowly walking and crawling along the ridge. With an elevation gain 1300 metres, it’s a good day hike up Mount Lady Macdonald with amazing views of Canmore and the Bow Valley most of the way. I think it trumps Ha Ling and East End of Rundle for my favourite hike in the Canmore area!