Trailhead: Park at the Cougar Creek day use parking lot located in the town of Canmore. West side of Cougar creek and Elk Run Boulevard. Expect hordes of people here during the summer months.
Description: Mount Lady McDonald is a difficult hike do to its steep south face and high 1211m 3975 ft. elevation. The last 60 meters of the summit ridge is an exposed scramble and should be avoided if any snow is lying on the ridge. Most hikers avoid this last short ridge section as a fall from here would likely be fatal.
From the Cougar Creek day use parking lot walk north along the west side of the creek for approximately 1km. Locate the signed trail head near the edge of the trees leading towards Mount Lady McDonald. Continue on along a well worn trail as it works it’s way up through a pine and spruce forest. The trail then meanders it’s way through and over a large boulder slope offering nice views of the valley below.
After two hours or so you’ll finally arrive at the helicopter pad and an abandoned tea house located approximately 250ms below the summit ridge. The helicopter pad makes for a nice rest stop. Most hikers stop here after looking towards the steep talus slopes straight ahead. Continue on along the scree trail past a paraglide ramp to a second bench.
Now the real grind begins. Keep ascending while choosing and cursing the best route through very loose steep scree until you reach the ridge top. Once you arrive on the ridge you’ll certainly be glad it’s over with and be rewarded with outstanding views of the Bow Valley and Canmore way below. If you’re an experienced scrambler and accept the risk you can continue across the last short section of the ridge to the true summit.
Descend the same way you came. The descent effort off Mount Lady McDonald felt worse to me than the ascent. This is really a big hike complete with a rubber leg finish. Interesting to note Mount Lady McDonald was named after Prime Minister John A. McDonalds wife Susan Agnes McDonald. Pictures below were taken late March.