Lady Mac – Part One – the Helipad

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The Three Sisters from Mount Lady MacDonald – Photo: Canmore Runner

One down (well, almost), three to go (sort of).

Mount Lady MacDonald, elevation 2,606m and one of the four peaks that make up the Canmore Quad, the others being Mount Grotto, Ha Ling, and the East End of Rundle. An 8km out-and-back and really quite challenging. It put the whole prospect of attempting the Canmore Quad at some point in the future in a new, more frightening, perspective.

It begins innocuously enough, with a gentle and hardly discernible climb for the first 900m alongside Cougar Creek. This abruptly gives way to 3km of steep, largely unrelenting and increasingly technical trail through trees and then out in the open with some scrambling towards the summit.

Alas, time got the better of me and I had to cut the run short at the helipad, a few hundred metres shy of the actual summit (hence this post being Lady Mac – Part One) which lies at the end of a knife-edge ridge. But I didn’t mind. I’d climbed close to 1,000m to an elevation of 2,306m. And I had some stunning views to take in before the, rather slippy and at times comical, descent.

Not unlike my decision to eventually get out and run along Lake Minnewanka, my decision to run up Lady Mac was also surprisingly long in coming and for no apparent reason. And then, when I do decide to go, it’s covered in snow, some of it thigh deep near the top, which required a bit of guess work at times to find the trail. But what a great way to spend a couple of hours. It looks like this on Strava:

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The run begins from the Cougar Creek parking on the north side of Canmore. It initially follows the same route as the Montane Traverse, travelling along the creek and offering up a nice view of what’s to come:

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Mount Lady MacDonald from Cougar Creek – Photo: Canmore Runner

Rather than taking the first trail off to the left for the Montane Traverse, continue further up the creek until you reach a second trail on the left that quickly brings you to the trail up the mountain itself:

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Photo: Canmore Runner

And from hereon, it’s mostly plain sailing. Just keep following the trail onwards and upwards. It meanders through the trees for the next 2km or so, offering up the occasional glimpse of Mount Grotto:

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Mount Grotto from Mount Lady MacDonald – Photo: Canmore Runner

Eventually the trail turns westwards, away from Grotto, and up the south-facing slope of Lady Mac, and that’s a good thing because the views over Canmore and across the valley are truly outstanding:

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Mount Rundle from Mount Lady MacDonald – Photo: Canmore Runner

And the higher you go, the better they get while the terrain becomes steeper, rockier and more of a hands-on scramble with the trail rather difficult to find at times. After around 4.2km, you reach the helipad where you can be as snap-happy I was:

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Photo: Canmore Runner
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Photo: Canmore Runner
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Photo: Canmore Runner
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Lady MacDonald summit – Photo: Canmore Runner

And then you can begin the quad-shaking descent back down the way you came, continuing to take in some rather spectacular views as you go:

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Photo: Canmore Runner

Like I said, a great way to spend a couple of hours, even if it does leave you questioning the wisdom of trying the Canmore Quad.

Until next time, happy trails.

9 thoughts on “Lady Mac – Part One – the Helipad

  1. Gareth 22/01/2016 / 15:50

    Loving the photos, well done on the whole thing!


  2. Connor Simmonds 07/02/2021 / 12:50

    Hey thanks for all the work on these articles, what’s the best time to attempt the Canmore quad?


    • Canmore Runner 07/02/2021 / 20:34

      Hey Connor, thanks for this. For the Quad, I’d say anytime between late June (when there’s max daylight hours) through to mid-Sept. The summits should be snow free for most of this, though you can never be sure. July and August, the weather is generally better, though again you can’t always be sure. Of course, people have also run it in the winter when there hasn’t been too much snow on the summits. So, this is something you’re contemplating? Let us know how you go. And good luck!


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