Lady Mac – Part Two – the Summit

Lady Mac (centre), as viewed from the Highline Trail – Photo: Canmore Runner

It had to be done. I’ve climbed Lady Mac several times since my first, chilly and icy ascent in January that I wrote about here. For time or weather-related reasons, i’d only ever managed to make it to the helipad, a still challenging 8km out-and-back with close to 1,000m of elevation. Then, one July morning, I found myself with enough time (and fantastic weather) to make it to the summit. And it was spectacular. I also came to appreciate that those responsible weren’t messing around when they named the last few hundred metres to the summit “Knife-Edge Ridge”.

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“Knife-Edge Ridge”, excerpt from Canmore and Kananaskis Village Map and Trail Guide, 6th edition,  Gem Trek Publishing.

The route to the helipad is described in the aptly-entitled Canmore Runner post: Lady Mac – Part One – the Helipad, so I won’t repeat it here. Continuing to the summit adds another kilometre or so (making for a 10km out-and-back) and brings the total ascent to 1,260m. It looks like this on Strava:

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 07.38.30Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 07.38.54

From the helipad, the terrain is decidedly scree-like but there is a trail which is more or less discernible, though I did find myself veering off it a couple of times and having to scramble to pick it up again:

Photo: Canmore Runner

Before long, you arrive at Knife-Edge Ridge, the beginning of which is marked by this cairn:

Photo: Canmore Runner

From here it’s a rather careful traverse of the ridge…

Photo: Canmore Runner

…which after only a matter of minutes delivers you to the summit and its terrible views of the Rocky Mountains:

Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner
Photo: Canmore Runner

It should be said that the ridge might not be for you if heights aren’t your thing as the drop on either side is impressive in places. I spent a while at the summit, enjoying the views, the weather, thanking my lucky stars that it wasn’t in the least bit windy, and steeling myself for the return along the ridge. In the event, it seemed much easier heading back. Before long, I’d dropped down to the helipad and began the far speedier, and very enjoyable, descent back down to the trailhead.

Until next time, happy trails.



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