Mount Lady MacDonald
May 19, 2012
The original plan for this May long weekend was a few snowshoe ascents along Icefield Parkway, but I changed my mind at the last minute while driving through the Canmore corridor. The front range peaks appeared mostly bone dry and I was keen on “dry scrambling” after an ever-lasting winter season. My first objective would be the knife-edge Mt. Lady MacDonald which I failed twice trying to tag its true summit in winter condition.
My first attempt was on the Day 4 of my solo Christmas peak-bagging mission. I was tired and started the ascent late (well, 9:30 am start in December was a late start). I lost the trail just before a large meadow/opening area and went straight up.. Not far up I encountered a boulder field, and found a large carcass of goat or deer… There must have been a cougar around and I didn’t even have a bear spary… I freaked out and ran down the mountain.
Two days after, I armed with a spray and a knife. This time I found the correct trail. Reaching the final summit ridge imposed no difficulty. This was my first time doing “difficult scramble”, and I chose Lady MacDonald in winter, went soloing. Just before the true summit there’s a slight dip. This was a bit north facing and the narrowest part was double-corniced. This part of the ridge was also slabby. I didn’t want to die on that day, so I bailed the attempt.
There’s no way I’d fail it the 3rd time given the dryness of this day. The ridge imposed no difficulty this time (but still, the exposure is real). With a few “difficult scrambles” under by belt I could easily balance myself along the first section of the summit ridge. Then it’s a walk up to the final dip before true summit. The rock was very grippy this time so I soon stand on the summit. I spent roughly 15 min to traverse the entire summit ridge, while I’ve heard some people used 1 hour to do so. I’m very satisfied but since I was soloing, I couldn’t get a decent photo of the ridge with people on it. It’s Saturday so I knew there would be many scramblers coming up. I waited for about 1 hour but it was starting to get quite chilly up there, and nobody showed up so I went back…
Coming back the crux dip was easier for sure. I waited another 15 min or so after getting back to the safe side of the summit ridge. Two girls topped out. After talking to each other briefly, I said I can lead them to the summit and I did’t mind to re-do the entire ridge. Lindsay stopped just before the crux dip, while Diana and I made to the summit. I did got some good shots of how serious the ridge was.. The descent went uneventfully.
Overall, if you are confident on exposure, this ridge is for you. There’s no loose rock and the slabs are very grippy. If you can walk on the ridge for most part, then you can do it in 15min, if you have to often hands-down, then you probably need 30-40min.. If someday I run out of peak in Canmore area, Lady Mac is the one I want to repeat. With a very popular approach (Teahouse Ridge), you don’t need to worry too much about bears if you are soloing. I didn’t count but I guess I saw 100 people the entire day. And then the next day.