I took a few months off in the summer of 2009 and spent many good days with my family and extended family. Towards the end of the summer I realized that my time off was coming to an end and I should take a week to climb some peaks and spend some time alone to ponder life and my future.
On Monday, August 31 2009 I decided to attempt Pilot Mountain and Mount Brett as a day trip. Both of these mountains are rated 'difficult' by Alan Kane and both of them deserve this rating. I knew that I was in for a long day and was hesitant about doing it solo but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and go with it - and I'm glad I did!
Since running into a bear on Cascade the Saturday before I was a bit nervous about this but knew that I could handle the situation so that helped too. I decided to follow Bob Spirko's directions for Pilot, simply because I would spend more time on my bike, especially handy on the descent from Mount Brett after a long day.
Bob indicates that the second drainage is not easy to spot from the trail and he's right. I didn't bring a GPS and didn't have an odometer on my bike either so I kind of had to 'wing it' as far as Bob's detailed descriptions of the trail head. Luckily there have been a few more ascents of this route and I had Bob's picture of where he started. By comparing Bob's picture to the cairned spot I knew that this had to be the place and started up a small trail on the right hand side of the over-grown drainage. Soon I spotted a pink ribbon and was gratified to know I wasn't lost yet! (Actually, I found the pink ribbons on the rest of the route very helpful and also kind of humorous - there's a LOT of them...)
[The trail is not that easy to spot from the Redearth Creek trail. GPS would help here!]
The faint trail is very faint. Without the ribbons in some sections I would have lost it, but the terrain will guide you to the right place. In general you stick to the climber's right of the gully - quite close to the edge with occasional plunges into the forest for no particular reason. When I got to the rock slide I was guided across by a pink ribbon again.
[The pink ribbon highway!]
[Can you spot the ribbon on the far side of the rock slide? It's there...]
Soon after the rock slide, I encountered the steep cliff face with the two treed ledge options. I went up to the second ledge as Bob suggests and it worked really well. I would suggest staying as high as you can as you contour around the cliff face - just don't go on any crazy difficult terrain because it's unnecessary. When I was done contouring around the cliff to climber's right I eventually spotted the cliff that the Kane route traverses underneath and then the pinnacle that I headed towards.
[Looking back across an avalanche chute.]
[Interesting terrain as I grovel upwards, trending right.]
[I took the high line and contoured to the right.]
[After contouring and climbing up for a bit, you should spot the pinnacle on the ridge above - your next target.]
After the pinnacle the route is fairly obvious although I certainly didn't find that there were as many cairns as Bob seemed to encounter. The rock flake wasn't the crux for me - it was protected and moderate at most. The section after the flake was in my mind the difficult part. It consisted of exposed slab with lots of very loose debris just waiting to throw me off the mountain. I really had to concentrate both on the way up and down. It's easy to get off route here and end up on some really exposed terrain that would no longer be scrambling.
[Looking back at my approach valley as I work up towards the pinnacle.]
[Fabulous views over Copper Mountain's shoulder towards Eisenhower Tower and the Rockbound Lake area.]
[The infamous 'rock flake'.]
[Looking up the flake.]
[Looking out from the flake.]
[The scrambling in the flake is moderate.]
[Great view of Copper Mountain from the exit point of the flake - note the cairn at upper left. ++]
[Pretty exposed looking down at the ascent terrain!]
[After the steep, loose and exposed crux, the summit of Pilot Mountain is surprisingly spacious!]
The summit is surprisingly spacious on Pilot. I got a good view of Mount Brett (it looked very far away!!) and my possible route over to it from Pilot. The smoke spoiled my views a bit but it was a gorgeous, windless, sunny and warm summit and I had the whole Massive range to myself so I wasn't about to complain.
[Looking down the Bow Valley over Massive Mountain which isn't very massive. :)]
[Summit views looking west over Copper Mountain towards Mounts Isabelle, Ball and Storm as part of the Ball Range. ++]
[Mount Ball and Stanley looming over the Pharaoh Lakes and peaks.]
[The Lake Louise peaks barely show up through the smoke over properly-named Copper Mountain. Temple is visible on the right.]
[The Castle Mountain massif includes (L to R), Castle, TV, Stuart Knob, Eisenhower Tower and Helena Ridge.]
[Vern on the summit of Pilot Mountain.]
[Terrific exposure down the east face.]
I carefully descended the crux after the summit and made my way back down towards the Pinnacle and my route over to Mount Brett...
[The loose, exposed down climbing to the top of the flake.]
[Traversing around the west side of Pilot en route to Brett which is in the distance at left.]
[Looking down my escape route off the west face with lovely alpine meadows of Lost Horse and Pharaoh Creeks in the distance.]
[Looking back at Pilot and my escape route off the face at center.]
[I have to navigate through this valley on my way up Brett.]
[Finally at valley bottom, looking back up my descent route off the west face.]