Pilot Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2935
Elevation Gain (m): 2400
Trip Time (hr): 10 
Total Trip Distance (km): 25 
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions. Note: This trip combines both Pilot and Brett with a bike approach.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

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!

Pilot Mountain & Mount Brett APPROXIMATE Route Map

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! 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 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.

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.

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.

Great view of Copper Mountain from the exit point of the flake – note the cairn at upper left.

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. 

The surprisingly spacious summit of Pilot includes views of Bourgeau (L), Brett, Egypt Lakes, Ball, Shadow Lake, Storm, Copper, Castle Mountain and Ishbel (R).
Views from the descent across the TCH towards Ishbel and Cockscomb Mountain.

I carefully descended the crux after the summit and made my way back down towards the pinnacle and my route over to Mount Brett.

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