ApproachThe full Brett Traverse from Pilot Mountain is an 8200’+/- ascent day. (I recorded 8400’+ total on my altimeter.) Where to begin? Bottom line is that there is more than one way to scramble to the top of Pilot Mountain. If you plan a two-summit day ( Mount Brett) you will want to nail the route as direct as possible. I can’t say I met that objective as the beta available to me was limited. But I can share with you what I observed and how I would approach it differently if I were to do it again. I followed the guide book’s notes to bike in to the first avalanche slope off of Redearth Creek Trail on the left. However, this avalanche slope is filled in with mature growth, so it is difficult to recognize.
I prefer to give the following direction: Bike in approximately 3kms, under 30 minutes, to a small bridge and drainage. There were no cairns or markings in 2005. Proceed up this drainage, no trail, on the right hand side. I went up the left hand side, which is fine, but the climbing is more difficult and exposed as well as you will have to traverse right a considerable distance once you exceed tree line and the first steep rock band. Another approach option is to bike in over 5kms past an active avalanche slope (2005) on your left and onto the next avalanche slope. At this slope, back up just a bit, you will see a cairn. I imagine this cairn marks a much more direct available route up to the summit block of Pilot Mountain.
Route DescriptionI went up climbers left of the first drainage, about 3kms in on Redearth Creek Trail. I stayed high of the drainage for easier travel through the trees which led to a distinct end of the forest and placed me in clear view of considerably steep rock cliffs. I could see now, looking across the drainage to the west, the right handed ascent would break through this impediment with more ease. However, at this point I opted to challenge the rock in front of me to save time. It turned out to be fun, but exposed scrambling. I always turned right when I was dead ended and scrambled up various cliffs and ledges until finally I topped out this obstacle. I built several cairns along the way. Traversing right at this point still made no sense as the intervening cliff cirque did not look inviting. So I continued straight up on good ground aiming for the right corner of a massive steep wall protecting any ascent up Pilot’s northern flank.
Once at this corner, I could finally see the traverse Kane talked about in the guide book. This is when it became apparent to me that I would have been better served to have researched a more direct route further west. Before I traipsed across this talus cirque, I did ascend a chimney on the left wall trying to breach another formidable fortress like slab of limestone protecting Pilot’s northwestern flank. No dice. I retreated and did the traverse over large talus to the far (western) edge of this upper cirque and contravened the wall at that end. Once on top of this second obstacle of the day, you will be in clear view of the summit block, the crux of Pilot Mountain.
From this vantage point, head up the scree and talus to the left corner of the summit block. You are aiming for a large detached flake that you can’t quite make out from this angle, but would have seen way back before you made the ugly talus traverse below the impressive limestone wall. As you near the left corner and the detached flake is more obvious, turn the flake on its left for a relatively easy, but loose chimney ascent. Once on top of the chimney, move left on a narrow ledge to find easier going up the northwest ridge. This section was marked lightly by several cairns, not all corresponding to the same route. If you want easier gullies to ascend, turn everything difficult on its right. If you want to hit the ridge straight on, it is nothing more than a difficult scramble. The exposed sections are not severe compared to most ridge climbing. The most difficult spot comes at a small gap you must traverse and then precariously climb loose rock to attain easier ground. This, as any of the cruxes on this route, can be bypassed to the right via a loose gully. Eventually you land on a broad summit plateau that gives up tremendous views of Copper Mountain to the north, Mount Brett and Massive Mountain to the south, Mount Ball and Isabelle Peak to the west, Storm Mountain to the northwest and of course Mounts Assiniboine and Joffre in the distance. Continue southeast to the summit cairn. There was no summit register in 2005. This vantage point gives you great reference for Mount Brett if in fact you are going to pursue a two-summit day. The Bow Valley opens up below and you look down on Castle Mountain and Stuart Knob across the valley.
For descent, it is prudent to use the skiers left options before mentioned to bypass any downclimbing issues on loose rock. Most all of this summit block rock is very loose. There are two critical downclimbing spots, each with a gully descent to the left. Once back to the detached flake, descend the chimney and make a decision on proceeding to Mount Brett or return to Redearth Creek Trail.