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Pilot Mountain
Banff National Park, Alberta
August 19, 2006

After my 2001 Pilot Mountain attempt, I returned to use our descent route up the second drainage instead of Kane's suggested route up the first drainage. This meant covering more distance by bike rather than on foot, and it avoided the slog across the scree slope.

Cycling up the trail I passed the first drainage and continued until I reached the second one. The second drainage can be seen from the trail although it's partially obscured by trees. There was no obvious trail so I rode up another 100 metres where I noticed a cairn. There appeared to be a trail so after stashing my bike I started up it. I was 1.1 km past the first drainage and 4.9 km from the trailhead.

The trail disappeared after 100 metres so I angled left until I reached the edge of the drainage. I found an animal trail which apparently started here and followed the right side of the drainage. As I hiked up the trail, the edge of the drainage became more pronounced as it topped a steep slope on my left. Occasionally I lost the trail but I always quickly found it by seeking the edge of the drainage. Despite being intermittent, this was a great trail. It rose steeply but always followed the drainage. After it crossed a rock slide, however, the trail became sketchy so I pieced one together using pink flagging.

Soon I crossed a steep, narrow rock gully and continued a short way before breaking out of the trees. Ahead was an enormous rock wall that spanned the drainage except for a treed break on the right that I could bushwhack through.

Beyond that, I bushwhacked a short way to reach steep rock ledges on either side of running water. I climbed to a low ledge, crossed the stream, and scrambled up the left side. Climbing up the left side proved to be more difficult and exposed than I expected. Only when I was partway up where I could easily study the ledges on the other side, did I realize I should have climbed the ledges on the right.

After scrambling above the ledges, the view opened up. Above was the rock band that Kane suggests scrambling up. After reaching the end of the rock band, I circumvented a pinnacle on the right side and soon gained the broad slope that leads to the rock flake with the chimney. After that, trails and numerous cairns led me to the summit. Indeed, with so much human impact below the summit, the sense of solitude was lost to me. And all the hard work I put into the ascent did not pay off in summit views. A thick haze from a forest fire obscured all but the closest mountain, Copper Mountain.

I returned the same way except that I crossed the stream near the top of the ledges and then scrambled down the ledges. The flagging I had set up led me back to the animal trail and I was soon back at my bike.

I was looking forward to a fast ride down but twice I had to stop for grouse on the trail. The first time, I encountered three chicks on the path while the mother remained hidden on the side. A few minutes later, I encountered five immature grouse near the trail. Watching these birds was a delightful way to finish my trip.

Postscript: This route route will be included in the next edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, expected spring of 2015.

KLM Track


Kane's route (L) and my route (R)


Here's where I left the main trail


From an open slope, I got a glimpse of the rock wall (centre) above the trees


Cool hiking on the moss floor


A waterfall cuts into the rock wall. Note the treed break, upper right.


Heading to the break


Sunlight hits the rock above me


The ledges


Looking down at the ledges. The wide, green one provided the best access.


After the ledges, the rock band appeared. The pinnacle near the centre of the photo marks the end of the rock band.


I went right to get around the pinnacle


Looking back after passing the pinnacle


Next stop, the rock flake


The rock flake is above me


Easy scrambling up the chimney next to the flake


Looking down the ascent route. The second drainage lies below the beige bump near
the centre. Copper Mountain in the background.


Two Canmore scramblers coming down from the summit


Below the summit I followed a trail that went around the pointed rock and up a gully


The summit


Immature black grouse (mouse over to see the adult)


This one looks serious!


82 O/4 Banff

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