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Pilot Mountain
Banff National Park, Alberta
August 19, 2006

I was so impressed with using the second drainage after my 2001 Pilot Mountain attempt, that I returned to use it instead of Kane's route up the first drainage. As we discovered on our attempt, the second drainage is more attractive: it covers more ground by bike and less on foot, and it avoids the long slog across the scree slope. And also, it throws in some great scenery.

After cycling up the trail and passing the first drainage, I continued until I reached the second drainage. 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. 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 that 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 rockslide, however, the trail became sketchy, so I pieced one together using pink flagging.

I soon 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 lining a stream. I climbed to a low ledge, crossed the stream, and scrambled up the left side close to the stream. 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. Keep far left where it was less steep, I 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 is included in the third edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies.

KML and GPX Tracks

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

Climb the ledges on the right side

Looking down at the ledges

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

The flake has since collapsed. When asked about it, Alan Kane told me, "A gully 25 m left of the flake is the only option now...steep, loose and unpleasant." Brad Nickel sent me a photo of the new ascent.

Looking down the ascent route. The second drainage is left of 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

View ahead as I headed to down the ledges

View of the ledges on my descent

View from the bottom of the ledges

<empty>Immature black grouse (mouse over to see the adult)

This one looks serious!

82 O/4 Banff

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