Elevation Gain: 1,194m
Total Time: 6 hours 32 minutes
Date: September 18th, 2022
The Copilot is the smaller and aptly named neighbor to Sky Pilot Mountain just east of Squamish. Despite it’s smaller size, it offers a more challenging route with a sustained 90-100m class 3/4 gully by the easiest line. This summit gets enough traffic that there are actually bolted rappel stations for the entire descent and it’s just a short fork off of the Sky Pilot route. I originally wanted to do this peak in my early days of scrambling as it would be a safe place to dial in my rappels without having to worry about difficult climbing. In the end, countless other summits took precedence and I never did get around to doing it as a practice summit.
My chance for tagging Copilot finally came around mid-September when my friend Jacob was looking for a fun scramble to get back into the “summit game”. Meanwhile I was in search of an easier outing to save my energy for some big summit plans in the coming days. I had just been out in the area to climb Habrich a few weeks earlier and I knew we could get this one pretty easily. Adding to that, there’s a bridge on Shannon Creek FSR that was slated to go out for repairs until well past prime time for these summits, so it’s the last chance to get it this year.
Having just done that long ass approach on the Sky Pilot Valley trail for a second time, I was keen to avoid a third round of road walking. Thanks to the fresh memories though, I knew most of the road was in bike-able condition and so I roped Jacob in on a plan to bike the entire approach from the gate and save us considerable time. The days are getting shorter now too, so we decided on a 7am departure time from Vancouver and that should give us more than enough time.
When Sunday rolled around, we ended up faffing around a bit longer than expected with gas and the mandatory iced latte and breakfast (all my prerequisites for the day). With all of that we didn’t end up pulling up to the top of Shannon Creek FSR until 9:10am or so. We geared up quickly and started biking down the road. The first bit was a nice downhill and then it steepened significantly up to the Gondola station. My biking endurance is virtually non-existent, so those steep sections meant walking, but we still made much faster time.
Once on the Sky Pilot Valley trail it was easy cruising and we managed to dispatch with the entirety of the approach to the Habrich turn off in around 50 minutes. A few sections on the Habrich spur necessitated walking as well, but it’s a minor price to pay for the easy ride back. We walked our bikes a bit past the turn off and then locked them to some random alders. From there it was an easy hike up through the forest and then out on to a long scree/talus gully below the Stadium Glacier.
One foot after the other in quick succession and we plowed up the steep slope without pausing. When we finally crested onto the base of the glacier we stopped for some water and a glance of the route ahead. Sadly, or perhaps not, the boots, crampons and ice axe were just going to be weight trainers today. The Stadium Glacier offered little resistance to reach Copilot and we spotted an easy route at climber’s right up a ridge system that would take us right to the base of that Northeast gully route.
We hopped on to small flat section of the glacier and skirted around a bulge of bed rock to reach the ridge. Then we scrambled up mostly 2nd class terrain for about 100m and traversed a short ways onto the flat ridge east of Copilot. Here we ditched our extra gear and then walked on a small path leading up to the gully. I lead the first half up the gully, pulling and pushing off of bomber holds all the way up. There were still some loose holds here and there, but I try to build a habit of checking everything when I can. I passed two rappel stations in good condition and then Jacob swapped out leads. He took us up and out of the gully and onto a short section of 5th class. At one point, he clasped onto a loose block and it disintegrated in his hand; sending a bombardment of rock fragments below. Thankfully, no one was below. It seems the upper section has a bit less trustworthy rock than below. After the brief fiasco, he topped out a few meters later on the summit and I followed suit. The gully scramble was short, but sweet, with nice exposure and easy ledgy terrain to ascend.
We were way ahead of schedule, now on the summit after just 3 hours. That resulted in us relaxing for over an hour to enjoy clear skies and perfect temperatures. In the lull, I did a big scan on the horizon and could identify at least 10 different summits in our vicinity that I’d been up already. It was a cool feeling to say the least.
Once we started our descent, I brought out the 8mm x 60m rope I had hauled for the journey. I setup and tossed it for the first rappel and then proceeded to give Jacob a crash course on the funnest way to descend mountains. With Jacob confident to do this move safely, I rappelled down first to the next rap station and he followed suit. From there it was two more rappels to the bottom. There’s actually 4 stations in total, but I skipped the last station as the rope made it just 3 meters shy of the gully entrance and that’s just a short scramble to reach.
As we finished the last rappel a group of 5 reached the base to start their ascent. Good timing for both us and them. We packed the rope up and then started the easy descent down that ridge and then all the way back to the bikes. When we reached the bikes, our efforts paid major dividends. I wasn’t keeping close track but we dispatched with the entirety of the road approach in about 30 minutes thanks to the down hill. A major return on investment if you ask me.
In total, it was about 5.5 hours of moving time and 1 hour on the summit. About as fast as I could hope for and the perfect chill outing. I no doubt will take bikes again when I finally go for Ledge Mountain. Keep Copilot on your radar for those chill days close to Vancouver. It’s a super fun scramble, albeit a bit short.