They say the third time's a charm, and so it was with Web Mountain. I'd seen it listed in Dallas Kloke's book "Winter Climbs: One Day Ascents", and its name had appealed to me, so I first started out to explore it practically on Mid-winter's day last year. Denoted only by it's 5335' elevation marking, it lies slightly southwest of Spider Lake (thus its name), and just east of Mailbox Peak. After driving I-90 to Exit 38, and following the road to park just outside of the yellow gates that are sometimes locked at 4:00 pm (hint: park outside of these!), Maren and I walked the road beyond the fire training academy, then turned east on the washed out and abandoned road just beyond. Where we were supposed to start heading up the south face toward the west ridge we were pleasantly surprised to find a flagged, but primitive, trail traversing up and east. We followed this trail for a ways, using a piece of nylon rope tied to a tree branch to help cross a stream at one point, and eventually lost the flagging while ascending a bouldery rock field. We continued pushing uphill through two more rock fields before running into snow. The terrain here steepened, and we found ourselves on 20-30 degree bear grass slopes, covered by less than a foot of snow - slippery stuff! Nevertheless, we persevered a while longer before the hour of the day and the angle of the sun forced us to turn back far below the actual ridge line.
The next attempt came in mid-January, just after we received a large snowfall. We were walking in snow from the cars that day, and put on snowshoes part way up the abandoned road. Although we tried again to follow the flagging for the trail, we lost it early on, and simply turned upslope and started climbing. The angle was fairly steep, and the snow was quite deep - even with snowshoes we moved rather slowly. At lunch time we stopped for a rest and some food and discussed our options. It was obvious at this point that we weren't going to make the summit before our turn around time, and unlikely that we would even make it onto the ridge. Seeing that our blue skies and sunshine were turning into clouds and snow we decided to bail and head back down to the cars early.
|On February 19th, I was back again, optimistic because of good snow conditions and a strong team of climbers. While we were donning our climbing boots and packs, we discussed changing the route a bit by climbing the entire west ridge, rather than trying to go up the south face to get onto the ridge. This looked like a good strategy on the USGS map, and with our new plans in mind I once again walked the approach past the fire academy and headed up the abandoned road. This time, instead of continuing east at the sharp turn in the old road, we continued to near the road's end where a stream intersects it from the east. Here we turned east, first climbing gently sloped terrain, then a steeper, short gully to gain the west end of the west ridge. Along the way we passed an old truck that had long since been abandoned, its engine pulled out and placed on its flatbed to power a cable lift for some long forgotten logging or mining operation. Once we gained the ridge, the route finding became trivial; just working our way east towards the summit, although the technical demands varied. Here and there a rocky spine would project itself up out of the snow, giving us the opportunity to scramble a bit of snow covered alpine rock or be forced over to the north side of the ridge for a steep traverse.|
|Along the way the wind had scoured the south edge of the ridge, creating some slopes with the hardness of icy armor that gave us pause as we attempted to kick any kind of dent in them to gain the softer snow above. The slopes beneath us at those times dropped quickly and unpleasantly, and the hardness of the snow made stopping a slip by an ice axe arrest seem quite unlikely. I started eyeing the soft snow of the bowl to the north of the ridge, hoping that might prove to be an acceptable route for our descent rather than having to attempt plunge stepping down what we were climbing up. The final challenge was saved for near the end, with the true summit in sight only a hundred yards or so away. I was standing on a small rocky outcrop, looking at another rocky outcrop 6 or 8 feet away from me. In between was a fin of snow, perhaps 5 or 6 feet high and about 4 inches wide on top. To my left the north face dropped 50, maybe 75, feet steeply into trees. To my right was a 6 foot fall onto a sloped rocky shelf, then a long steep ride down the south face on that armor hard snow. The fin wasn't wide enough to get an ice axe placement in - it was just going to be a question of 3 or 4 balanced steps before reaching the security of the rock on the other side, and the certainty of the summit beyond. To add spice to this section, the wind was gusting between 15 and 25 mph from the south - not really enough to knock you around unless you were standing on a narrow fin of snow, hoping it wouldn't collapse under your weight, and trying hard not to tip left nor right. I must have stood there for almost a full minute before committing myself to the crossing - three quick sideways steps, and a solidly placed ice axe in the snow on the other side allowed me to breathe again. The short walk from here to the summit provided me with fabulous views: north to Baker and Shuksan; east to Stuart; south to Rainier; and west to the skylines of Bellevue and Seattle dwarfed by the Olympics.|
|It turned out I wasn't the only one pondering the wisdom of descending some of the harder slopes we had climbed. From the summit we had a pretty good view of what the descent route down into the north bowl would be like, and quickly and unanimously agreed that would be a safer, and more fun, choice. We had a few open slopes to cross that demanded respect because of the avalanche potential, but soon we dropped down onto lightly wooded slopes, with several feet of untracked powder over an icy hard crust - perfect for walking and playing in the snow, with no stress of exposure or difficulty. Having far too much energy, Scott and Steve strapped on snowshoes and proceeded to behave like two terrier puppies that hadn't been outside in weeks. Running up and down the slopes, repeatedly climbing the best glissading slopes to see who could catch the most air from the ramp at the bottom of the slope, and in general egging each other on to see who could burn off the most energy kept the rest of us quite entertained for a mostly enjoyable walk out. At the top of the valley that spawned the stream we had followed on the way up, we hit a short section of jackstrawed logs that slowed our progress, but soon after that we were back to the old abandoned truck (which Steve climbed into in an attempt to drive home a souvenir), then down onto the old road and an easy walk back to the cars.|
Web Mountain turned out to be a much more challenging, and much more enjoyable, climb than I was originally anticipating. The seriousness of the climb certainly depends on the snow conditions this time of year, and could range anywhere from an easy scramble to a strenuous snow outing. The flagged trail I stumbled onto has piqued my interest in returning once the snow melts off to see what kind of trail has been created and how close to the summit it gets. At one point in time, you could count on escaping the crowds of Mt. Si and still getting a great conditioning hike in by heading east to Mailbox peak. These days, even Mailbox is seeing its share of crowds. Perhaps Web Mountain, being the next summit eastward, will become the next "solitude" summit, providing a steep workout once the snows have melted, and an interesting challenge while snow covered.
Getting there: From Seattle, head east on I-90, taking Exit 38. Turn right at the end of the off ramp, and follow this road about 2 miles under a freeway underpass. Just after the underpass the road turns right. Park here, just outside of the gates. There's a sign that warns that these gates may be locked at 4:00 pm. Hike the road for about .6 mile and find an abandoned and washed out road bed on the right. Follow this rough road for about 2 miles until it is intersected by a good sized stream. From here, head up and onto the west ridge, following it to the summit.
To see if Dallas has any copies of his book "Winter Climbs: One Day Ascents" you can contact him at 4012 M Ave, Anacortes, WA 98221 or call him at (360)293-2904. Dallas also has a new book coming out on routes at Mt. Erie.