This November has been a brutally bad month in western Washington to do any major climbing and hiking. One week the mountains are snow covered only to watch and see all the snow cover be washed away the next week. There snow conditions have been very hard to judge with some areas receiving a ton of snow and other areas receiving nothing. To make matters worse the actual weather has been quiet dreary. For me it has been since November 1st since I have done a serious hike. I was hoping to tackle a mountain on Washington’s Bulger List but the weather has often made it way too unsafe to be doing it. To occupy my time I have done some smaller hikes with BearQueen and some combinations of rock climbing and wall climbing. The rock and wall climbing have felt great and will probably really help me on some of my future goals but I have really been going stir crazy for a good snow climb and scramble.
Finally towards the end of this month we got a good weather window. I missed my chance the day with good friends before due to scheduling issues and recovering from an illness. But with the next day being the last good day for a long time I knew I need to satisfy my inner sense of adventure. I called up Matt Lemke and due to both us having work issues the mountain we had to choose a summit had to be close to home yet it could not be a simple hike. We decided to pick Web Mountain because Matt had to be at work during the evening and Webb Mountain seemed to be a great slope to practice snow-climb. The last bit up to the ridge was a solid 45 degree snow climb in prime conditions. As we found out we did not have prime conditions, but with Matt’s solid route we got our goal and made it back to town in time for our schedules.
Heading Up To Putrid Pete's Peak
As we pulled up to the parking area both Matt and I realized this could potentially not be a true snow climb. It looked like that a lot of the snow that fell the week before somehow melted. We instantly unpacked the snowshoes and headed on up to Web Mountain and Putrid Pete’s Peak. The beginning was simply a boring trail walk up from the Ira Spring Trail (elevation 2200) to about 3900. We were hoping that somewhere along the way that we would hit some snow so we could break out the axes and start our climb up the ridge.
Looking up at Putrid Pete's Peak
Unfortunately that did not happen. In truth there was snow that started in patches around 4000 feet and never got solid until near the summit of P3 at 5200 feet. It is already a real pain going up that steep boot path from about 3900 feet to the summit of P3 with footing being very poor. I often use the vegetation holds to help me up the slope. The patchy snow really made footing really tough going up. Our dream of a good 45 degree snow quickly got a reality check. I was really feeling it after not hiking for a month. Once out of the steep brush we got our first look at Putrid Pete’s Peak and Web Mountain. To me this was a relief and the rest of the up was not too back. Soon Matt and I managed up the steep ridge and made it up the small scramble to the Putrid Pete’s Peak a 50 foot sub peak of Web Mountain.
Looking down our route from Putrid Pete's Peak
The Sketchy Traverse To Web Mountain
Looking towards Web Mountain from Putrid Pete's Peak
We spent very little time here because getting to Web Mountain from P3 though was a little bit of a chore. There were a number of routes we could take here but we had to take in consideration that on the southern slope we had 45 degrees of packed slippery and shallow snow. The northern section of the mountain had a growing cornice over a large cliff from the storms from the week before. Add to the fact that the snow was quiet shallow and some of the terrain was quiet scrambly (only Class 2 but the snow added some serious difficulty to it). I broke out my ice axe, helmet and micro-spikes and then started the traverse.
Nearing the summit of Web Mountain
Matt did a great job leading the way here through the less than ideal conditions . There was some steady snow all the way to the summit of Web Mountain but the snow was not very solid. My axe and micro-spikes here was very useful findings many of the holds that were in the snow. I was also with some effort able to kick in some decent steps in the snow. The snow though wasn't deep though and there a number of tree wells that create some problems. There was also some rock traps along the way to take even more energy away from us. That along with the cornice on the north end and the various simple scrambles that were affected by snow along the ridge line made this a little tougher than I was expecting.
Summit Glory: The Reason Why We Climb
EastKing Enjoying the summit Matt Looking at the Route Down
Finally we made the summit but we could be able to spend a little time up there due to our work schedules. Views here were exceptional for this begin a peak within 50 miles from Seattle and right off of I-90. We were able to see hundreds of summits and sites including Rainier and Adams to the south; Mount Stuart and Chimney Rock to the east; Glacier Peak, Mount Shuksan and Baker to north; and the Olympic Range and the beautiful city of Seattle to the west. That view made it all worth it and reminded me why I love climb and hiking so much. It seems funny how sometimes even the smaller mountains can really put that hunger right back into you.
The Return Struggle Down the Mountain
Time to head down that ridge
Now that we hit our goal we had to rush down to civilizations where our jobs awaited. On the way back from Web Mountain the snow soften up a little and it was much easier to traverse the ridge back to Putrid Pete’s Peak. We now had a basic path that was set which helped us tremendously with our traverse to the sub-peak of Putrid Pete’s Peak. As for the downhill steep section back to the main trail that again left something to be desired. We did manage three short glissades on the way back down the mountain while on the upper portion. The lower section was nightmare to go through and was time consuming. At one point I put my foot on a large rock. Not knowing it was lose I saw it head down the hillside toward Matt. I yelled toward Matt about the rock to alert but luckily the rock went the other way.
Matt enjoying the last of the snow. Below lies the steeper section downhill.
As though we got lower the route got easier. The route went back to being a nice trail and soon our slow struggle with patchy snow and lose rock became an easy trail walk back to the car. We jogged when we could on the last section and made it back to the car in good time. I would have probably jogged this section more but my knees were still hurting from the upper downhill section of the trip. Satisfied with a good summit we headed on back.
I want to thank Matt a lot for coming on this trip and leading us through some of the tougher sections. I also saw how the wall and rock climbing that I was doing really help me on some parts of the scrambly section of the mountain. This realization gave me confidence for future trips. It was great to tag a good mountain before the weather goes sour again. Hopefully it won’t be another month until the next significant summit.