Spider Mountain by Mount Formidable via Ptarmigan Traverse / 蜘蛛山

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Spider Mountain by Mount Formidable perches east of the notable Ptarmigan Traverse. Meanwhile, it ranks #8 on the Ptarmigan Crest before Spire Point. Cascade Pass above Cascade River Road gives the quickest access to this obscure high point.

Final ridge traverse on Spider Mountain
Final ridge traverse on Spider Mountain

See more trip photos here.

Spider Mountain at a Glance

Access: Cascade Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: 19 miles
Elevation Range: 3480′-8286′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, crampons
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

Happy Fourth of July! Last weekend we climbed Spire Point from the south end of Ptarmigan Traverse. Then this week, we came in from the north via Cascade Pass. We used the tracks from the four skiers we met by Cub Lake only days ago.

I had wanted to visit Spider Mountain together with three other mountains along the route. The rest include the famous Sentinel Peak, plus Old Guard Peak and Spire Point. But I would’ve considered climbing all four with the traverse had I had more time.

Cascade Pass to Spider Mountain
Cascade Pass to Spider Mountain

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Cascade Pass Trailhead to Cache Col

Overnight clouds in the valleys lingered well into the dawn and showed no signs of clearing. We met a couple visiting from California on their way to climb Sahale Peak via scenic Sahale Arm. I wish the weather could’ve worked for them to experience the area’s true beauty.

After a quick break on the pass, the pup and I went south to Cache Col. Having been to Mount Formidable helped navigate through the dizzying clouds. Soon, we followed a faint boot path to the saddle with only a few feet of visibility past Cache Glacier.

Cache Col south view
Cache Col south view

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Cache Col to Red Ledge

Clouds had blurred our views as we went down the south side over a few snowfields. Other than going too low below the route at one point, the way to Kool-Aid Lake was straightforward. Shortly, we reached the tiny lake below Magic Mountain.

After crossing the talus past Kool-Aid Lake, we were at the snow ramp below Red Ledge. The fresh boot tracks had packed down the snow, so crampons stayed in the pack. Beyond the bench, it was mainly snow-free until Middle Cascade Glacier.

Access ramp to Red Ledge
Access ramp to Red Ledge

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Red Ledge to Spider-Formidable Col

Clouds briefly dispersed as we hiked the trail to Middle Cascade Glacier. Then from the snow’s north end, we followed recent tracks uphill as mists swarmed in quickly. The vast moraine deposit below the icefall was visible, but still no signs of Mount Formidable.

It would’ve been challenging to navigate without the tracks. Afterward, the trail split into two, and we stayed with the one with more foot traffic, to be sure. En route, we went below a few crevasses as the outcrops silhouettes loomed overhead.

On Spider-Formidable Col
On Spider-Formidable Col

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Spider-Formidable Col Camp

The dense clouds on Spider-Formidable Col had scraped my plan to climb Spider Mountain today. So we stayed put and hoped for the weather to improve the next day. I couldn’t find the west notch we bivvied on the last time. Instead, I made camp above the east pass.

Two Ptarmigan Traverse groups went by the notch as we settled inside the tent. It was impossible to chat as I could barely see them. I checked the weather before bed, and it was another cloudy day ahead. But at sunset, the mists shifted with some south views.

Evening view to the south
Evening view to the south

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Spider Mountain Climb

The pup was anxious to go outside at 4 AM. Then I peeked outside the tent at 5, and to my amazement, to a clear sky. Overnight, the clouds had somehow disappeared despite the gloomy forecast. But I was not about to sit around and wait for the weather to change again. Soon, we bolted out of the tent and went to the mountain.

From the gap, we dropped 200′ feet to bypass a buttress onto the shady south side. Even with the morning sun, I knew we’d be on icy terrain. We traversed under half a mile east on excellent snow and soon reached the bottom of the steep access gully. The photo I took last weekend confirmed we were at the right spot.

Spider Mountain south gully
Spider Mountain south gully

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Spider Mountain South Gully

Going up the snow by the wall wasn’t as efficient I’d have liked. So I kicked steps until we slowly moved to the middle of the shute with soft snow. Then we moved onto the rocks on the adjacent buttress to the east and continued on dry ground. Once on the east ridge, we went west toward the actual summit past the corniced snow areté.

We dropped onto a notch on the other side of the areté. Then we bypassed the steep snow by staying south of the crest. If there had been more snow on the final class 3 traverse, it would’ve complicated things a bit. Before long, we reached Spider Mountain’s summit adorned with a large cairn.

Northwest-northeast panoramic view
Northwest-northeast panoramic view on Spider Mountain

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Spider Mountain Summit Views

I was almost sure we’d be in a whiteout after seeing the forecast. Despite the overcast sky, clouds stayed high during our stay. Spire Point looked much more pointy and impressive from here! Views to the north had started to become hazy. But most high points there were still visible.

I took a good look at Johannesburg Mountain and still hoped to climb it this season. Funny, we were in the mists the entire time on McGreggor Mountain. But for the past two weekends, it was free of clouds! Ptarmigan Traverse was unquestionably a sight to see, so perhaps I’ll traverse it one of these days.

Ptarmigan Traverse panoramic view
Ptarmigan Traverse panoramic view

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Back to Spider-Formidable Col Plus Exit

We stayed over an hour to get our money’s worth to come all this way before leaving the top. Once we carefully went down the steep south gully, it didn’t take long before we were back at the Col. A quick farewell to the beautiful south view, we packed up and fast exited the area.

But talk about the timing. As we went through Middle Cascade Glacier, clouds had lowered and once again took away the views. But I was glad that the weather god showed her mercy while it lasted! I was now more familiar with this part of the traverse to move more quickly. Before long, we were back on the misty Cache Col.

Back to Cascade Pass
Back to Cascade Pass

See more trip photos here.

Back to Cascade Pass

But soon, the sky cleared at the foot of Cache Glacier. Then Sahale Peak, Buckner Mountain, and Booker Mountain appeared soon after. Half a dozen mountain goats were grazing carefreely among marmots as we walked by the grass slopes.

Oddly, clouds rolled in again the minute we saw Cascade Pass! Soon, we were back hiking in the mists back to the car. Knowing the no-dog policy on this span of the trail, we hurried down the valley before any rangers spotted us.

Grazing time
Grazing time

See more trip photos here.

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