“Silo Mountain” and Haystack Mountain

January 20, 2023


Sedro-Woolley, WA

The unofficially named “Silo Mountain” is the tallest summit in the NW section of the “logger’s island” on the lowlands of the western Cascades. This is the one of the more prominent objectives in the area, but I couldn’t find the origin of this unofficial name. It had also been referred as “Big Haystack” as it’s right next to the officially-named Haystack Mountain and is taller. The officially-named Haystack Mountain doesn’t even boast 100 m prominence. Everyone knows how much I hate user-created unofficial names but I also dislike claiming peaks with under 100 m prominence, so I felt like I should do both objectives to claim the official name as well as the prominence, but “Silo Mountain” is obviously still the first choice. Matt J. and I had been talking about “Silo Mountain” for over a year and our rough agreement was to make a bike-and-snowshoe ascent in the deep winter. The ideal timing was actually when we could dispatch most of the elevation/distance on the fatbikes and that required a not-too-low snowline.

The Friday of this week was shaping to become another beautiful day out there, so I messaged Matt if he’s interested in finally ticking off “Silo Mountain”. The answer was of course positive. I wanted enough time contingency to definitely get back home in time for a nap before the exhausting afternoon/evening work routine, so I made the decision to depart White Rock at 4:15 am. The drive wouldn’t be a long one, but we had to respect the 26 km round trip distance. Matt came in time and we made to Sedro-Woolley an hour later. The first gate at the bottom of the forestry roads was locked and the parking situation in front of the gate seemed iffy, so we backed down and parked on the side of the main road. While unloading our fatbikes an aggressive dog from the nearby house barked as if he’s going to tear us into pieces. We made sure our transition was quick and efficient (sans my additional 5-min breakfast time) and started the uphill pedalling soon. While pedalling to the gate I heard another dog barking from another house.

“Silo Mountain” and Haystack Mountain. GPX DL

The logging roads on “logger’s island” are generally well-graded and in fact, this one was even suitable from 2WD cars, but thank to the gates we all had to start walking or biking from sea level. There’s even a secondary gate a couple kilometers up the road and both gates were locked with aggressive stay-out signs. The riding was rather no-brainer. I don’t have a ton of mountain biking experience but I managed to ride most of the way up without having to walk the bike. The ascent was however, very monotonous especially considering the darkness so I mostly just focused on trying to keep up with Matt, which was as impossible as it sounds like especially on bikes. Nonetheless we made quick progress. From around 550 m elevation we started encountering fresh snow from Wednesday’s dump, but recent truck traffics had packed down two excellent sets of tracks for us. Pedalling on the tire tracks was definitely more difficult than pedalling on dry ground, but I couldn’t complain as without the tire tracks we would be already walking by this point. The snow depth increased drastically but given the tire tracks we managed to pedal all the way to near 1000 m elevation.

We have bikes so fuck the gate
Matt zipping past me on the ride-up
Me riding up at twilight hours
Matt and Twig taking a short break
Matt riding up. The tire tracks made it possible for us to ride much farther
They were burning woods in the middle of winter…
It’s shaping up to become a much better day than expected
Alpenglow on the sub-hills of Cultus Mountain
Me struggling to stay in the tire tracks.
Matt riding to the end of the tire tracks

Matt suggested to push the fatbikes even farther as riding the snow-covered roads downhill would be indefinitely fun, and I reluctantly agreed. For me it’s much simpler to walk on snowshoes than to push the bike while post-holing on foot, but I wouldn’t mind trying some real fatbiking especially with someone who knows this stuff. Another kilometer or so later at 1100 m elevation we started to encounter breakable crust and Matt made the call to ditch the bikes for snowshoes. We were directly under the SW Face of Haystack Mountain at this point and were about 2 km away from the summit of “Silo Mountain”. After taking a short-cut through a cut-block we plodded the remaining distance on the seemingly endless forestry roads. The final 50 m elevation gain to the true summit of “Silo Mountain” required us to leave the road. The snowshoeing in the forest was very steep and the trail-breaking was heavy, and the summit itself was forested with no view whatsoever. Thankfully we found a minor viewpoint slightly south of the high point.

Matt testing the conditions if it’s suitable for fatbiking.
The condition was good, so we pushed the bikes for a kilometer further
Twig was always begging for my sandwiches…
Our bikes were eventually ditched. We just left them on the roads
A view of the south ridge of Haystack Mountain, our secondary objective
We took a short-cut at this switchback, as usual
Me snowshoeing with Mt. Baker behind on the horizon
Mt. Baker with infamous Lincoln Peak on the left – climbed in 2018
Twig was having too much fun today
Matt and Twig snowshoeing towards the absolute road’s end
Matt with the true summit of Silo Mountain behind
Very gorgeous lightning in the morning hours
Me breaking trail up the final bits
Matt trudging up the final forested slope
Matt and Twig celebrating another P600m objective
Me on the summit of “Silo Mountain”
A view of Whitehorse Mountain and Three Fingers to the south
Our group shot on the summit of “Silo Mountain”

I suggested that we should ascend the treeless Haystack Mountain even just for the views so we quickly made our way down to Silo/Haystack saddle. The simplest way to tag this secondary objective was to follow the roads to the top, but we opted for a direct ascent of the south ridge since we wanted to explore. This turned out to be a bad call and we were punished by some annoying bushwhacking. I would not recommend this option. The 360-degree view from this summit made the suffering worthwhile. The entire summit area had been logged and the logging road had been pushed all the way to the very top. After taking enough photos we picked up the forestry roads and easily looped back to Silo/Haystack saddle where we opted for another short-cut to descend to the main road.

Matt about to make a snowshoe jump…
A taste of the bushwhacking we did on Haystack Mtn.
Matt following up the shitty south ridge of Haystack Mtn.
We got a good view of Silo Mountain from here
The bushwhacking was very annoying
The ice on the trees was kind of cool though…
Looking north down into the lower Skagit Valley
Cultus Mountain with the controlled burn in front
Iron Mountain and more hills on this “logger’s island” to the east
A closer look at Mt. Baker and Twin Sisters from Haystack Mountain
Me on the summit of Haystack Mountain
Our group shot on the summit of Haystack Mountain
The only glissade I did in this trip.
Matt leading us down the proper way with “Silo Mtn.” in front
Matt simply ran down this road
Back to Silo/Haystack saddle
Taking another short-cut to join our uptracks

A quick snowshoe descent later saw us back to the fatbikes. The first kilometer of the biking descent was a bit of an “unknown” for me but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought. Pedalling on snow was overall not a big deal if the grade is downhill. The rest of the downhill ride was fast and furious. We actually had to slow down on purposely to let Twig catching up. It’s not usual for Twig to finish last on a trip. Our round trip time was just over 5 hours covering 26 km distance on a combination of bike and snowshoe. The drive-home was uneventful and I earned myself a few hours’ napping time before showing up at work.

Descending our uptracks with good views ahead
Chuckanut Mountain and Lummi Island in the far background
Twig always likes to play in the virgin snow.
Matt starting the fun fatbiking
Fatbiking down the fresh powder
About to join the tire tracks
Me riding the fatbike down
Matt finishing the ride with Twig behind, finishing last