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West Ridge of Forbidden Peak

I went back out to the Cascades this summer to meet up with my buddy Ryan. Originally, we had planned to climb Rainier, but plans changed we I developed a slight case of Trenchfoot in the North Cascades. Foot problems aside, this was one of the best mountaineering trips I’d been on. During our 3 days in Boston Basin we climbed Forbidden Peak on August 9 and Mount Torment on the 10th. Happily, we decided against doing the traverse as the weather wasn’t great our second day.


Forbidden Peak, North Cascades, WA

Approach Description:

We parked in the Boston Basin pullout in the shadow of Mount Johannesberg. My car puked out a huge amount of climbing gear onto our tarp and we quickly decided to leave most of it behind.

Packs bulging, we asked a couple Canadians to join us in a pre-victory PBR. They must have been fake Canadians, however, as they turned us down and marched intently up the trail.

Pre-victory beers consumed, we started the hike in. Basically, the approach lulls you into a false sense of comfort. The first half mile gently switchbacks up the Cascades. The trail then bends you over and goes straight up for the next half mile, gaining close to 1000’. I clawed my way up the near vertical dirt. Ryan seemingly used his witchcraft to float over this devil dirt. The last 2 miles are a shameless copy of the trail up Mt. Si and were a welcome reprieve from the previous sillyness.

We arrived to the low camp about 3 hours later where we discovered that all the primo tent pads had been taken. We were left chasing away some marmots and clearing a bench off of the next snow-free piece of the moraine. Ryan obviously took a bit more care with his side of the tent as I developed a nice bruise on my hip from my ill chosen sleeping pad placement which wasn’t quite clear of small rocks.

Climb Description:

This was some of the most fun climbing I’ve ever done in the mountains. It started with an bleary-eyed slog out of camp at 5am.

We broke out of the clouds at 6800’ on 25 degree snow. Finally Ryan and I started to wake up. The snow gradually ramped up as we approached the couloir.

“Dude, those guys were a bunch of pussies.” I hear Ryan say as he described the snow bridge over the bergschund a couple other climbers had told us about they day before.

We climb 3 feet higher.

“Uhhhhhh… I was wrong. They weren’t lying,” Ryan said as he enjoyed some crow. We eyed the snowbridge which had now choked down to 12 inches in front of us. To our left we spied a nice rope that had been fixed on the couloir wall. 6 feet of moat separated us. We wondered…

But expediency won out. Since it was only 7 am and the snow had been bulletproof on the lower portion we decided to just go for it. That rope wasn’t going to help anyway. The bridge was pretty thick and felt very solid. But, I don’t think I would have wanted to make that decision 3 days later.

Then the giggling commenced. The climbing was that good.

“God, I want to ski this so bad,” I yelled.

“Not right now,” Ryan rightly said noting the perfect climbing conditions and not so perfect ski conditions.

The snow ramped up to 55 degrees and I had the most fun up the remaining 500’ of couloir I’ve had on snow this year.

Following the couloir there was about 50 feet of class 4 scrambling up an open book, which remained engaging as we climbed through in crampons.

Meeting the west ridge we ran into a party who had bivyed at the notch to climb the northwest ridge.

We continued up the West Ridge with the clouds a thousand feet below.

Every 15 minutes we heard the characteristic, distant freight train sound as ice calved off Mount Johannesberg and Eldorado Peak.

The protection was plentiful and the rock was solid.

We simuled most of the route and short-roped two small pitches.

A lunch time summit allowed us to enjoy some cheese and pig heart…err…summer sausage (not kidding, read the label next time).

Ascent Time: 7 hours


We simuled back down the West Ridge, with 2 raps.

Then we made 4 raps off the south side just west of where the couloir ends.

We used a 70m rope and though you’d be able to do it on a 60m, we had to downclimb quite a bit to get to the next rap station. Honestly, this downclimbing was the sketchiest part of the whole climb. The face is sort of dirt/grass ledges on a steep slope with some loose rock, definitely class 4 just due to the exposure and some awkward moves.

Descent Time: 4 hours


Grade II, 5.6, Pro to 3 inches