Forbidden Peak - West Ridge

Forbidden Peak and my student, Jason.

Soon after arriving at the Marblemount ranger station early Saturday morning to try and grab a permit for a weekend in Boston Basin, we found that they had all been issued the day before. This was supposed to be an experience climb for the Boealps Intermediate class that I was helping instruct (on and off) this year. After scrapping our plans for Torment and Forbidden, one each day, we drove up the river road kicking around some ideas.

Jason and Dave H. were the two students, and Ryan Allen and I were the instructors. We were all pretty psyched about Forbidden, and so we concentrated on how we could accomplish that without a permit for Saturday night. We decided that taking uncomfortable bivi gear, and planning to complete the route car to car on Saturday was the best idea. The only problem was the 8 am start from the trail head! This was a mere 3 hours later than our day attempt last year, but what where we going to do? Sit around the parking lot all day??

We hiked in fast with our light packs, and after two hours we were zooming through the open fields in Boston Basin. The weather was spectacular, and the temperatures were already in the 70's. The students helped navigate us onto the slabs below the glacier with some beta from two guys back at the high camp.

Ryan at the base of the infamous gully.

We hopped on the toe of the glacier by a serac that looked suspiciously like the monkey face at Smith. Ryan had decided to leave the crampons in the car due to the high freezing levels occurring all week. As we all cruised along the semi-soft glacier, he was having a more difficult time. But glacier was easy to ascend, and we were soon climbing into the gully leading to a notch on the West ridge. The gully was in far better shape than during last year's attempt, and we just walked on up the snow until it ran out into slabs.

We prudently roped up here into a 4 person running belay, and headed left up slabs (avoid the direct/right chimney). The climbing was really dirty, chossy and sometimes loose. Mostly it was 4th class, but there was a step of 5th here and there. At 1 pm we arrived at the notch, 5 hours from the car, and exactly in line with our predicted schedule.

The West ridge from the notch. Jason leading near mid picture.

Jason and I headed out first on a full rope length running belay. This worked well for about 3 pitches, until the route steepens at the first of three steep sections. Ryan and Dave followed behind us on the ridge. Jason set in a belay and brought me up. Something unusual about the West ridge is that there are tons of flakes and horns sticking out everywhere. They all look loose, but in actuality they are totally solid from 50 years of people yanking on 'em. This made for some fun ridge-crest climbing!

Dave H. down low on the ridge.

After this, Jason and I swapped leads for several fixed pitches. The second steep step on the ridge turned out to be a great 5.6 slab which Jason lead without too much mention of the sizable runout. Above this pitch the route narrows, and we were forced to stay on the direct crest of the ridge. Climbing past a fixed pin, I lead up into a dyke on the North side, and then traversed just below the crest for the rest of the rope. Jason lead through, and we reached the summit at 4 pm.

Dave on the summit. Eldorado and Moraine lake in the background.

The hour was getting a little late for our liking. Seeing as we would have to downclimb most of the ridge to descend, we figured it would take about 3 hours. This would work with our scheduled 7pm notch departure time, but what about Ryan and Dave H? After a quick stop on the summit, Jason and I began a running belay back down the ridge.

Downclimbing the ridge was fast, but was sometimes steep.

Jason and I arrived at the notch at 7:15. The sun was starting to set, and the Ryan/Dave team was still a looooong way up the ridge. Jason and I tried to get everything ready to go, but once Ryan and Dave had arrived and re-fueled, it was already 8 pm. Desire to get back to the car was very strong because it was soon to get cold, we had no pads, and only jackets for warmth.

And the sun sets...

Into the gully we went, rapping down off of an easy station, and then another double rope rapp down onto the snow. On the second rap, while hanging off the slings and trying to stand on sloping ledges, I mis-rigged my belay device, only clipping in one rope. I immediately noticed this when I test weighted the system (as I always do before unclipping). This was no time to make mistakes! The four of us rapped off into the moat, and set the ropes up for one last rapp down the snow.

Dave H. descending into darkness.

The headlamps came out, and Ryan bravely climbed up nasty sloping slabs to rig the final rapp. Once we were all down and the ropes pulled, it was pitch black. We roped into a team of four, and Ryan went first, without crampons. He was getting pretty "geeked out" by the whole situation, and we moved very slowly. The though of going down the whole glacier this way was not inspiring. Ryan was feeling the same way, and when we arrived on the rock island below the gully, he announced, "We're biving here. Now." Indeed, there were awesome bivi ledges with plenty of room for all of us.

The night went off pretty darn well. I slept on the tiny pad from the back of my day pack and the rope. Lucky for us, it was a super clear night, and one of the biggest meteor showers of the year! Even still, the sunrise couldn't have come too soon.

An awesome sunrise over the North Cascades.

We took a leisurely morning, and didn't step off the rock island before a team of 5 had arrived from the valley that morning. We were all a little tired, and ready to be eating fine food down at the famous Roadside Eatery and Museum in Marblemount. Ryan again had a nasty time traversing above crevasses without crampons, but once we were on easier ground I gave him one of mine. This seemed to work out really well, and we really picked up the pace.

Descending down to the basin went quickly, running and hopping down the smooth slabs below the glacier. Everyone was pretty driven to get out. Even still, I had to take them to the bouldering rock that we found on the previous year bail-out trip. A little fun bouldering with big horse flies, some photos, and then off down the buggy trail in search of food!

Ryan cranking a hard problem with J-Berg watching in the background.

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