Forbidden Peak - North Ridge

August 7-8th, 2004

Marcus was in town for a little Cascades fix, and Phil was ready to be his dealer. I came along as the ministry of bad humor. Alarm clocks have no hold upon my weary body on the weekend, so Phil and Marcus passed the time waiting for me by playing Peasants Quest, an experience not to be missed! Our trip began with an inauspicous late morning drive through the pounding rain up to Marblemount.

Eleven o'clock. Ranger Station. Upon seeing our laughable intentions of reaching the North Ridge today, the ranger mentioned that there's still room in Boston Basin for the night. Her insinuation was hardly laughable, as we had zero intention of being molested by the unnaturally gigantic marmots that inhabit that alpine abode. At the crack of noon we mustered simply "To Sharkfin Col!"

Sharkfin col (left), the alternate notch, and tower (farther right).

We had heard of people climbing an alternate route over sharkfin col that didn't require any unprotected 5.7. In fact, it was supposed to be no harder than 4th class. Indeed, if you take the very chossy gully at the far left side of the Qien Sabe glacier (where sharkfin col is also accessed from), then traverse left up a short corner on greyish rock (purple sling here), you can reach a tight v-notch with a chockstone rappell anchor. It is at worst low 5th class to downclimb to the Boston Glacier on the other side, but we chose to make the single rope rappell. Some 4th class scrambling may be necissary if you are using a 50 meter rope. At this point, we got our first look at the awesome North Ridge.

The long North Ridge of Forbidden. The route starts near the twin towers low on the ridge.

Walking across the Boston Glacier was awe inspiring. This majestic and broken glacier spans a massive alpine cirque from Forbidden to Buckner. Surprisingly though, the travel across the upper reaches of the glacier were very mellow, and I didn't even need crampons in the warm evening snow.

Phil nearing camp, Buckner at left, Boston Peak at right, Sahale Peak at far right.

We reached the base of the ridge around 6:30 to find our friends Dan, Bill and Zack sleeping in our bivi sites! What incredulousness! Such audacity! Perhaps they thought that because they woke at 3 a.m. that morning, hiked through the rain, brushed all the water off the leaves along the trail and arrived first, that they were intitled to the bivi sites along the crest of the ridge. Well, perhaps they were. We found a scoop of snow on top of the moat that was actually a perfect little trough for our bivy.

We really couldn't get enough of the alpine ambiance on this little perch. Marcus grumbled something derrogatory about higher edumacations while we sampled some fine freedried grub. Fantastico! if I don't say so myself.

Marcus waking up in paraside.

We took a leisurly morning, and got on the rock around 8 am. The scramble to the ridge crest went quick and soon we were roping up for the first tower. This short 20ft corner is actually the technical crux of the route with a few moves of 5.5, but is very nice and well protected with good edges for boots. Afterward it was mostly very easy climbing and walking along the spectacular crest of the ridge up to the first snow patch. It really began to hit me why this is one of the nicest climbs in the Cascades: There are huge glaciers on both sides, exposed and narrow ridge crest climbing, solid granite rock, and all at a very moderate technical grade. Just perfect!

Phil leads some steeper rock to gain the ridge crest.

Marcus negotiates the crest.

Phil topping the major tower before the ice face meets the ridge.

The ridge kept going and going, never really being harder than 4th class. Maybe a move or two, but I was really comfortable moving along in my boots. We had been climbing at a pretty good speed, and were catching up to Bill, Dan and Zack. I think the reason why is because our leader lead clipped to the middle of the rope and brought both seconds up at the same time at the end of each running belay pitch. It would take us 1/2 as long to get all the people up to the belay and change over the gear. A reverso was quite handy for this.

Now that we had passed the tower before the ice face, we could see the full view of the upper mountain. It looked a fantastic if not a little intimidating.

Phil approaches the ice face and the upper ridge.

Phil donned crampons for his light boots and we walked across the snow arete atop the ice face. The climbing was a lot like the summit of Eldorado in a wierd way. We took lunch at some prime bivi spots at the base of the upper ridge and watched the other team work out the difficulties of gaining the ridge crest. They picked a nice system on ledges and chimney on the West (right) side of the ridge that we eventually followed. The climbing through this (even more) exposed section was low 5th class. Fantastico!

Phil and Marcus on the upper North ridge of Forbidden.

Several pitches right on the crest permitted some great climbing: knife edged hand over hand, au cheval, edging across narrow ledges, you name it. Finally, a solid but short hand crack lead directly to the summit.

Dave leading the last bit to the summit. Photo by Zack Thunemann.

I brought the boys up and we enjoyed the summit with the other two parties there. A party of 5 had just gone down the East ledges descent, so we had a while to chill. It was around 2 p.m. We spent an hour at least gawking and speculating at how Bill was able to climb with his massive backpack. With camera bag, he appeared as wide as he was tall:

Nothing slows Bill down!

It was fun to chat with the other guys on top with the stupendous view. Not a bad place to spend the afternoon! Soon enough though we joined forces on the descent, leapfrogging our two ropes down the 4 or 5 rappells. At the last rap (red sling) our team just roped up and running belayed ourselves back across the face to the notch. This somewhat high route is the way I went last time but works out pretty well.

Marcus and Phil heading home.

The descent down the scree into the basin, and then the trail back to the car was reasonably long and tedious. To keep myself entertained, I tried to hike to the car without using my headlamp, whatever the cost! The last 1/2 hour was a little sketchy with me walking off the trail a few times, but I would soon pick it back up in the hazy din of the evening. Though we were too late to eat food at an established establishment, we did (just barely) make it to the Shell station in Marblemount before they closed... mmmm, gas station dinner.

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