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About Us > Adventures > Forbidden Peak

Forbidden Peak 6/24-25/02

Forbidden is considered one of the Fifty Classics, and for excellent reason. The views of Glacier Peak, Eldorado, Baker, Shuksan, Buckner, Johannesburg, Sahale, Rainier and countless other mountains are among the most spectacular in the Cascades. The quality of the rock is solid, the approach highly varied and a good challenge for climbers who are still perfecting their alpine travel efficiency and gear management skills. Much of the climbing on the lower part of the ridge is class 4, but the tower itself (5.6) and dramatic exposure on both sides of the ridge make it enjoyable for climbers at any level.

Five of us headed up to Boston Basin on a beautiful, clear Monday morning, fully prepared to deal with the extra 1.5 miles of road walking, avalanche debris covering the trail, and 2 high stream crossings due to excessive snow melt-off, in order to try to climb the often crowded West Ridge of Forbidden. We were fortunate—we only saw one solo climber the whole time we were there. Navigating through slide alder has never been enjoyable for me, but it beat picking our way over the huge trees and through slick piles of pine needles mixed with the compact ice from early-season. Once we reached low camp, we took several hours to relax, refill water bottles from glacial melt, and have a leisurely dinner. Then we headed on up to about 6500 feet where we set up camp.

Tuesday there was little to no wind, and we set out from camp at 3:15 a.m. by the light of the full moon. An hour later we reached the base of the couloir, beginning our zigzag trip around the gaping bergschrund and crevasses, placing pickets every 100 feet or so to protect us in case someone should slip. Two hours after leaving camp we removed crampons at the top of the couloir and started up the rock of the West Ridge. The north side still had some snow, so we continued for half a pitch before leaving ice axes. Our goal was 10 a.m. to the summit, so in order to do that, Ian McKay gathered all the pro and lead out on running belays, then switched places with Mark Boettcher when he ran out of gear. By 9:59, I belayed Doug from the west to the “true” east summit where we all high-fived each other, drank a few sips, and took some panorama pictures of the remarkable scenery before reversing the process. An hour later, as we were descending, we encountered a solo climber who’d started from the car at 5:30 a.m. and I could just barely detect 6 dots (friends I knew on Doug Smart’s trip) reaching the summit of Eldorado. It seemed to take us just as long to go down (one climber at a time on rappels) as it did to climb up. By 2:30 we were ready to descend the couloir, which by this point was extremely slushy – downclimbing facing in was tedious (most elect to do a rappel or two) but we all made it down safely, resetting the pickets we’d left from the climb up.

Once we returned to camp by 5:30, it was a matter of beating the clock – tearing down camp at breakneck speed, glissading as often and as far as possible, including one long ride down the second snow gully to the start of the avalanche debris, finding the trail fairly quickly on the other side, and crossing the two raging streams that by late afternoon felt more like rivers. Thank goodness for guys with long legs who can boldly dance across wet rock! They tossed me a rope for a belay and helped me safely across both streams. A day that had started out at 3:15 a.m. ended safely with us back to the cars, still in daylight, at 9:30 p.m. Worth every minute of it.

Following are pictures in order taken.

Avalanche debris in Boston Basin on approach

Avalanche debris in Boston Basin on approach

Ian, Mark and Doug at sunscreen and drink break

Ian, Mark and Doug at sunscreen and drink break

Hanging Glacier on Johannesburg's dramatic North side

Hanging Glacier on Johannesburg's dramatic North side

Boston Basin - obvious route up Sahale Peak; 7pm mild thermals, no clouds and full moon

Camped at the base of the glacier looking up at Forbidden's West Ridge

Camp site: Doug Schurman and Richard Johnson

Climbing with a full moon! No need for headlamps

Final snow approach beyond the couloir to begin climbing rock on the W. Ridge

Eldorado on a clear, still, gorgeous morning.

Doug heavily laden with some five pitches' worth of running belay protection

West summit (see slung horn) viewed from the "true" east summit, with Baker, Shuksan, Eldorado in background

Oops! The summit is too small for a decent summit shot! But it's the summit nonetheless

Ian McKay on the summit; view looking north

Mark Boettcher leads back down and up the west summit.

Looking east toward Sharkfin, Sahale, Boston Basin (left to right)

Stream crossing from hell about 7:30 p.m. Thank goodness for belays.

Waterfall, the final hurdle to cross before returning to the cars


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