Forbidden Peak West Ridge
The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is an outstanding alpine route and has proven its standing as one of the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. A true Cascadian approach (read: overgrown and rugged) leads climbers to Boston Basin, an iconic rock amphitheater choked with glacial ice that feeds the creeks and lush meadows below. From camp, the alpine climbing possibilities fan out 180 degrees from Mount Torment to Sahale Peak. Directly above camp looms Forbidden Peak, and from the basin it’s easy to understand how the ominous peak got its name. Left of Forbidden’s summit is the West Ridge, which extends up from the notch in the granite ridge extending over a mile to Mount Torment. The East Ridge of Forbidden, an impressive climb in it’s own right, creates the right skyline towards the sharp point of Sharkfin Tower. The final peak on the skyline is Sahale, a moderate glacier climb the culminates in a 4th class rock finish with a spectacular view of the North Cascades.
The West Ridge route begins from camp with a perfect warm up climb up on angle snow and a rapidly receding glacier, which soon becomes a steep snow couloir. In early season, this couloir extends to the notch at the start of the West Ridge proper and later it becomes difficult and climbers opt to take the Cat Scratch Gullies, a scrappy option that lends some grit to the climb.
Once at the notch, beautiful granite is the only thing between you and the summit. The climbing is grippy, blocky and featured and mostly low 5th class. The crux weighs in at 5.6 but isn’t sustained for long and the exposure is as incredible as the views. The movement is fun and fluid and it makes for a great climb. Once atop Forbidden’s small summit block, climbers are rewarded with incredible views of Mount Buckner, the Boston Glacier, the Forbidden Glacier, Johannesburg Peak.
After taking a few moments on the summit, it’s time to descend. The easiest way down is to reverse the ascent, and this is often as time consuming as the ascent. Be ready for engaging down-climbing and rappels.
Once we’re back to camp, it’s time to drop the gear, have a nice meal and get some well-earned rest!
This climb is for experienced alpine climbers. Participants should be comfortable with ice axes and crampons and move well on 3rd and 4th class rock. Climbers should have experience on 5th class rock terrain and being able to follow rock climbing up to 5.8 difficulty is a big advantage. If you are an experienced rock climber and are looking to add crampons and ice ax skills to your repertoire, we can train these skills at camp. Overall, this is a demanding climb that requires excellent fitness and some movement basics that can be honed on route. It will feel much more physically demanding the less experience (and efficiency) you have on rock terrain.
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Day 1 - Gear Check and Approach to Boston Basin
Gear Check: Meet early for a gear check in Marblemont, WA. Our guides will double check that you have all the right gear for the trip and help you minimize weight, decide on the perfect layers to pack, and choose how much food and water to bring.
Approach to Boston Basin: Roughly 3-4 hours to camp with 3,000’ of elevation gain over 3 miles on a rough climber’s trail. We’ll get to camp, brush up on skills and get to bed early to rest up before our alpine start the next morning.
Day 2 - Summit Day
We rise before dawn to get to the start of challenging climbing by first light. The climb begins with moderate snow, then steepens into the snow couloir to 50 degrees and/or the Cat Scratch Gullies which get us to the notch at the base of the West Ridge. The rock climbing begins here and we climb roughly 8 pitches of 5th class granite to the summit. After a quick break on top, we make the lengthy descent back down the West Ridge. Dinner back at camp.
Day 3 - Return to the trailhead
After some much earned sleep, we pack up camp and head back to the trailhead to finish the trip. The descent usually takes 2.5-3.5 hours.
❏ Climbing Helmet
❏ Headlamp - with fresh batteries
❏ Climbing harness (alpine or rock harness)
❏ Two Locking carabiners - Petzl Attache, etc
❏ Climbing boots - LaSportiva trango, Scarpa Charmoz or similar
❏ Gaiters - OR mini gaiters to keep snow out of boots
❏ Crampons (Steel crampons that are compatible with your boots)
❏ Ice Axe (55 to 65cm Axe)
❏ Trekking Poles - adjustable preferred
❏ Sun Hat
❏ Sun Glasses
❏ Warm Hat
❏ 2x Buffs or face masks (These are for warmth and wind protection)
❏ Long sleeve base layer top
❏ 1 to 2 fleece weight upper layers (I'm using a Patgonia R1 and Nano Air)
❏ Puffy - Mid Weight Down/synthetic, Patagonia Fitzroy or similar
❏ Waterproof Shell Jacket with Hood - Gore-Tex (or similar) - basic, lightweight shell, NOT
❏ Gloves-TWO pair
❏ one pair light/mid weight for warm temps
❏ one mid/heavy weight for cold
❏ Socks - TWO pair. Both mid-weight wool/synthetic
❏ Underwear - wool/synthetic
❏ Sports Bra - wool/synthetic
❏ Goggles (bring to gear check, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather
❏ Long johns (bring to gear check, we may choose to leave at the car depending on Weather
Camping & Backpacking Gear
❏ Sleeping Bag (20F) - down preferred due to weight and pack-ability.
❏ Sleeping Pad - Inflatables are comfortable, but make sure it is insulated for sleeping on
snow! Therm-a-rest NeoAir X-Therm or X-Lite are expensive, but excellent.
❏ Compression Stuff sack for sleeping bag
❏ Backpack - 50L (or the smallest bag that fits all of your gear and your share of the group
gear). Black Diamond Speed 50 or similar work well for this.
❏ Sun Screen (SPF 30 minimum)
❏ Lip Balm (with SPF)
Food and water
❏ Two freeze dried dinner meals (or meals that can be made with just hot water):
I recommend Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai, and Mountain House Pasta Primavera, but
everyone has strong opinions on freeze dried meals. If you know you don’t like or do
well with Freeze Dried, please let me know and I will forward some
❏ Two Breakfasts:
Grits with cheese, oatmeal, cold cereal with powdered milk, bagel and cream cheese,
PB and J sandwich, mountain house freeze dried.
Bring whatever sounds appealing for a midnight breakfast.
❏ Instant Coffee (if you’re a coffee drinker, now is a bad time to kick the habit!)
❏ Decaffeinated tea for evening hot drink
❏ Cup of 1⁄2 liter Nalgene Bottle (for hot drinks). I prefer the 1⁄2 liter Nalgene so that I can
use it for water on the climb as well.
To keep things light and compact, I use the freeze dried dinner bag for my breakfast
bowl, but some people don’t like the remaining flavors. If that’s the case, bring a light
bowl (lightweight tupperware works great)
❏ Spoon - choose a long handled spoon if you’re eating freeze dried food out of the bag.
Normal spoons make it hard to reach the food and it gets messy.
❏ Snack Food - 3 days worth of snacks. I usually break this down as:
❏ Water - bring two liters capacity. I prefer using a 1⁄2 Liter Nalgene for hot drinks and a
soft/collapsible 2L Hyrdrapack Bottle) Please bring at least one hard sided water
❏ Hand Sanitizer (Bring extra due to increased use for Covid-19)
❏ Toilet Paper
❏ First Aid/blister Kit
❏ Chemical hand warmers
❏ Hydration System (Camelback, etc). Please bring an additional hard sided water bottle if
you choose to bring a hydration system.
Know Before You Go
Forbidden Peak, Boston Basin, North Cascades, WA
Technical Difficulty ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is a moderate to demanding mountaineering challenge that requires a wide range of movement skills. Your ability and efficiency will have a major bearing on how difficult this climb feels to you. Cramponing on steep snow, steep and sometimes loose 5th class rock, rappelling and down climbing in mountain boots or approach shoes are all techniques that will be employed during the trip.
Physical Difficulty ⚫⚫⚫⚪⚪
The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is a demanding physical challenge that requires excellent strength and endurance. Movement on steep rock with a moderate pack is required. Summit day can be long, depending on how proficient participants are on exposed 4th and low 5th class terrain. Summit day is a long day of movement on technical ground and requires attention to movement for the entire day.
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