icons/avalancheicons/bootscompassfacebookicons/gloveshandsicons/hearticons/helmeticons/ice axeinstagramminusmountainicons/pathsMap Pinplusicons/questionicons/guideicons/ropeicons/gogglesicons/stafftenttwitteryoutube
Forbidden Peak with Mountain Madness

Forbidden Peak West Ridge — A Spectacular Challenge!

MM guides Ian Nichol­son and Tino Vil­lanue­va took four return­ing clients to climb the beau­ti­ful West Ridge of For­bid­den Peak last week. The con­di­tions were great and the views were incred­i­ble! Ian shares his report and photos.

For­bid­den Team. Ian Nichol­son photo

A sea­soned group, this was my third trip with Joel, my sec­ond trip with Mark, Tino and Dan’s third trip togeth­er, and I had run into Robert on the Fish­er Chim­neys with MM guide Jason Bro­man last year. On Fri­day, July 8, we met at Sec­ond Ascent, per­formed our typ­i­cal gear check and were on the road by 8:15 am. After check­ing in at the Mar­ble­mount Ranger Sta­tion, we drove up the Cas­cade Riv­er Road and parked 1.75 miles before the Boston Basin Trail­head. We ate a won­der­ful lunch with veg­gies, hum­mus and cheese, then start­ed the hike in. The trail is noto­ri­ous­ly known in the North Cas­cades Nation­al Park as a route that is con­sis­tent­ly steep and usu­al­ly over­grown. After some bush­whack­ing, stream cross­ings and log hop­ping, we made it to our camp at 6,600 feet, the Boston Basin High Camp, below For­bid­den Peak’s South Face and the iron­i­cal­ly named Un-named Glacier.” 

Glac­i­er trav­el below the peak with Sahale in the back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo

Joel had brought his new, extreme­ly-spa­cious tent, affec­tion­ate­ly deemed The Con­do,” which he gen­er­ous­ly shared with Mark, Robert, Dan, Tino and me. It was light­ly rain­ing with very low vis­i­bil­i­ty. The rain turned to snow briefly dur­ing the night with an unbe­liev­able mid-July 5,500 foot freeze lev­el fore­cast­er. Luck­i­ly, the whole group had plen­ty of Cas­cade climb­ing expe­ri­ence and were able to deal with poor weath­er in stride. It cer­tain­ly did­n’t effect any­one’s excitement! 

On approach. Ian Nichol­son photo

We chose to get a lat­er start due to the poor weath­er, snow on the route and the cold tem­per­a­tures, and to our exciement, the weath­er improved as the morn­ing wore on. We woke up at a lat­er-than-usu­al 6:30 am. Mark had appar­ent­ly been up since 5am, a habit he has kept since his days in the Marines. Right as we crawled out of our tents, the sky began to clear and it stopped raining/​sleeting as we ate break­fast. We depart­ed at 8:40 am and had a pleas­ant approach with views of For­bid­den’s sum­mit over half of the time. The approach gul­ley that gains the West Ridge notch is an often over­looked chal­lenge, since the extreme expo­sure once on the ridge makes it easy to for­get. The West Ridge gul­ley is 4 – 5 pitch­es of 50+ degree snow with a lit­tle full-blown mixed climb­ing to gain the col. Our group enjoyed the var­ied climb­ing the gul­ley addes to the route, and wel­comed the views once we gained the ridge.

High on the route with Eldo­ra­do in the back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo

Once on the ridge, every­one kept shout­ing out how cool the climb­ing was, and how extreme the expo­sure felt. Our teams cruised the crux fric­tion pitch” and enjoyed con­stant­ly look­ing down 1500 – 3000 feet of expo­sure on either side of the true knife-edged ridge. The West Ridge is nev­er wider than 10 feet for its entire­ty and is reg­u­lar­ly only a few feet across. This, plus the sound rock and excel­lent climb­ing, is why the West Ridge of For­bid­den Peak is one of The 50 Clas­sic Climbs of North America.”

Airy ridge climb­ing. Ian Nichol­son photo

Mark, Joel and I made the sum­mit around 3:00 pm, with Tino, Dan, and Robert not far behind. The West Ridge is more chal­leng­ing than many climbs since climbers have to down-climb a major­i­ty of the route; an often heav­i­ly, time-con­sum­ing effort that our groups exe­cut­ed fan­tas­ti­cal­ly. We dropped into the steep snow gul­ley and were forced to put our head­lamps on for the final few rope-lengths. This was a pleas­ant change in atmos­phere that allowed us to see the stars and beau­ti­ful Milky Way. We all descend­ed the Unnamed Glac­i­er in the dark as a group and walked back to camp exhaust­ed but extreme­ly satisfied. 

Clas­sic exposed climb­ing on the West Ridge. Ian Nichol­son photo

The next and final morn­ing we woke up and hiked out among a mix of light rain and sun. The whole group agreed that this was one of the more chal­leng­ing climbs they had ever com­plet­ed, but also one of the best. Joel and Mark were already talk­ing about next year’s adven­ture before we even hit the trailhead!”

- Ian Nicholson

Back in camp with the 5,000 foot North Face of Johan­nes­burg in the back­ground.
Ian Nichol­son photo