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Mountain Madness Climber

North Ridge of Forbidden Peak

Check out one of our trip reports from last sum­mer on For­bid­den’s clas­sic North Ridge with MM Guide Ian Nichol­son. If you’re inter­est­ed in join­ing us next sum­mer, we’re offer­ing 2012 prices for 2013 trips if you sign up before Jan­u­ary 1st! Read Ian’s blog and start dream­ing about your North Cas­cades adventure!

Camp in Boston Basin beneath Shark­fin Tow­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

Moun­tain Mad­ness reg­u­lar, Peter Webb, and I were about to embark on a great climb­ing adven­ture of Shark­fin Tow­er, the North Ridge of For­bid­den Peak, a day of great crag­ging at Fun Rock and 4 of the 5 peaks of the Lib­er­ty Bell Tra­verse. You could say… we were excit­ed! I met Peter in Seat­tle on August 12, we did a gear check and began our dri­ve toward the North Cas­cades. After check­ing in at the ranger sta­tion in Mar­ble­mount we began the incred­i­bly steep hike into Boston Basin: a famous hike in the Cas­cades that involves climb­ing up rock, tun­nel­ing through trees and just a bunch of steep up hill trav­el. After 4 hours of effort we made it to Boston Basin.

Approach­ing North Ridge with Mount Buck­n­er in back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo

Steep snow and ice lead­ing to the aes­thet­ic North Ridge. Ian Nichol­son photo

Where we made our camp at 5400ft at the bot­tom of the basin. The next morn­ing we packed up our camp and hiked up the the Quien Sabe Glac­i­er (Or the Who Knows?” Glac­i­er). We dropped our packs and climbed the SE Ridge of Shark­fin Col, fair­ly mod­er­ate but incred­i­bly exposed climb­ing with amaz­ing views in all direc­tions with glaciat­ed peaks vis­i­ble as far as we could see. We descend­ed down Shark­fin Tow­er, picked up our packs and made the unpleas­ant climb over Shark­fin Col a few hun­dred yards to the west of Shark­fin Tow­er. From the Col we made an excit­ing rap­pel into a burgshrund at the top of the Boston Glac­i­er and climbed out. 

Clas­sic ridge climb­ing in the North Cas­cades. Ian Nichol­son photo

From here we descend­ed 1200ft down the Boston Glac­i­er, skirt­ing a steep but­tress of rock before mak­ing a mile-long climb up toward For­bid­den Col. There are three ways to cross over from the Boston Glac­i­er to the For­bid­den Glac­i­er, we were get­ting wor­ried when the first two ways were too melt­ed out to get across. But lucky the third and final option went. The third option involves climb­ing up 70 – 80 degree dirt with ice tools and cram­pons for assistance. 

Peter patient­ly belay­ing. Ian Nichol­son photo

We reached the For­bid­den Glac­i­er just before dark, a lit­tle tired from our 12 hour day but stoked to have climbed Shark­fin Tow­er and be in excel­lent posi­tion to climb the North Ridge of For­bid­den the fol­low­ing day. 

We got a rel­a­tive­ly ear­ly start, packed up our camp and walked about 20 min­utes across the For­bid­den Glac­i­er to the start of the steep snow and ice at the base of the NW face of the North Ridge. The first pitch proved to be one of the crux­i­est with near ver­ti­cal climb­ing with a short mixed step climb­ing in and out of a huge crevasse at the bot­tom of the face. After this dif­fi­cult step, we climbed 8 more pitch­es of 45 – 60 degree snow, ice and neve. 

Along the knife-edge ridge. Ian Nichol­son photo

Once we gained the North Ridge prop­er we could see why this route was such a clas­sic, besides stel­lar steep snow and ice climb­ing in a remote set­ting the final 600ft of rock are extreme­ly exposed, with thou­sands of feet of expo­sure on each side while the climb­ing is rel­a­tive­ly mod­er­ate. After 4 more hours of excep­tion­al ridge climb­ing, we made it to the sum­mit. We descend­ed the West Ridge of For­bid­den, a large effort in its own right, we made it to Boston Bas­in’s low­est camp 10 min­utes before dark and anoth­er 13 hour day. We camped and woke up ear­ly and hiked out. 

Yet anoth­er sum­mit for Peter. Con­grats! Ian Nichol­son photo

After hik­ing out we drove to Maza­ma for some crag­ging at Fun Rock. After 3 HUGE days of climb­ing we need­ed a semi-rest day because we were hop­ing to go big again the next day.

Anoth­er ear­ly start brought us up to Blue Lake trail head, where the climbers trail starts for the Lib­er­ty Bell Group. A group of five spec­tac­u­lar spires. The pre­vi­ous year we climbed Lib­er­ty Bell, the most famous of the group, now our goal was to climb the oth­er 4 in a sin­gle day, a big goal for a group that is fresh let alone after hav­ing climbed the North Ridge of For­bid­den and Shark­fin Tow­er a cou­ple days previous. 

Next up — Alpine Rock at Wash­ing­ton Pass. Ian Nichol­son photo

We blast­ed up the North Face of Con­cord Tow­er, rapped its south face — then climbed the North Face of Lex­ing­ton Tow­er and rapped its south face. We made the scram­ble across the ridge line to the large flat area in the ridge before hav­ing lunch. We then climbed the Chock stone route on North Ear­ly Win­ters Spire and rapped down. It was get­ting late in the day and we were both start­ing to feel tired from the pre­vi­ous weeks efforts, but we knew with only one spire left and 3 hours of light it was time to throw down and all of a sud­den we got a sec­ond wind and blast­ed up the South Arête climb­ing it in just over a hour. 

Near­ly 20 pitch­es of climb­ing that day let Peter climb all the spires in the Lib­er­ty Bell group a huge achieve­ment for any climber. Congratulations!

South Ear­ly Win­ter Spire — Num­ber 4 of the Lib­er­ty Bell Mas­sif. Ian Nichol­son photo