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

Tons of Mileage on the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak

I just fin­ished up guid­ing a great alpine route in the heart of the North Cas­cades, the North Ridge of For­bid­den Peak. I had the plea­sure of meet­ing Paul and Stephen on the last day of July in Seat­tle, and we head­ed out in search of bro­ken glac­i­ers, huge rock ridges and, of course, the lev­el of adven­ture for which remote, uncer­tain ter­rain is requisite.

Rock slab approach below Quien Sabe. Alan Rousseau photo

Our orig­i­nal plan was to attempt the NW Face of For­bid­den, how­ev­er with 15,000 foot freez­ing lev­els fore­cast­ed, and an already low snow­pack, we opt­ed for a route with less over­head haz­ard, the com­plete north ridge of For­bid­den. Any route on the north side of For­bid­den is a com­mit­ting climb. You do not come back down the same way you ascend, and because of this there comes a time where retreat is no longer a viable option. Being strong, fast, and resilient is nec­es­sary for these car­ry-over alpine style routes. 

Boston Glac­i­er in the fore­ground, North Ridge of For­bid­den is on the right of the sky­line. Alan Rousseau photo

We start­ed off in swel­ter­ing heat and brush low in Boston Basin, which gave way to shad­ed old growth, and even­tu­al­ly a long await­ed breeze when we broke tree­line. After a few hours of steep trav­el we found a nice dry rock slab bivy with run­ning water close by. After a relax­ing evening at our home for the night we end­ed up asleep before the sun­set. Which was good because we would be awake before it would rise again.

First bivy below Quien Sabe. Alan Rousseau photo

After a 4:30 wake up, we donned cram­pons and made the short walk across the Quien Sabe glac­i­er to Shark­fin Col. Here we real­ly woke up with some thin face climb­ing above a snow moat. Soon we hit our first point of com­mit­ment rap­pelling over Shark­fin Col, onto the very bro­ken Boston Glac­i­er. After see­ing how severe­ly crevassed the Boston Glac­i­er was I told Paul and Stephen I put our chances at maybe 50% of being able to find a way through. I asked if they want­ed to go for it, despite a chance of being shut down. They replied, This is what we came here for, let’s give it a try.” And with the pull of the rope we made our first com­mit­ment to the north side of Forbidden. 

Tra­vers­ing the low­er North Ridge. Alan Rousseau photo

With a cou­ple hours of down climb­ing, rap­pelling, run­ning jumps over large crevass­es, and of course a bit of luck we made our way across the Boston Glac­i­er, to the base of the North Ridge. Once you gain the North ridge you have near­ly ¾ of a mile of lin­ear dis­tance to the sum­mit of for­bid­den. We were already six hours into the day when we hit the ridge and need­ed to climb the major­i­ty of it that day. Most of the low­er ridge is 3rd and 4th class ter­rain with the occa­sion­al mid 5th class step. We moved quick­ly and cov­ered ter­rain fast with a mix of tech­niques from short rop­ing, short pitch­ing, weav­ing the rope between rock horns, and full pitched-out climb­ing as well. A few hours lat­er we found our­selves back in cram­pons to climb a snow arête that led to our sec­ond bivy at 8,400 feet on a nar­row por­tion of the north ridge of For­bid­den. Smoke plumes from a for­est fire pro­vid­ed an amaz­ing glow for the sun­set adding to the ambiance of one of the wildest bivys in the cascades. 

Bivy 2 with For­bid­den in the back­ground. Alan Rousseau photo

Bivy 2 on the North Ridge of For­bid­den. Alan Rousseau photo

Our third day start­ed off again with a 4:30 alarm beep­ing in my ear. Today was a big day. We had 11 pitch­es of climb­ing to reach the sum­mit (it looked like 5). Then a descent down the 800 foot west ridge to the west ridge notch, fol­lowed by a series of rap­pels, a tricky pock­et glac­i­er, sev­er­al hours of hik­ing, and of course a dri­ve back into Seat­tle. Effi­cien­cy was para­mount to say the least. After a short 3rd class tra­verse leav­ing our bivy we were in 5th class pitched climb­ing for 1,000’ to the sum­mit, which we hit at 9am. Piece by piece we com­part­men­tal­ized our descent and checked off one box after the next. Focus­ing sole­ly on the next chunk of ter­rain we had to deal with. By 1 pm we were tak­ing off har­ness­es and hel­mets, high fiv­ing and fill­ing up water from the glac­i­er melt. 

Last pitch before the sum­mit. Alan Rousseau photo

The next few hours were kind of a blur as glacial slabs turned to heather, to old growth, to dead­fall, to val­ley brush, and of course even­tu­al­ly the van! Soon we had cof­fees in hand and stom­achs full of fresh food, cruis­ing to Seattle. 

Fill­ing bot­tles up after the For­bid­den descent. Alan Rousseau photo

For those of you with some expe­ri­ence climb­ing in alpine ter­rain look­ing for a big­ger adven­ture than you might be able to do on your own, give us a call and ask about the North Ridge of For­bid­den. It’s an incred­i­bly aes­thet­ic line, with a high lev­el of com­mit­ment, and A LOT of mileage in tech­ni­cal ter­rain! Thanks to Paul and Stephen for show­ing up fit with your game faces on, hope to share a rope with you both in the future!

~ MM Guide Alan Rousseau