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TFT 11

Torment-Forbidden Traverse, Sharkfin Tower, & North Face of Buckner Whirlwind!

Wow- what a trip! Tracey Bern­stein and MM guide Ian Nichol­son send some Cas­cade clas­sics in one trip. And while the sum­mer was full of new adven­tures that keeps Moun­tain Mad­ness and its clien­tele at the fore­front of unique guid­ed climbs in the Cas­cades, like Mt. Chal­lenger-Pick­ets Tra­verse, an Olympic tra­verse on unex­plored ter­rain, and climbs of Mox and Spickard in a remote cor­ner of the North Cas­cades Nation­al Park, this trip stands out for the sheer amount of alpine climb­ing accom­plished in one trip. Nice job Tracey and Ian!

Shark­fin Tow­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

Report­ed by Ian Nicholson:

Our trip began at the Mar­ble­mount Ranger sta­tion where we secured our per­mits for the next 6 days. Our objec­tives: Tor­ment-For­bid­den Tra­verse, SE Ridge of the Shark­fin Tow­er, and the North Face of Mt. Buck­n­er! We drove up the Cas­cade Riv­er Road and hiked into the Boston Basin High Camp at 6,300 feet where we found a dry spot to set up camp. It is unbe­liev­able how much snow there is this time of year! Above our camp tow­ered our pri­ma­ry objec­tive for the trip: the mile-long, knife edged Tor­ment-For­bid­den Traverse.

On the Tor­ment-For­bid­den Tra­verse. Ian Nichol­son photo

We left camp ear­ly the next day, leav­ing camp behind and car­ry­ing a light load: with the clear weath­er fore­cast, we planned to bivy on the ridge with only a stove, our pads and sleep­ing bags. Tracey and I crossed the Taboo Glac­i­er to gain the South­west Ridge of Mt. Tor­ment. We reached the sum­mit by noon, where the chal­lenges began.

On the West Ridge of For­bid­den. Ian Nichol­son photo

Sum­mit of For­bid­den with Buck­n­er in the back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo

From the sum­mit we tra­versed down and east­ward toward a notch in the ridge, which allowed us to rap­pel onto the North side and onto the upper For­bid­den Glac­i­er. We were con­front­ed with a 30+ foot moat guard­ing the glac­i­er! After scop­ing out our options, I rap­pelled in, know­ing I could always prus­sik my way back up the lines. After inves­ti­gat­ing the inside of the moat, I dis­cov­ered a 25 – 30 foot ver­ti­cal sec­tion that would allow us to climb out onto the sur­face of the glac­i­er. Tracey joined me and we used our ice axes to climb out, cross­ing steep snow and gain­ing the rock ridge. After 12 hours of trav­el, we had reached rough­ly the halfway point along the tra­verse. We chose a beau­ti­ful bivy spot on a grassy ledge with a 1,500 foot drop off on the far side.

We awoke the next morn­ing to a beau­ti­ful sun­rise. After a long, hard first day, we were sur­prised when the sec­ond half of the tra­verse only took us 3 hours. Tracey could­n’t believe how cool the climb­ing and expo­sure was on the sec­ond half, where we some­times walked along with 1,500−2,000 feet of expo­sure on either side. We left our packs at the West Ridge notch and climbed the West Ridge in a lit­tle over an hour and a half. That evening we returned to our Boston Basin High Camp.

On Shark­fin Tow­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

We start­ed out anoth­er stel­lar day in the Cas­cades as we made our way up the west­ern edge of the Quien Sabe Glac­i­er to the base of Shark­fin Tow­er gul­ley. After the Tor­ment For­bid­den Tra­verse, Shark­fin felt like a Sun­day morn­ing dri­ve, and we climbed to the sum­mit in 45 min­utes. We descend­ed to Shark­fin Col only to be greet­ed by anoth­er gigan­tic moat on the Boston Glac­i­er side. We rap­pelled about 20 feet below the sur­face and tra­versed 50 feet in the moat before using our tools to climb to the sur­face. The pho­tos we took from the top of Shark­fin helped us great­ly to make our way through the maze of crevass­es and saved us a lot of time. We reached our tent site at 6,900 feet below the North Face of Mt. Buck­n­er where we spent the night.

Look­ing back at For­bid­den (West Ridge on left, East Ridge in cen­ter, and North Ridge on right). Ian Nichol­son photo

The always tricky moat cross­ing get­ting on or off the Quien Sabe Glac­i­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

Approach­ing Buck­n­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

Chilly temps woke us up at 4:00 a.m. as we pre­pared for our sum­mit push. We skirt­ed one huge bergshrund that was 13 the height of the face, which proved to be even eas­i­er than we’d antic­i­pat­ed. Once at the shrund, we climbed 14 pitch­es on firm névé and ice up to 50 dgrees to the sum­mit where we arrived at 10:00 a.m.

On the steep north face of Buck­n­er. Ian Nichol­son photo

Steep snow tra­verse on route. Ian Nichol­son photo

Does­n’t get much bet­ter for after a hard day of climb­ing! Ian Nichol­son photo

We relaxed on the sum­mit for almost an hour, tak­ing in our accom­plish­ments and enjoy­ing the views, before we descend­ed into Horse­shoe Basin and tra­versed to our next camp at 7,700 feet on the Sahale arm. The last 5 days had start­ed to catch up with us and we were get­ting tired, but with only the walk out the next day, we were extreme­ly satisfied!”

~ Ian Nicholson

The Tor­ment-For­bid­den Tra­verse (left to right). Ian Nichol­son photo

Late flower bloom, with the Mag­ic Mtn. and the start of the Ptarmi­gan Tra­verse in the back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo