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Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Forbidden Peak/West Ridge

Exhausting, exhilarating, and unforgettable are words that come to mind! Forbidden is one of the 50 classic climbs in North America. It is #27 in the Bulger list and the terminating point of the famous Torment-Forbidden Traverse. We only did Forbidden itself.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Stream crossings into Boston Basin are all good for rock hopping in the morning.  Streams within Boston Basin are passable in the morning with careful selection of crossing points.  We didn't cross any in the afternoons. The fast-running stream near lower camp has places to cross a few hundred feet above camp, where it breaks up into multiple channels.  A half dozen bivy spots at High Camp had just melted out. The toilet had melted out, but we had blue bags too. A few bivy spots are large enough for 2-person tents.  We had snow from High Camp to the couloir, and the couloir still had snow up to the notch in the ridge, although the last 200' was very steep, 60-70 degrees (we think 70).  We went to the left side of the large rock that protects the couloir, as the right side was broken up and severely moated.  We looked through the rock gullies, but preferred the snow climb with three pickets that we rotated through twice.  The notch itself is free of snow, as is most of the ridge. There is snow on the north side of the notch that can be used to bypass a wide step-across at the beginning of the climb, but we chose the step across rather than walking the snow in rock shoes.  The route descriptions for the ridge climb  do a fair job of preparing you for the climb, but more detail below. 

This was a Wednesday/Thursday climb before a busy 4th of July weekend.  Susan went up on Tuesday to get an overnight permit.  We were #4 of a possible 6 permits for Wednesday night.  The trip was on!  The other three, Brian, Emma, and Michael, carpooled from Lynnwood at 6 am, met Susan at the Mondo Restaurant in Marblemount, and had a huge breakfast that most of us couldn't finish. 

By 10 a.m., we were at the trailhead, 21.7 miles up Cascade River Road.  There is a pullout on the left with room for about 6 cars.  We took only one car, leaving Susan's car in Marblemount.  We decided upon minimal group gear for camping, one stove, one filter, some water tablets, one GPS (we all had a map), one bear canister (required), and two PLBs.   There were multiple altimeters.   We rock-hopped the two major stream crossings into the basin and found low camp at treeline by 12:30 (2.5 hours).  We ate lunch, and  continued another hour to High Camp.  It wasn't obvious, but it sits at 6,400',  where a grassy moraine changes to a rocky or snowy basin, kinda directly in line with the gullies you'll climb to the W. Ridge of Forbidden.  I.e... more to the right side of the basin below Forbidden.  There is a bit of a trail you might see in the grassy slopes after the stream crossings above low camp.

High camp is an amazing place.  There are 360 degree views of  Forbidden, Boston, Sahalee, and Johannesberg peaks.  Marmots entertained us as we filtered water and ate dinner.  Four people's food fit perfectly in one bear canister. 

We awoke at 4:15 and started climbing at 5:05 a.m., right about sunrise.  We put crampons on right away, as the snow was firm, and had harnesses and ropes in the packs.  This appears to be a non-crevassed snow field.  Where we saw moats, we could also see the rock underneath.  Further to the right, it looks glaciated. We were in the left side of the bowl. The leftward route took us on the snow around some rocks and zig zagged some more.  We decided to cross only one rock shelf in crampons, but Emma removed her aluminum pair for that.  We stopped below the large rock that split the couloir in two, and roped up.  Brian protected the leftward snow finger with 3 pickets and paused again above the rock.  The rightward snow finger, called the "standard route" was completely broken up and moated. We swapped leads above the large rock and Michael led up the main couloir.  Crampons were very necessary.  There weren't any steps kicked in.  It was mid-week and any weekend steps had melted away.  We kept an eye out for rappel stations, and saw a main one to climber's right of the  gully, about one full rope length up the couloir.  The snow continued on the left side of the couloir, and we climbed the snow to the notch.  The snow ended near the notch's rappel station.  Later in the year, I'm sure this section will be merely rock.  In the couloir, we went over a few small moats, easily passable.  The moats on each side, however, were getting wide and deep.  From camp to couloir took 1.25 hours, and bottom of couloir to notch took 2.25 hours.  Camp to Notch -- 3.5 hours to 8:35 a.m. 

We stashed snow gear in the notch, along with our boots.  We used rock shoes. We had brought one set of cams from about 0.3 to 2.0.  One team had an extra #1 and #2, which seemed useful.  We had about 17 slings -- 8 singles, 6 doubles, and 2-3 triples, to sling many horns. We had reduced the number of carabiners to one per sling and just slung them over our shoulders.  We had a half set of nuts and placed only two, so nuts are not useful. We had pink and red tricams that we did use.  The first team reached the summit in about 5 hours (1:30 p.m.)  The final climber summited at 2:15 (5.75 hours).  The mountaineers guide says "6-9 hours" camp to summit. We were right at 9 hours.  Okay, we aren't that fast.  But we're safe!  There was a marmot living right on the summit, chewing the lichen off the rocks as we ate our lunch.  

By 2:45, we were heading down. We did some lowering, some simul-downclimbing (which entails the lower person placing pieces to protect the team now), and reached the notch again at 7:15 (4.5 hours).  At the top of the crux tower, we used lowers.  One person lowered the second person, who then "top roped" the follower down to their anchor.  We did that a couple times.  It seemed better than rappel, because each person can gradually downclimb the ridge on top rope, and keep from swinging out to the cliffs on either side.  

From the notch, here's where the climb turned into an overnighter.  There were two rappel stations on the rocks below the notch.  I picked the upper one.  The lower one seemed to be on a disconnected rock.  I don't think it would have made a difference if I had picked the lower one.  The rappel went over a cliff, down to the snow, down the couloir and eventually over a set of wet rocky and mossy ledges to a rappel station.  I was aiming for rappel stations on skiers left of the couloir, which would have been a cleaner rappel.  I had enough rope.  It's one double rap to there.  But the rap stations were too high on the wall.  They needed deeper snow.  I saw a rap station up on a narrow (and wet) ledge to climber's left.   I had crampons on, so worked my way to that ledge.  I reached it fine, and went off-rappel.  The other three members joined me.  We still had daylight and expected to reach the bottom of the couloir by dark.  But when we went to pull the ropes, it would not move at all.  We tried for at least an hour, and the tail of the free end was just about to leave us after moving only centimeters per pull.  It was dragging bad over the very wet and swampy rock slope above our rappel ledge.  Folks were getting restless and chilled, except for Michael who had just spent an hour trying to pull.  Before we lost the tail of both ropes, I decided to hook back in as if rappeling on an auto-block, swing out on the snow, and kick step back up to the notch, while pulling myself in on the belay device and autoblock.  I placed a backup knot at the ends, and placed/removed backup knots on my way up.  I didn't need to go all the way to the notch.  I got below the cliff that we first went over, found a horn to put a cordellette on, and pulled the rope.  They started moving, so long as I gave the loose end some slack.  The problem was that both ropes were so heavy and wet.  But they moved well until the free end started moving up the overhanging cliff.  Then it twisted around the pull rope and stopped again.  By then, I had pulled the end of one rope, and had that one rope completely at my feet (although the free end was still connected to my party of three on the rappel ledge below me.)  I was only pulling one rope then, but it wouldn't budge.  I was about to give it up when I noticed that the free end was slowly untwisting... so very slowly above me. I crossed my fingers, saw the last twist go out (via headlight that was getting dimmer), and pulled.  It moved!   Oh boy!  But as the free end disappeared over the lip of the cliff, it stopped hard again.  It must have lodged in a crack.   I set that rope aside, and started playing with the rope back to the rappel station.  I put it through a couple throwaway carabiners on my throwaway cordelette anchor and checked the length.  It was not half rope.  It was more than 30 meters back to the rappel station.  Crap!   Back to the stuck rope.   One, Two, Three (and several more) pulls and it popped free!   I radioed this to the rappel station and heard cheers that probably echoed all the way to low camp.   They were stuck on a ledge about 20 meters above the snow without any good hopes of getting down before morning.  But, I still had to get back to them and be able to pull the ropes again.   I rappelled on both ropes (now free thankfully) and got back to the ledge. I had left a cordellette and two carabiners on an ad-hoc rap station.  No problem.  Emma and Susan had wrapped themselves in emergency blankets and shivering.  It wasn't too terribly cold, but it was breezy, and the ledges were dripping water.   Not a good situation for spending the night.  Wow, by this time, it was 12:30 a.m.  Time flies when the rope gets stuck. 

We were so tired, physically and mentally.  At one point, we considered all of us prusiking ropes back to the notch in order to bivy.  I didn't consider that a useful choice.  I felt it was best to get off the ledge, down into the snow in the couloir, and use whatever was left of ropes and pickets to get ourselves down.  Keep moving, keep warm, but they hadn't been moving. Thankfully, we had both ropes, were able to make one more double rope rappel way down the couloir, easily pull ropes this time, and then downclimb the steeper snow on some nice kick steps that parties had made when the snow was softer in the afternoon.  By now, however, the snow was firm again, though.  Susan did find herself rappeling into the moat on climber's left, since our rappel station was also on climber's left.  She got out using all her remaining energy before the moats got deeper in the lower part of the couloir.  We did use pickets on the steeper downclimb.  We were tired and did not want to make any mistakes.  We wanted to reach camp in one piece, that's all.  Finally, we reached the mellower snow slope and just hoofed it back to camp, about 23.5 hours after we had left it, at 4:30 a.m.  Although we didn't have a permit for a second night, we did sleep for about 4 hours.  That was very helpful.  We could not have hiked out.  We did meet rangers at the trailhead, who noted our delay for statistical purposes and the fact that we "basically spent the second night on the climb itself."

Route Hints on the Ridge:

The various reports say "move the north edge of the ridge if the climbing gets stiffer.  You should finder easier climbing there."   That was true. 

They also say "simul-climb to the base of the crux tower."  We didn't get that far via simul-climb.  I'm sure many people can.  We saw others who went up and down in about 2 hours total. We did simul-climb about one or two full pitches from the notch to a steeper section, but it was not the "crux tower". Then we pitched out about two short pitches which took us through the steeper section and the crux tower.  We also pitched the final section to the summit.  Photos show people going over the false summit, but we looked over that edge and said "nope".  Both teams went back down a little and traversed around the north side of the false summit and then over to the true summit.  The true summit has room for four people, very cozily.

It's hard to remember the rock climb now, after spending all night trying to pull ropes.   But it is a fun ridge, with many possible routes, good rock, and many horns to sling.  Have fun!  May your rope not get stuck!

4.5 hours, TH to High Camp (with 1 hour lunch).

3.5 hours, Camp to Notch

5.5 hours Notch to Summit

4.5 hours Summit back to Notch

9 hours back to camp, due to stuck rope. 

3 hours camp to TH on morning #3. 

 

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Susan Shih
Susan Shih says:
Sun, Jul 3, 2016 10:52 PM

Great, concise report!