Few routes in the North Cascades are as formidable as the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak. Long, committing, complex, and remote with at least one on-route bivi, the North Ridge of Forbidden is an alpinist’s dream. Not only does the route ascend one of the longest technical ridges in the North Cascades, but it also crosses the magnificent and seldom visited Boston Glacier and descends the West Ridge of Forbidden which, in itself, is considered one of the fifty-classic-climbs of North America. For those looking for a single route that requires a host of alpine climbing skills while ascending rock, ice, snow, and glacier, look no further. This route is suitable for those with previous glacier mountaineering and rock climbing experience who are in excellent physical condition. The route is not overly difficult in its technical grade (5.6 rock climbing, 55 degree snow/ice climbing, glacier travel) but it requires participants to climb technical pitches with an overnight pack and climb efficiently along a mile-long ridge of 4th and 5th-class rock and knife-edge snow. We can provide training courses or make training suggestions for those who do not yet have appropriate levels of experience for this climb. Our guides consider this a “must-do” route of the North Cascades.
Skills Covered During the Climb:
PassportNot Required for Americans
Minimum Age18 years old
ActivityAlpine rock climbing, Mountaineering, Glacier Travel
- Group climbing equipment (rope, anchors, protection)
- Group medical kit
- Guide services and instruction
- Personal climbing equipment and clothing
- Travel and evacuation insurance
- Gratuities for guides
Meet at a convenient Park and Ride in the Seattle Area around 7am. Drive 2 hrs. to the North Cascades Visitor Center in Marblemount, WA to pick-up permits for the climb. After getting permits drive down Cascade River Road for another hour to the Boston Basin Trailhead a couple miles before Cascade Pass. Here we don our packs and ascend the steep and difficult trail to our camp in Boston Basin, crossing over downed trees and fording several shallow creeks en-route to camp. The hike to camp takes between 3 and 4 hrs. Camp is situated in a magnificent cirque overlooking glaciers and meadows. Generally there is a composting toilet near camp which makes the stay reasonably comfortable. We spend the remainder of the day practicing skills for the climb to come.
Wake-up at 6:30am and pack-up camp. We then hike-up talus, rock-slab, and low-angle snow to the toe of the Quien Sabe Glacier, then ascend this to Sharkfin Col which separates the popular Boston Basin side of Forbidden Peak from the remote Boston Glacier side. We ascend a steep snow ramp to the right (east) or Sharkfin Col before exiting the ramp on climber’s left and scrambling up to a rappel. This portion of the climb can be tricky and generally involves belayed climbing. We then rappel to the Boston Glacier, often crossing a large bergshrund (large crevasse) in the process. Once on the Boston Glacier we do some complex glacier travel and route-finding to a lower-angled portion of the North Ridge (often a broad snow ramp with moats) on climber’s left that will allow us to ascend to our camp for the evening. We set-up camp either on snow or on bivy platforms depending on conditions and enjoy some well-deserved rest.
Today we begin climbing the North Ridge. We will wake just before first-light to ensure we get an early start. The route starts with 4th class and low 5th-class climbing before reaching a large tower with 5th-class climbing and complicated down-climbing. Further-on we cross a knife-edge ridge of snow, then later another. Near this second snow-crossing is our bivy we will use for the evening. This day can be long and difficult with many transitions from 4th to 5th class and from rock to snow.
We again wake-up just before first-light to begin our climb. Immediately out of camp we begin ascending the steepest portion of the route, with many low-fifth-class pitches as we efficiently move toward the summit of Forbidden Peak. From the summit we descend the West Ridge via three rappels and belayed down-climbing to the notch at the top of Cat Scratch Gulley. There are bivi ledges here, which is an alternate camp for night 3 if our itinerary and pace accommodate this. From the top of Cat Scratch Gulley we rappel the gulley with four or five rappels down to the glacier on the south-side of Forbidden. One more rappel from the top of the glacier takes us down to a steep but easy snow descent to rock slabs. We descend the slabs on far skiiers right (climber’s left) to the climber’s trail and follow this back to camp. After a short rest in camp we pack-up and descend back to the cars. Typically we arrive back at the cars around dinner time. We head back to Seattle, stopping for a celebratory dinner en route. We’ve completed on of the great climbs of the Cascades!