Technical climbing info
Mountain: Forbidden Peak
Route: East Ridge Direct ascent, West Ridge descent
Grade: III, 5.8
Forbidden’s Undeniable Imposition
Making the long traverse over on the ridge of the Torment-Forbidden Traverse a few weeks prior, Jess and were treated to the absolutely glorious view of Forbidden. It was shocking how seriously big Forbidden looks from that perspective. The West Ridge imposingly towered above us, speckled with tiny little climbers, while the East Ridge’s shimmering gendarmes begged to be climbed. I couldn’t help but think, how cool would it be to traverse this whole thing?
As the next couple weeks went by, mostly dominated by regular-life plans, we hatched our plan to go back to Forbidden to attempt this thing before heading off to the Bugaboos. We couldn’t quite settle on whether we would only climb the East Ridge and descend via the East Ledges or do the full East and West Ridge traverse. On one hand, the traverse looked spectacular, but it also would likely take longer and would require us to carry snow gear over the top. While on the other hand, the East Ledge descent would be super lightweight and direct, but it also looked fairly treacherous. We settled on the East Ledges, but it left us feeling unsettled.
Okay, But Which Route Exactly?
Getting a Boston Basin permit is always tedious. The online permits are basically booked out indefinitely, and the weekend permit walk-up line requires an alpine start in itself. We debated between dealing with that nuisance or just doing a big single day push. Not knowing exactly how long the climb would take, we figured we would play it safe and plan to spend a night.
After grabbing our permit, we hiked in and plunked ourselves down at the Boston Basin High Camp. We casually sat there sampling a new freeze dried meal flavor while watching the little colored speckles of climbers descend off the mountains above. We watched a couple of those speckles come off what looked like the east shoulder of the mountains and descend towards us. It turned out to be Nick (check out his blog post at Spokalpine!, and shout out to him for always having the best attitude!), just coming off the East Ridge. And, quite the coincidence for a route that doesn’t get a lot of traffic! We chatted for a bit and shared the stoke.
While it was a comfortable day in a beautiful setting, Jess and I could both tell that the other was uneasy about the East Ledges. We know each other well enough to know when the other is uncomfortable about something and not saying it. We zipped up in our sleeping bags for the night. “Let’s do the traverse! No reason to do something sketch, plus the traverse will be super cool. What’s a little more time and weight anyways?”
Approaching the East Ridge
Our alarms went off, the sun was just peaking out. The weather looked amazing, even better than the forecast suggested. I ate my beloved breakfast of freeze-dried salmon congee and coffee. (Separate, not together. I am not a monster.)
The approach up to the East Ridge proved to be straightforward but tedious. The approach gully was obvious, but the rock got looser and looser as we went up, until it eventually turned into a moraine. I built about 20 cairns, figuring it may help anybody out who may be coming up in the dark.
Reaching the ridge, we peered over the edge. “Yeah, let’s definitely do the traverse. Coming back over those ledges doesn’t look fun.” We resecured our snow gear and shoved our boots into the bottom of our bags. Time to climb!
Most beta out there shows that the East Ridge is composed of 3 gendarmes, but in reality, there are quite a few smaller ones as well. It really is a cool looking ridge.
As Jessica took off on the ridge, I looked behind and could see two people approaching behind us. I was surprised to see another party on the route. What was more surprising was when I heard, “Is that Chris and Jessica?!”. I looked down, and I saw the friendly face of Matt below me! The coincidence of seeing two people we knew on the same random route on the same random weekend was pretty funny. After sharing a bunch of stoke and Nick’s East Ledge rappel beta from the day before, we let Matt and his partner pass us, they were moving pretty quick (as usual).
The climbing itself was definitely very ridgey and engaging, with tons of exposure on both sides. Looking at the little topo I had from the Becky book proved to be less useful than expected. Initially we tried to follow it, but we found ourselves getting lost a few times, and wasting more time trying to figure out the beta than just going for it. As often it is, it ended up being just a matter of doing what feels the best, rather than trying to follow a map.
We bumped over quite a few gendarmes, eventually getting to what I was fairly certain was the 3rd gendarme and the crux. As it turned out, I was totally wrong and that gendarme wasn’t even on the map. When we got the the actual 3rd gendarme and crux, I racked up more properly and took off. Maybe I didn’t find the path of least resistance, maybe I’m used to softer grades, or more likely maybe I am getting softer, but it felt harder than a 5.8- to me. I’m not going to lie, I pulled on a few cams for a couple moves on that pitch. But after seeing a cam wiggle in a loose crack, I hardened up and pulled through free. The remainder of the climb to the summit went by quick.
The Classic West Ridge
Looking down the West Ridge of Forbidden is always a sight to take in. The perfectly jagged ridge splitting the view of the Forbidden Glacier pouring to the north, and the lush Boston Basin to the south, Moraine Lake shimmering bright blue, and Eldorado Peak in the back. No wonder it’s one of the 50 Classics.
But it was getting late, and Jessica didn’t want to spend too much time downclimbing in the dark. My goal was to get off the last rappel on the ridge proper in the dark as we knew they may be hard to spot without light. I knew the downclimbing below the rappels was super cruiser, plus I had the rappels of the Cat Scratch Gullies on lock from a few weeks back.
Descending the West Ridge is as enjoyable, in my opinion, as ascending it. The route has obviously seen far more traffic than the East Ridge, which made navigation far more straightforward. As the sun set on us, we reached a few meters from the last rappel. Perfect timing, almost! We turned on our headlamps and scrambled over to the last station. I managed to take us off course downclimbing in the dark a few times. But hey, more adventure! We used the headlamps of two people bivying in the Torment-Forbidden notch as a north star.
Late Night, I’m Going Home
With the night fully set in, we didn’t have to worry about time anymore. We rapped the Cat Scratch gullies, no longer in a rush. We switched back to our boots and ate the scraps of food we had remaining. The walk down back to camp through the water streams and polished slabs was the maze that it always is. By the time we got close to camp, the sunlight was peaking over the horizon, and we could see our little home not too far away.
I fell asleep on top of a pile of gear outside our tent. Jess fell asleep with her boots sticking out of the tent. We woke up an hour later to the clouds rolling in; rain was in the forecast. We got soaked on our way out, making for yet another true Cascades adventure.
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