Peak(s):  Forbidden Peak 8,816 ft
Date Posted:  01/31/2021
Date Climbed:   07/25/2020
Author:  APancoe1986
 Forbidden Peak North Ridge - epic trip with a little bit of everything  

Forbidden Peak 8,815’ via The North Ridge

July 2020

My first trip report! Hope everyone enjoys!

Day One

This past summer I was supposed to take a shot at climbing Gasherbrum 2 in the Karakorum. Obviously, those plans did not come to fruition. Slowly losing my sanity in Chicago, I reached out to my buddy Brian who was also one of my guides on Denali in 2019. I really needed an epic adventure that would be challenging – packed into just a few days. Originally, I suggested the North Ridge of Baker, but Brian introduced the idea of the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak – a less climbed and more remote adventure he had always wanted to attempt – one with a little bit of everything.

We met up in Seattle the night before our adventure and had an amazing dinner at Sushi Kashiba (the Chef, Shiro, is an absolute legend – a must try in Seattle!). We may have had a few too many drinks because the next day, the 3 hour drive to the trailhead in North Cascades Park was absolutely painful. Luckily, Brian had camped out a few days prior in front of the ranger station to grab us a permit. If you plan a trip into Boston Basin – keep in mind only a few permits are issued at once.


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Packed up and ready to go!!! (Gatorade for the hangover)

The trailhead into Boston Basin is not a nice well-maintained approach. Its steep, has a ton of overgrown vegetation we had to bushwack through, and a couple of stream crossings. The stream crossings were still running fairly strong even though it was late July. I can only imagine the difficulty they present in the early-season. It was a hot day though so I stopped to dunk my hat at each creek crossing.


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Brian crossing one of the easier stream crossings

As we broke through tree-line to the alpine tundra, we were awarded with incredible views of Forbidden Peak. In the middle of the Tundra there are a couple of campsites with a composting toilet. We wanted to bivvy a bit higher so we kept moving – and stumbled across an old abandoned mine we had to check-out. We set up our bivvy site on a rock ledge right at the start of the Quien Sabe Glacier. Our total time with 35lb packs was 2 hours to camp (around 3000 vertical) at a steady but not too challenging pace (especially given we were both recovering from our hangovers). The views were simply stunning and I couldn’t help but feel so grateful to be able to escape to such a special place during such turmoil. We considered knocking out Sahale Peak as it was only early afternoon, but we instead decided to just take in our incredible perch for the evening. We enjoyed our dehydrated meals and fell asleep in perfect conditions.

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Forbidden Peak making an appearance as we leave the woods and enter the alpine tundra of Boston Basin
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Brian exploring a mine shaft
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I enjoyed the view from the outside
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Happy to ditch the boots at our first bivvy site
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The incredible views from my perch for the night

Day Two

We woke up leisurely around 7 in the morning and after a dehydrated berry crumble – packed up our gear and left to climb Sharkfin Tower (8120 feet) as we had plenty of time to reach our second bivvy site before the evening. The approach to Sharkfin Tower was a short trek from our campsite across the Quien Sabe Glacier. The route starts with a 30 degree snow gully for the first couple of hundred feet, followed by a low class 5 scramble to the summit. The climbing isn’t too hard but the exposure is very real.

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Topping out on the ridge of Sharkfin Tower -- it's low to mid class 5 scrambling to reach this point
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Brian belaying me on the last section to the summit. The last part is class 4 to low class 5 but plenty of exposure

After summiting Sharkfin Tower the adventure really started. To reach our bivvy site – we first had to head to a notch in the ridge near Sharkfin Tower – Sharkfin Col. To gain the Col you first climb up a 30-40 degree snow couloir which then turns to easy class 4 scrambling. Once at the notch you repel on to the Boston Glacier. It’s two rappels, including a fun overhanging rappel, to the Boston Glacier.

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Overhanging rappel onto the Boston Glacier

The Boston Glacier is stunning. Remote and stunning, one of the most beautiful places I have been. We were very careful as the glacier was in fairly good condition, but we knew we were walking on plenty of snow-bridges over massive crevasses.

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Large crevasses on the glacier
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The Boston Glacier is simply stunning

To get to the base of the North Ridge – one last obstacle stands in your way – a 50-60 degree gully of extremely loose dirt. Pure dirt. It’s only 20 feet…but a very interesting 20 feet! First time I ever had to use ice axes and crampons to climb dirt and I was surprised at just how efficient it was.

At the top of the gully we were awarded with views of our route – and an equally impressive bivvy site compared to the night prior. The bivvy site is on an arete separating the Boston and Forbidden glaciers. After enjoying the views and another dehydrated meal, we went to sleep eager for an alpine start the next day.

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Start of the North Ridge from our bivvy site - we dropped down to the Forbidden Glacier and did a snowclimb that joines the ridge halfway to the top
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Another incredible bivvy site
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Falling asleep to a beautiful sunset

Day 3

The day did not start out as we planned. We had taken a gamble and with a perfect weather forecast – gone with just our sleeping bags and our air mattresses. Well sometime in the middle of the night, despite clearing the ledge as best I could of sharp small rocks, I punctured my air mattress and spent the night freezing in my bag. Then at some point while it was still dark, there was a bunch of precipitation. We woke up cold and with wet gear – both of us slightly miserable. Instead of our early alpine departure we huddled in our bags until the sun came out strong, and spent the early morning drying out our gear. Finally at around 10am we set off to climb the North Ridge, a few hours behind schedule.

There are two options to climb the North Ridge from the bivvy site. The first is to climb the North Ridge entirely on rock – just a hundred feet or so from the bivvy site. The second is to drop down onto the Forbidden Glacier and descend a few hundred vertical feet to a snow face that meets the North Ridge halfway to the summit.

We decided to climb the snow face to add variety to the route. The snow face is accessed by some careful maneuvering and a few tricky maneuvers around a moat. It was an absolute blast to climb. Brian lead the way up the route. Because it’s a remote climb we had to kick our own steps most of the way (near the top we intersected with fresh tracks from another party). The snow was firm so it was definitely a calf-burner. It took us 6 pitches to reach the top with climbing beginning steep (55-60 degrees) and leveling out a bit (40 degrees) near the top.

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Brian leading low on the snow face -- it's steeper down low 55-60 degrees
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After 4 pitches it levels off a bit for the last 2...the views aren't bad either
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The final pitch and the traverse to the ridge proper

After a quick break at the top of ridge, we packed up our crampons and ice axes and pivoted to the rock portion of the climb.

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Looking up the rdge to the summit of Forbidden Peak

The rock is pretty good although there is some loose rock so it’s important to test every hold. The actual climbing is mainly mid class 5 with a couple of moves up to 5.7. The exposure is constant throughout. We had an absolute blast and it was pretty straightforward minus a few route-finding challenges.

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Cleaning up protection on solid rock. The climbing is mid-class 5 with the crux being 5.7
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Brian leading the way as we approach the summit
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The entire route from the summit. Our bivvy site was on the arete on the far left - separating the Boston and Forbidden glaciers. Our snow ramp is seen interesecting the North ridge in the middle of the photo

We summited late in the afternoon and took in some incredible views and the entire route from the summit was amazing. It was a perfect day and being able to enjoy a summit after such a committing route is an incredible feeling.


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Celebrating a successful summit of Forbidden -- even sweeter after a committing route
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We had the summit all to ourselves because its "Forbidden" ;)

We spent a good amount of time on the summit but not too long as we had to descend the standard west ridge route of Forbidden to get to our final bivvy site at a notch in the ridge. This is where our late start came back to bite us. After a few minutes scrambling on the ridge, we got to where the rappel stations were supposed to be – and they weren’t there. Because of Covid, not many trips were running on the fairly frequently guided west ridge and either the rappel stations had been moved, or removed. Brian spotted a rappel station a little further down the face of the ridge and with some belayed downclimbing we were back on track – but we were losing light fast.

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Beautiful sunset as we descended to our final bivvy site
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At this point we knew we would be descending in the dark

We descended the face of the north ridge, or the “east-ledges”. After a few more rappels we had to traverse and downclimb the face of the ridge a few hundred more vertical feet to reach our bivvy site. The rock was solid and class 4 to low class 5, but we were now downclimbing in the dark which kept things interesting. We finally arrived at a snow ramp leading down to our bivvy site – a far warmer one from the night before and quite comfortable! After a late dinner, we both crashed for just a few hours.

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The final snow ramp to our bivvy site

Day 4:

We woke up early because I had a plane to catch back to Chicago. To descend from the notch you rappel down the “cat-scratch gullies” which are class 4 gullies with plenty of loose rock. After an hour of rappels we were back down on the glacier. A quick 30 minute trek down the glacier and we were back at the standard Boston Basin campground. We hustled down the overgrown trail to our car – making good time, around an hour.

Final Thoughts:

Amazing alpine route with a little bit of everything. It can be done in two days reasonably with very early starts, but I was happy to spend an extra night in Boston Basin, climbing Sharkfin tower and just being able to extend our time in a stunning remote wilderness.

The climbing is a blast with everything from steep snow to class 5 ridge climbing with exposure. The bivvy sites are some of the bests I have ever experienced.

I was very grateful to get this climb in and take a much needed reset in the middle of 2020.

Hope everyone enjoys the report!

Alexander Pancoe

Follow my climbing adventures on my Instagram: AlexPancoe




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Monster5

Sweet!
01/31/2021 17:43
Actual mountaineering on the dot com! Nice report. Such a wonderful area.


Presto

Northwest Climbing!
02/03/2021 16:08
Gotta love it ... always enjoyed being on the glacier and that area is stunning. Beautiful photos! Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


ltlFish99
Excellent report
02/14/2021 22:03
That was an excellent report. Absolutley beautiful with wonderful photographs.


desertdog

Great!
02/16/2021 06:51
I can‘t wait to climb this! I am hoping summer 2021. Thanks for the report.



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