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Forbidden Peak
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West Ridge 

YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b Mod. Snow

   
Type:  Trad, Snow, Alpine, 1500', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.6 French: 4c Ewbanks: 14 UIAA: V ZA: 12 British: S 4b [details]
FA: Lloyd Anderson, Fred Beckey, Helmy Beckey, Jim Crooks, & Dave Lind June 1940
Season: Summer
Page Views: 11,472
Submitted By: Mike McL on Jun 3, 2009

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Looking down towards Moraine lake from the top.

Description 

The West Ridge of Forbidden is included amongst the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. Expect stunning views, solid rock, an unforgettable summit, and fickle weather.

From Boston Basin, ascend scree slopes and gullies, aiming for the snowfield and the obvious West Ridge Couloir. Ascend the snowfield to the base of the West Ridge Couloir.

In early and mid-season, the best option to gain the ridge itself is to ascend the West Ridge couloir (about 40-45 degree snow). Climb the couloir until it peters out below some steep chimneys. Move left over some 4th class rock into a gully and scramble up to the notch at the start of the West Ridge proper.

In late season the snow couloir may be too melted out to climb safely. If this is the case, you can gain the ridge by climbing the rocky gully to the left of the couloir. This is how we did it in September. The rock gully is 4th-easy 5th class but was a little tricky with wet and loose rock and few options for pro.

Once the ridge itself is gained, start climbing up (duh?). Stay on or near the ridge for most of the time. The climbing is 4th and easy 5th class. Stay to the left (north side) when in doubt. An obvious steep step is reached about 2/3 of the way up. Ascend this on the left side, passing a fixed piton (5.6). Once past this, follow the ridge crest around the left of the false summit and to the true summit.

Descent:

There are 2 options for the descent. You can downclimb and rappel the West Ridge itself, or you can do the "East Ridge descent route" which is actually on the NE Face.

1. The West Ridge descent seems preferable to me because you're familiar with the route already, the routefinding is minimal, and you can ditch your boots, axe, and crampons at the notch and retrieve them on the way down. Having said that, I haven't done the other descent.

From the summit, downclimb and rappel the West Ridge route (1 rope works for the rappels). Once you're back to the notch, you can downclimb or rappel the snow couloir.

An alternative to downclimbing the snow couloir is to rappel down the rock rib adjacent to the couloir. The rap route is to the skier's right of the snow couloir. From the notch, downclimb some loose 3rd class rock. Instead of moving to skier's left into the couloir, head right onto more 3rd class rock. Just before the rock drops off steeply, you should locate a rappel station. We did 5 or 6 single rope rappels from here back to the snowfield. You may need to back up some of the rap stations with webbing and rings.

2. The East Ridge Descent Route is another option. I haven't done this one, so I'll tell you what Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield say in their guide:

"From a horn on the summit make the first of five single-rope rappels (approximately 400 feet total) straight down the NE face to a series of ledges, which are followed East. These ledges are 3rd class, except for short sections of 4th class encountered at several rock rib crossings. Traverse at this level, staying well below the ridge crest, crossing five ribs before climbing up the gully back to the ridge crest at the solitary gendarme (there is a large gendarme that marks the start of the East Ridge climbing route). Descend snow and scree into Boston Basin."

Protection 

Standard alpine rock rack. Ice axe & crampons. A single 60 m rope works.


Photos of West Ridge Slideshow Add Photo
West Ridge Forbidden Peak, North Cascades NP
West Ridge Forbidden Peak, North Cascades NP
Daniel and I on the west ridge
Daniel and I on the west ridge
Looking down the West Ridge.  Continuing past is the ridgeline that makes up the Torment-Forbidden traverse.
Looking down the West Ridge. Continuing past is t...
Rapping back down to the snowfield.
Rapping back down to the snowfield.
Looks inviting, doesn't it?  Forbidden goes into the clouds.  This is the snowfield that is ascended to gain the start of the couloir.
Looks inviting, doesn't it? Forbidden goes into t...
Forbidden Peak in the clouds from Boston Basin.  The West Ridge couloir is the faint snow gully that ascends towards the West Ridge itself.
Forbidden Peak in the clouds from Boston Basin. T...
A rap station adjacent to the snow couloir.  5-6 single rope rappels will get you down.
A rap station adjacent to the snow couloir. 5-6 s...
Looking up at the ridge from the notch.
Looking up at the ridge from the notch.
Traversing around crevasses beneath the steep west-ridge route couloir.  June 2011
Traversing around crevasses beneath the steep west...
In the couloir above the small bergshrund.
In the couloir above the small bergshrund.
Looking towards Johannesburg Mountain on the walk down.
Looking towards Johannesburg Mountain on the walk ...
Downclimbing the west-ridge route couloir of Forbidden Peak. June 2011
Downclimbing the west-ridge route couloir of Forbi...
After lunch on the summit, it's time to head down. Group Members heading back down the ridge with Moraine Lake in the background! Very exposed and scenic climb.
After lunch on the summit, it's time to head down....
Downclimbing off of Forbidden's West Ridge back toward Boston Basin.  June 2011
Downclimbing off of Forbidden's West Ridge back to...
Great view of Boston Glacier from the summit
Great view of Boston Glacier from the summit
Sitting on the summit of Forbidden Peak!
Sitting on the summit of Forbidden Peak!
Looking back at the west summit from the east summit which is only a few feet higher.  Can easily traverse under west summit block on the north side (right side of photo).
Looking back at the west summit from the east summ...
West Ridge, 1980s ascent
West Ridge, 1980s ascent

Comments on West Ridge Add Comment
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By ccmski
From: Prescott, AZ
Oct 24, 2009
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Mod. Snow

In recent years, the couloir has been impassible in late summer due to a significant bergshrund. There is a fourth class gully system on the climber's left side that can be used to gain the ridge. On the descent, there are some established rapell stations along the ridge near the gully. Expect to clean and replace the webbing at these stations.
By Trever W.
Jan 9, 2010

I did the East Direct ridge last season (awesome route, lots of exposure and a bit harder climbing) and descended the NE face. The descent is a bit tricky and pretty exposed. The trick is to follow the cairns at each rock rib without wandering too high. There is quite a bit of rap tat left above from parties having to descend after getting cliffed out up high. That being said I think that next time I would descend the west ridge and not deal with the sketchy loose ledges on the East side.
By Wesley Ashwood
From: Squamish, BC
Aug 2, 2010

Excellent route covering a nice range of alpine conditions. We did it car to to car in a long day although Boston Basin is gorgeous and would be worth while spending a night or two in. We opted to do the east ridge and found the route finding easy and the overall experience of circumnavigating the mountain kind of fun.

Snow conditions were fine and there was a reasonable set of steps from a group that climbed a day or two before. The climbing on the ridge is stellar, but short:( We completed it in two simul-climbing sections with a handful of nuts and a few of small cams, but could have used more slings.

One other note. We were the only ones in the basin all day! Fantastic spot all to ourselves.
By BenCooper
From: Wyoming
Aug 10, 2010

If descending the rappel route in the snow couloir, prepare to leave a good bit of webbing and pack out a good bit of tat. Also, we found having a single 60m rope very convenient. A 50 would have left us short on one or two raps, resulting in downclimbing of the couloir (bad idea in soft snow).

Couloir was climbable in early Aug. 2010, but was quite thin and had two significant moats (see photos).
By David Ford
From: Cambridge, MA
Apr 14, 2012

+1 for using a 60m rope. We had a 50m rope and found that we had to do some significant shenanigans/downclimbing (on rock) on the descent of the couloir. That said, there are a lot of rap anchors in there and it's possible that one set of anchors is set for a 50m rope... but we didn't find it!

For reference, this was in the second week of September, 2011.
By Mark Mahaney
From: St. Paul, Minnesota
Jan 6, 2014

This was a great route! The couloir was starting to melt out pretty good in Mid-July of this year and to get across it was a thin bridge followed by a 6 foot vertical section of snow. After we got to the saddle, it was approach shoes and simul-climbing to finish it off!

We descended the ridge the same way we came up before rappelling to the north ledges and traversing to the saddle (Large group was taking forever to descend).

Excellent route, would gladly do it again!