MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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October 22, 2012

North Ridge of Forbidden Peak

Check out one of our trip reports from last summer on Forbidden's classic North Ridge with MM Guide Ian Nicholson. If you're interested in joining us next summer, we're offering 2012 prices for 2013 trips if you sign up before January 1st! Read Ian's blog and start dreaming about your North Cascades adventure!

Camp in Boston Basin beneath Sharkfin Tower. Ian Nicholson photo

Mountain Madness regular, Peter Webb, and I were about to embark on a great climbing adventure of Sharkfin Tower, the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak, a day of great cragging at Fun Rock and 4 of the 5 peaks of the Liberty Bell Traverse. You could say... we were excited! I met Peter in Seattle on August 12, we did a gear check and began our drive toward the North Cascades. After checking in at the ranger station in Marblemount we began the incredibly steep hike into Boston Basin: a famous hike in the Cascades that involves climbing up rock, tunneling through trees and just a bunch of steep up hill travel. After 4 hours of effort we made it to Boston Basin.

 Approaching North Ridge with Mount Buckner in background. Ian Nicholson photo

Steep snow and ice leading to the aesthetic North Ridge. Ian Nicholson photo

Where we made our camp at 5400ft at the bottom of the basin. The next morning we packed up our camp and hiked up the the Quien Sabe Glacier (Or the "Who Knows?" Glacier). We dropped our packs and climbed the SE Ridge of Sharkfin Col, fairly moderate but incredibly exposed climbing with amazing views in all directions with glaciated peaks visible as far as we could see. We descended down Sharkfin Tower, picked up our packs and made the unpleasant climb over Sharkfin Col a few hundred yards to the west of Sharkfin Tower.  From the Col we made an exciting rappel into a burgshrund at the top of the Boston Glacier and climbed out. 

Classic ridge climbing in the North Cascades. Ian Nicholson photo

From here we descended 1200ft down the Boston Glacier, skirting a steep buttress of rock before making a mile-long climb up toward Forbidden Col. There are three ways to cross over from the Boston Glacier to the Forbidden Glacier, we were getting worried when the first two ways were too melted out to get across. But lucky the third and final option went. The third option involves climbing up 70-80 degree dirt with ice tools and crampons for assistance. 

Peter patiently belaying. Ian Nicholson photo

We reached the Forbidden Glacier just before dark, a little tired from our 12 hour day but stoked to have climbed Sharkfin Tower and be in excellent position to climb the North Ridge of Forbidden the following day. 

We got a relatively early start, packed up our camp and walked about 20 minutes across the Forbidden Glacier to the start of the steep snow and ice at the base of the NW face of the North Ridge. The first pitch proved to be one of the cruxiest with near vertical climbing with a short mixed step climbing in and out of a huge crevasse at the bottom of the face. After this difficult step, we climbed 8 more pitches of 45-60 degree snow, ice and neve. 

Along the knife-edge ridge. Ian Nicholson photo

Once we gained the North Ridge proper we could see why this route was such a classic, besides stellar steep snow and ice climbing in a remote setting the final 600ft of rock are extremely exposed, with thousands of feet of exposure on each side while the climbing is relatively moderate. After 4 more hours of exceptional ridge climbing, we made it to the summit. We descended the West Ridge of Forbidden, a large effort in its own right, we made it to Boston Basin's lowest camp 10 minutes before dark and another 13 hour day. We camped and woke up early and hiked out. 

Yet another summit for Peter. Congrats! Ian Nicholson photo

After hiking out we drove to Mazama for some cragging at Fun Rock. After 3 HUGE days of climbing we needed a semi-rest day because we were hoping to go big again the next day.

Another early start brought us up to Blue Lake trail head, where the climbers trail starts for the Liberty Bell Group. A group of five spectacular spires. The previous year we climbed Liberty Bell, the most famous of the group, now our goal was to climb the other 4 in a single day, a big goal for a group that is fresh let alone after having climbed the North Ridge of Forbidden and Sharkfin Tower a couple days previous. 

Next up - Alpine Rock at Washington Pass. Ian Nicholson photo

We blasted up the North Face of Concord Tower, rapped its south face - then climbed the North Face of Lexington Tower and rapped its south face. We made the scramble across the ridge line to the large flat area in the ridge before having lunch. We then climbed the Chock stone route on North Early Winters Spire and rapped down. It was getting late in the day and we were both starting to feel tired from the previous weeks efforts, but we knew with only one spire left and 3 hours of light it was time to throw down and all of a sudden we got a second wind and blasted up the South Arete climbing it in just over a hour. 

Nearly 20 pitches of climbing that day let Peter climb all the spires in the Liberty Bell group a huge achievement for any climber. Congratulations!

South Early Winter Spire - Number 4 of the Liberty Bell Massif. Ian Nicholson photo