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Bill8

[TR] North Cascades - NW Face of Forbidden Peak 08/04/2019

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Posted (edited)

Trip: North Cascades - NW Face of Forbidden Peak

Trip Date: 08/04/2019

Trip Report:

 

Climbed the Northwest Face of Forbidden Peak on Sunday, Aug. 4. I believe now that we badly botched getting on the start of the route, exiting the glacier too close to the toe of the arete, rather than attempting to climb further around and up to the right of it. This resulted in some time consuming and stressful problem solving in unpleasant terrain.

 

After crossing the Forbidden Glacier, we found a place where we could make a short down climb/rappel off the glacier and onto rock, near what we thought was the start of the climbing route. Off to our right was a gaping hole filled with ice and rock debris that's part of the moat. Once on the rock, we scrambled up 10 or 15 feet to where we were beneath a roughly seven-foot-thick snow patch, looking up at a corner system that we reasoned (convinced ourselves) could be the start of the rock climbing.

5d49f27cb7774_forbiddennwface.thumb.JPG.38a7c1c6777ebd3c581754b0a29586e0.JPG
(View from across the Forbidden Glacier of the rib on Forbidden where the climb is located.)

5d4a0771633c4_moatonforbidden.thumb.JPG.8cfff5caa169158a2c0159a8f65ef110.JPG
(Rappelling off of the Forbidden Glacier. The snow was soft and we reluctantly opted to bury and leave a picket to do this.)

My climbing partner Pat led the corner, and some terrain above it. There was some dirty rock and some of the climbing felt 5.8/5.9. He stopped after about 80 feet at a semi-hanging belay. I followed up to the belay and we decided after some discussion we were definitely not on the route. Some abandoned gear we passed on the way up indicated we may not have been the first party to have made this mistake. 

Looking down and climber's right we could see what appeared to possibly be the access ramp feature described in the Cascades Rock guidebook. We then watched as the top of a massive ice tower--a chunk of ice that was maybe about the size of a 55-gallon drum--collapsed into another debris filled hole in the glacier, next to the ramp.

Short on good options, we lowered/rappelled down into a more sheltered part of the moat, and then climbed a short section of polished 5.8ish rock up out of it, over to the right, to reach the start of the ramp. In the place where we finally established a belay we were just above the debris hole where we'd seen the ice fall, and close to other threatening towers of ice that were by now baking in direct sunlight. But it appeared that we were far enough away that we were not in immediate danger if anything else fell.

From here we followed the ramp system up and further right to the climb proper. Parts of the ramp felt mid-fifth class, with maybe some 5.6/5.7 moves, and sparse gear. As this ramp trended higher, the snow got closer to it, although I can't confirm whether there's a spot right now where you could get off of the glacier in this area and onto the rock.

At this point, the climbing thankfully became more straightforward and matched with descriptions we'd read. Although the lower part of the route was looser and dirtier than I expected it would be. The 5.6 knife edge and 5.8 pitch were both stellar, with fun climbing, good gear, and an amazing position on the mountain. I stayed near the ridge crest approaching the 5.8 section and then climbed cracks and other features on the steeper rock straight ahead before cutting left. This seemed to work well.

On the upper section of the climb, the rock quality improves somewhat compared to the lower portion. But don't expect to be romping up Leavenworth or Index grade granite, there's still plenty of loose rock. We simul-climbed after the 5.8 pitch, stopping twice to re-rack and belay before the summit.

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(Upper section of the climb, with the 5.6 knife edge in the foreground, the 5.8 section above it, and the rest of the route beyond.)

All of the messing around at the base of the route meant that we reached the summit much later than expected. We descended the West Ridge, reaching the notch just after dark and decided to bivy there, rather than continuing with the rappels back down into Boston Basin. This meant we both missed a day of work without giving notice and caused a great deal of worry for our significant others who expected us back on Sunday night. But having not done the rappels before, I think we made the right decision.

We woke up around 5 a.m. and descended back to the car without incident. One perk of staying out an extra night is that we got to see an impressive northern lights display from the notch on the West Ridge that lasted until around dawn.

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(Feeble attempt at capturing a dramatic northern lights display with an iPhone camera.)

On the approach, the Boston Glacier wasn't too difficult to get across. We were able to pick out a line across most of it from the rappel notch near Sharkfin Col. We also watched another party headed to do the North Ridge hit a dead end that we were able to then avoid.

5d4a091927efb_BostonGlacierfromtheRappelNotch.thumb.JPG.8e568296f5e02de0e84293a6966b271a.JPG
(Boston Glacier, as seen from the rappel notch right of Sharkfin Col.)

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(Looking back at the Boston Glacier from near the gully that leads up to the low point on the North Ridge, that provides access to the Forbidden Glacier.)

The Forbidden Glacier becomes more heavily crevassed nearer to the base of the route, but it seems like based on past trip reports that this is pretty standard.

As for the rappels on the approach, two raps with a 60m rope from the notch right of Sharkfin Col will currently get you to the edge of the moat on the Boston Glacier. It's also possible to scramble down climber's right after one rappel onto the glacier.

We went too high in the gully that leads to this notch and had to go back down to reach it. It's off climbers left in the same general area (can't remember if it's before or just after) as a slung rappel station in the gully. If you're getting too far above that rap station in the gully, you've gone too far. This gully is mostly snow free right now and very loose.

We crossed over to the Forbidden Glacier via the low point on the North Ridge (there's another place to cross over just north of here, not sure if there's any advantage to using it instead). From the low point on the ridge, exposed scrambling (we roped up for it) down and skiers left of a bivy site will lead you to a rappel anchor that we backed up with a new piece of webbing and a second rap ring. One rap with a 60m gets you down onto the glacier.

On Saturday night, we bivyed below this cross over point on the North Ridge, on the Boston Glacier side, near the glacier, where we had access to snow to melt for water.

My overall impressions of the route are that it climbs a beautiful feature in an iconic part of the North Cascades--a great mountaineering adventure in a wild setting.

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(Eldorado Peak and Moraine Lake as seen from the climbing route.)

That said, I thought it was short on good rock climbing. The crux for us was definitely getting on the route, but I also don't think we did it the easy way if there is such a thing.

Don't underestimate the time it could take getting on this climb and the hazards that are present near the base of the route, particularly this late in the summer. And don't forget there aren't many easy alternatives to get back to Boston Basin once you're on the Forbidden Glacier.

This was my first significant outing in the North Cascades after moving back to Washington state following a four year stint in Washington, D.C. It was a full on one. Definitely memorable.

Gear Notes:
Single 60m rope, double rack of cams from finger sizes to #2, one #3 (small gear seems to be more useful than big pieces on this route), set of nuts, two pickets. Approach shoes, aluminum crampons, ice axe.

Approach Notes:
See trip report.

Edited by Bill8
  • Like 1
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Great work. Your photos are a stark reminder of how climate change has affected aspects such as the snow apron leading to the north ridge proper. I don’t recall what months I climbed it (twice) but, other than a lateral crack at the bottom, it was continuous snow and ice to the top/ridge. DPS may have written up the more recent outing. Glad you persevered and made the right choice by hunkering down on your descent. 

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Posted (edited)

Nice TR and photos! 

Situations like your unplanned bivy are why I carry an InReach -- just to be able to text and say we will be a day or 12 hours late or whatever it is. Glad you guys made your decision to stay put and got home safely!

Edited by Alisse

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Incorrect start, icefall, leaving gear, sparse pro', unplanned bivy- sounds like a great day in the hills! Plus, you got to miss work for a day!!! Pretty hard to beat that view up there, too. Envious.

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Posted (edited)

Yeah, I also found the access to the ridge to be slightly harrowing late July last year. I expected a fairly direct approach from the rap across the glacier to the ridge, but we kept butting  up against crevasses that weren’t visible from above, so this forced us down and to the right.

As we neared the ridge the terrain became steep, icy, and riddled with crevasses. Some pro would have been nice but we had none. 

After traversing above gaping crevasses we reached a moat too wide to cross so I made a bollard, rapped about 10 feet into it, then scrambled up the rock on the other side and found a spot for a gear anchor for my partner. This was probably around 200 feet above the toe of the ridge and the rock climbing was immediately straightforward once on the ridge. I think it was a good place to get on, but very exposed on the way there.

Edited by JonParker

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why did you go around via sharkfin instead of heading up to the base of the west ridge of forbidden and then drop down? 

 

Been a long time since i was there but that was the way back then.  maybe things have changed since?  It was one or two long raps from west ridge saddle to snow field.  maybe that snow is gone.

 

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On 8/23/2019 at 5:57 AM, genepires said:

maybe things have changed since? 

Depending on the season, there is now a fully spanning crack that limits access, plus where the raps deposit you had gotten much spicier with glacial recession.....

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