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Val Zephyr

[TR] Forbidden - W and NW ridges 8/9/2011

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Trip: Forbidden - W and NW ridges

 

Date: 8/9/2011

 

Trip Report:

 

Jon has spent the last several weeks biking around mountains but hasn’t been climbing all summer. Needless to say he was pretty excited to get on some rock when he returned. We began planning an ascent of the NR of Forbidden as soon as he would get home. Jon’s cousin, Jenny, would also join us. Similar to several of my past trips with Jon, he decided to up the ante a few days before we had planned to go. He began sending TRs and Beckey guide quotes of the supreme quality of the NW ridge, “A mini NR of Stuart”. We decided to be ready for both possibilities and make the call after the approach over Sharkfin col and the forbidden glacier. After a day of rest from the bike trip, the three of us were off to the mountains.

 

Begin rant:

Our first hurtle came at the Marblemount ranger station. There were two rangers at the desk and two out of town couples that really wanted to chat. We filled out a climbing register and waited, and waited and waited…. (30 minutes in total!!). As we were waiting we noticed that the area surrounding moraine lake was colored in white while the rest of the permit required areas were in gray. The white region came up to the edge of the NR of Forbidden. The rangers would not be interrupted. Screw it, we’ll camp in the white zone. We left.

 

About 25 minutes into the approach we encountered a park ranger. We let him know that we planned to climb the NW ridge of Forbidden and we were camping in the white region, not Boston Basin or Forbidden glacier. Apparently, this still requires a stupid free permit. But to obtain this permit would require a 1.5-2 hour detour back to Marblemount! A stand-off between us and the ranger developed. We tried several times to get out of this mess. “We’ll just do the WR in a day then”, we lied. He informed us that if we were late from the WR, we’d be fined. Apparently, you can be fined even for unplanned bivies in the north cascades. Since we had filled out the climbing register, they had our information. I always have 1-2 responsible people with my full itinerary anyway. I will not fill out these voluntary registers in the future if it means that I could be fined for not getting out on time and potentially could cause pressure in the future for us to try to get out on time, even when staying until morning would be the safer option. He suggested the unbelievably irresponsible idea of climbing something else outside of the park in the Cache col area. We didn’t have a map, route description, nothing for this area, we would potentially be very underprepared for some other random peak. I was amazed and frustrated with our situation.

 

After several awkward minutes, our path blocked, Jon agreed to head down with the ranger and drive to Marblemount for a stupid piece of paper that we had tried desperately to get in the first place!! Jenny and I decided that we’d haul Jon’s pack up to Boston basin, to save some time. With creek crossings, downed trees, rocks, etc. this was not an ideal trail to carry two overnight packs with glacier and rock gear. But we did. I actually think that Jenny and I had the better of the two options; one can’t waste energy being angry while exhausted. Jon stayed mad until the Marblemount Ranger Station.

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End Rant.

 

We were reunited at Boston Basin. Jenny and myself and later Jon had all run into a group that had just done the NW ridge. We were surprised because we hadn’t seen too many TRs on this climb. They used the west ridge col rappel descent to reach the base of the ridge. We got some beta from them and decided that we’d do this approach instead. This committed our group to the NW ridge and not the possibility of the NR instead.

 

The couloir was still in, but barely. The snowbridge is solid, but only a couple footsteps wide. With good snow for kickstepping, we soloed the couloir. It was spicy.

2244603130101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

Finally we arrived at our camp. This is an incredible place to spend a night, one of the best bivies I’ve had and that is saying a lot. After melting some snow for water the next day, and eating dinner, we decided to test out climbing as a team of three (as Jon and I have only cragged with Jenny before). We grabbed headlamps and climbed the West Ridge for a sunset summit. We only pitched out the 5.6 crux and simulclimbed the rest in large blocks. We moved fast, it was wonderful, like a playground of rock in a wild setting.

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Jenny is a strong technical climber, but this was one of her first alpine climbs. She was satisfied by our sunset climb (she’d actually always wanted to do the west ridge). She decided to hang out and camp and watch Jon and my progress up the NW ridge instead of joining the following day. Jon and I were up early, we had several rappels and some scary downclimbing to do to reach the base of the NW ridge. We ended up doing 7 rappels from camp to get over the huge bergschrund, this included two bollards. I’ve learned about these anchors in my mountaineering class many years ago and hoped to never use one. It is not comforting to trust your life to snow, but they work. We backed up the first rappel, Jon, with a picket. Then I’d pull the picket and go. The final rappel ends in a free hang over the lip of the ‘schrund .

 

NW ridge at sunrise (left skyline):

2323751330101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

The rappels:

2907813640101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

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Some careful downclimbing on a lesser angle, but still a definite no-fall zone brought us to the base of the climb. We were very happy to be on rock! The first simulclimbing pitch was ugly, Jon had to be very careful not to take me out with rocks. After that though, the ridge is super solid, “like a mini NR of Stuart”. Why don’t more people climb this? …. Oh yeah the sketch-fest approach.

 

Early on the ridge is a little dirty:

2831615990101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

 

Another simulclimbing pitch brought us to the ridge crest and the beautiful knife-edge that I’d have to say rivals Stuart’s NR. The setting here is unbeatable.

2909511740101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

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Once the wall steepens, traverse left and up. Don’t go up these inviting cracks:

2521224450101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

After another pitch up and left, we arrived at the crux pitch; a 5.8 chimney which was protectable, and actually pretty fun (more stemmy than chimney). After this, the wall remained just steep enough to make us pitch it out, but it was mostly mid-fifth, that we could cruise up. Near the top we simulclimbed again to save some time as the climbing had gotten easier again.

 

2839780320101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

The west ridge route that we had cruised up and down the night before seemed a lot harder this time. Exhaustion was finally setting in. Luckily, camp was near. Several rappels just west of the gully brought us back to the snow, then the trail by dark. A long, but amazing two days in the mountains.

 

2769742050101779210S600x600Q85.jpg

 

 

Gear Notes:

Ice Ax

Crampons

Full rack to 2"

 

Approach Notes:

West ridge couloir will not be in much longer

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FWIW, last year we spent an extra night in Torment Basin and were overdue by about 12 hours - to avoid a night hike through the Devil's Club and Slide Alder. A ranger met me at my car at about 11 am, checking if we were still parked, and we were not fined.

 

 

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FWIW, last year we spent an extra night in Torment Basin and were overdue by about 12 hours - to avoid a night hike through the Devil's Club and Slide Alder. A ranger met me at my carm at about 11 am, checking if we were still parked, and we were not fined.

 

 

I figured that was usually the case. I just didn't appreciate the threat this time around.

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Val, sweet pic with the two packs !!

I never got the idea of the permits. If it is to reduce impact, climbers are normally bound to a trail and then to the rock, so having 5 or 20 climbers in there, where is the difference?

Anyway, I think it could be a subject of long discussion. Back to the climb, way to persevere and not surrender !!

Cheers!

 

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Thanks for the TR, I'm planning on climbing the West Ridge next week. Hopefully the couloir and bridge stay somewhat "in".

 

Would a standard axe suffice for the couloir or maybe one tool?

Edited by dietcookie

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I think that you should be OK getting up the couloir next week. A standard ax for plunging would be best. If you are not completely comfortable on steep snow, you may consider bringing up 3-4 pickets to protect the climb up the couloir. I noticed that a few parties had decided to do this. It is very steep right now and a fall there with the bergschrund below would be catastrophic. Also, for your descent, use the rappels on the rock just west of the couloir (not the ones in the couloir itself). There are moats on the sides that make the rappel stations here hard to reach. We saw two stuck ropes on the way up. It must have been a sad day for someone...

 

Enjoy your climb. It is a beautiful route!

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Thanks for the info. My buddy may not be comfortable with steep snow, I'll plan on bringing two short pickets. Can the walls of the couloir take rock pro? Also, as for rapping down the wall, it's gained by walking past the couloir on the ridge while descending correct?

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Beautiful pictures, great story! Did that in '82, sounds like not much has changed.

 

Bummer about the rangers being so pushy and paperwork happy. I wonder if the wait at the station might be related to budget related layoffs?

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With the moats near the walls of the couloir, you probably won't be able to get in any rock pro. The two short pickets will be nice though. Yes, you can reach the rappels by descending just west of the couloir. It looks like there are several rappel lines on this wall to choose from.

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Way to get after it Val! Sorry you had such grief from the Rangers...I've never had any bad experiences with them and hope to keep it that way. Looks like you enjoyed a beautiful climb anyway with good friends. Life doesn't get much better. I also agree about rapping the couloir...the hungry moats await!

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Oh that couloir...while down-climbing it a few years ago, someone in my party caught a crampon and fell. It's so steep, he was out of control almost instantly and went rocketing around the corner and out of sight. It was not pretty. Luckily, he tumbled into a shallow moat about 75 feet down and was able to walk out. Carefully-done rappels down the nearby rap route are definitely the way to go!!! I still have demons about steep snow as a result.

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Val Zephyr:

That initial 8x10 glossy notwithstanding, we enjoyed your photos and trip report from the W and NW of Forbidden Peak. The rant… not so much...

 

In fact, I want to dispel a few incorrect things about permits, fines, climbing registers that are incorrect from your report, so others are not mislead:

 

- the “white zone” referred to on the permit map is a coding of party size limits, not an indication of a permit-free zone. An overnight backcountry camping permit is required everywhere in NCNP, either by trailside camps, or cross-country zones. I believe almost all the national parks in the system require what you call the “stupid free permit”, although many do charge for it. At NCNP we have long been proponents of a free system, using the permits for management purposes, but advocating for free use of public lands. However, as budgets decline, the opportunity to pay for the Boston Basin permit may not be far away -

 

- the Voluntary Climbing Register is ... voluntary. It does not substitute for the required permit (even if there is a line at the permit desk!) By all means, if you have someone watching for your return, skip it. In fact we will be soon discussing the elimination of the Voluntary Climbing Register program, due to many cases of registers with incorrect info and parties that neglect to sign out. The registers can be helpful during a response to a mountain accident (mishaps do happen often before you’re overdue, we learn of accidents through hard-to-hear cell calls, etc) but this season’s experience with the climbing register is making the case to discontinue it. (See one case in point on a Shuksan TR from Aug 3. The more time wilderness rangers spend checking for overdue climbers the less time there is for serving people at the permit desk in a timely fashion, not to mention a myriad of other duties they have.)

 

- no one has ever been fined for being honestly late, overdue, or cautious in their descent with an unplanned bivy and exit the next day. We are relieved to find that situation when searching for reported overdue climbers rather than an accident scene. However, intentionally putting incorrect information on the register or permit, giving a ranger cause to believe you are lying, being deceptive or negligent in some way - especially if it results in unnecessary cost or risk - could be subject to a fine.

 

Again,nice TR, but the rant invited a few clarifications.

 

Wilderness District Ranger

North Cascades National Park

 

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I have always appreciated the "free"ness of the NCNP. Especially when they decided not to care about the parking pass at cascade pass. It always seemed like the park was more about enjoying the wilderness than trying to make a profit from the public.

 

I also never had a hard time with the rangers at the permit office. And my one run in with a field ranger that dealt with camping permit issue (summit of buckner needs a camping permit) was resolved in a respectful manner.

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I would add one more thing that the nameless ranger left out. Apparently they require folks to get permits if they plan to do overnight trips in the Ross Lake Rec Area. I have been chided for not doing so on Ruby and Hozomeen, though was not issued a ticket on either occasion. Strange, but true. So even if you are not in the park, you may need a permit. Does this count for boaters on the lake too?

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I've never had a problem with the rangers in NCNP. They are professional, courteous, and have historically provided excellent service to the climbing community. Boston Basin is a very popular (frequently crowded) area, and the permit limits keep it from becoming a zoo --preserving some semblance of a wild experience for the visitor.

Nice photos, except for the first one. Next time, wait your turn in the info center and get your permit.

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Oh, and for those asking about snow in the couloir: an alternate route is to climb up the rock to the left (west) of the couloir. You would be climbing up the rappel route described in the TR. It's not difficult (low 5th class).

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When I first climbed the W-Ridge of Forbidden there were no permits required, but times change. Boston Basin is one of the easiest places to get to in the N-Cascades for folks planing on camping then climbing, and the W-Ridge is one of the 50-Classic climbs. Lots of folks want to climb it, and it doesn't take a ton of use to trash the place. Tracking use is one part of managing the park and permits help.

 

If you go to other parks to climb in both the US and Canada you need to get a permit for overnight use. I got shut down trying to climb the N-Face of Temple in the Canadian Rockies a few years ago. We were going to camp out in a zone where a Grizzly was spending the summer in order to climb the route. Getting shut down sucked, but it was nice of the park ranger to point out a good reason not to go.

 

In any case posting a TR with photo-1 giving the middle finger to the rangers isn't a good way to get the permit process changed.

 

FWIW both climbs are fun and it looks like you had good weather.

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Thanks to ncascadesranger for posting their end, but there are a couple of pieces of valid criticism you should take to heart.

 

I agree with Fairweather, it should have been possible for the ranger to issue that permit in the field. It was a waste of fuel and time to make that round trip back to Marblemount. I'm not saying it should be routine that folks can plan on skipping getting the permit and just doing it somewhere in the hills if they run into a ranger, but the staff should have some flexibility to deal with special situations.

 

The rangers at the counter could also stand to have a little customer service training. A 30 minute wait as the next in line is really poor management, and there are several ways the counter staff could have handled that much better. Val and company could also have been more assertive and butted into one of those extended conversations, but not everyone operates that way and it would best if the folks at the counter were more aware.

 

I appreciate the work the folks at NCNP do, its a fabulous park that is run very well, and I've had lots of great experiences with the rangers, though I have on occasion found the center in Marblemount to be a time suck. There is always room for improvement though, so please don't let feelings of defensiveness blind you.

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A couple of clarifications on my part too: I respect and typically use the permit system in place in the north cascades. I don’t want to see that area become a zoo either. Us not having a permit that day was honestly a misunderstanding about how to read the zone map at the station. The area that we were originally planning to stay was the same color as the regions around and past Cache col (which I know do not require permits). Still, we tried to wait our turn to double check on that (we were next in line for over 30 minutes), but when we felt that we were burning too much daylight for a long approach, we became impatient and left. I picked the photo that I posted not as a sign of disrespect for the permit system, but because I felt that it best captured the moment. We were frustrated. It was a Mon-Tues climb, we were doing an uncommon route and the area was not going to have too many climbers, we had been planning this trip for nearly a month and I had taken vacation days to do so. This was the single best trip I’ve had all year, and it nearly failed before it ever began because of a technicality.

 

I write up many of my TRs as stories and this encounter, and how we decided to cope with it (the two packs), was a major factor that determined how this trip would go. Sorry if the first photo offended anyone. This really was the best trip of the year, great friends, and a very cool route that I hope others are inspired to try, Thanks for reading!

 

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I agree with Fairweather, it should have been possible for the ranger to issue that permit in the field. It was a waste of fuel and time to make that round trip back to Marblemount. ....

 

The rangers at the counter could also stand to have a little customer service training. A 30 minute wait as the next in line is really poor management, and there are several ways the counter staff could have handled that much better. ....

 

I appreciate the work the folks at NCNP do, its a fabulous park that is run very well, and I've had lots of great experiences with the rangers, though I have on occasion found the center in Marblemount to be a time suck. There is always room for improvement though, so please don't let feelings of defensiveness blind you.

 

well said OW

 

 

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....a Grizzly was spending the summer in order to climb the route.

 

Grizzlies must climb slow

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If it were me, I'd take down the first photo and be a bit more classy on how I approached the situation. I get that people don't like the way others do things at times, but saying "FU" only serves to propagate an "us against them" mentality. If we're trying to improve things instead of fanning the flames, then I'm pretty sure tactful discussion is the best way to go about doing that.

 

Anyhow, you got your trip, the park issued you your permit, the park came on here and tactfully explained their side of the story, so it appears things have been fixed. I don't really see the need to carry on with the middle finger. Then again, you're the captain of your own ship.

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