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Marcus Russi

[TR] Mount Torment - Torment-Forbidden Traverse (Attempt) 7/19/2016

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Trip: Mount Torment - Torment-Forbidden Traverse (Attempt)


Date: 7/19/2016


Trip Report:

Just when I'd gotten sick of refreshing NOAA, the models turned for the better and predicted great, stable weather in the days leading up to this past week of glorious high pressure. My buddy Spike and I had lost our last good reason against attempting the TFT - or at least taking the gear for a stroll up to Boston Basin. The intoxicating cocktail of excitement and dread set in Monday night as we bumbled over rack and itinerary, gear splayed out over a dimly lit yurt floor in Rockport.


The next afternoon we departed the farm I'm WWOOFing at and enjoyed a leisurely approach, my first time exploring past MP 20 of the Cascade River Road. Unlike my last time up Eldorado (low-vis), the sudden exit through treeline on the approach was a startling delight. In perhaps 100 vertical feet, we emerged from the cathedral-esque shade of the trees into blinding sun, breaking clouds, and foamy, frothing rivers. The basin, seen through my virgin eyes, was alive and thriving, a carnival of water in all its states and attitudes.


We chatted with an AAI guide and then set off from the lower bivy site, wasting no time in utterly botching the approach to the upper camp. After, we performed a quick recon of the descent below the West Ridge Couloir. We settled on a wakeup time, and then I realized we'd agreed that things were a "go" without ever speaking the words.


Crossing the Taboo Glacier in the early morning twilight was a breeze and we easily located the notch to gain the South Ridge, fourth-classing up, up, and away into gentle mists. Ah, fourth-class, that capricious friend...I chose the wrong way out of the notch and pulled an odd 5.7 move or two. There was plenty of tat from that point on - you could likely nail the routefinding to the SE Face without any beta. It was Spike's first time on easy fifth in boots, so I clipped on the occasional Micro-Trax to keep the simuling comfy. We traversed a fun ramp to gain the SE Face and after a short, morale-boosting shitbreak we found ourselves on a summit, quite worried that it was the lower of Torment's two. It wasn't! After an hour of frightening downclimbing and rappelling, we found ourselves at the rap station accessing the north-side glacier.



Ascending the Taboo Glacier



Reracking on the SE Face of Torment



Looking down the south side of the Torment-Forbidden Ridgeline



Finding reassurance and familiar names in the Mountaineers register on the summit of Mount Torment


The rope pulled and I eased myself into the increasingly-familiar realm of alpine commitment. True, we surely could regain the station and return to the Taboo, but the idea of an extravagant, mystique-shrouded reversal was too distracting to ponder upon, and so the feeling set in deeper as I stared thousands of feet down into the otherworldly Moraine Lake cirque. We pulled all the tricks out of the bag for the 'schrunds. I set a nest of small stuff including a KB and started up the second one. I remember being perched on a dubious snow bridge below an exposed section of steep snow with my glasses fogging up and my heart racing. Thoughts of Craig Luebben roared through my head.


After this pitch we made the crucial mistake of neglecting to take full advantage of the first good drip we'd seen on the route, and arrived at the beginning of the steep snow traverse stressed and dehydrated, with merely a few hours of light left. Spike suggested we hit the traverse that evening, tempting me with the reassurance of sending our mental crux on Day 1. We were way behind where we thought we'd be by that time, so I readily agreed. We sharpened our minds up with our last bit of water and traversed onto the slope, but backed off almost immediately from the hot snow. With tails between legs, we were delighted to find a great bivy spot but deeply bummed about the snow, easily the most exposed slope I'd ever set foot on. I pulled the stove out of my pack and rotated our 4oz canister around in my hand, realizing immediately that it couldn't provide us dinner, breakfast, and enough water for the next day. We made dinner and then burned all but the last fumes out melting water. The food imbued me with a deep sense of reassurance. Looking out at a clear night sky, I hoped it would be enough to give the slope a major stiffening by morning. The chessboard seemed arranged, and we now had to wait for our move.



Looking towards Moraine Lake and Eldorado



Finishing up with the shrund issues



Staying positive at the end of a long day


Hardly 20 minutes after we woke up, the NNE-facing slope caught the sun. A bit surprised, we quickly ate a cold breakfast, packed up the bivy, and traversed out, finding the conditions much improved. With more milage on snow, Spike led this section, and I followed keying into the mundane but exacting rhythms of ice climbing left over from winter season. Both of us remember drifting halfway into other thoughts during the 40 minutes we spent on the slope, only to have the outrageous exposure immediately jerk us back on track. Psyche was at an all-time high after we pulled over the lip.


We downclimbed onto the south side of the ridge and walked a few hundred feet inside an awesome moat. Eventually the moat bridged up into a low-angle corner and I got to lead an amazing, well-protected 5.4 mixed pitch to regain the ridge crest. Things became truly enjoyable as the ridge narrowed, the rock improved, and we tuned in to the simul-flow. There is something magical about blazing across narrow alpine ridges, the elegant drape of the rope and its handful of associated pro just barely tethering you and your fellow squirrel while you prance across the neighborhood power lines.


It was around 2pm when we arrived at the West Ridge notch. We had 100mL left for our parched throats. Finding our stoke lacking, we tried the snow-sun-water bottle trick while waiting for a guide and his client to descend the West Ridge so as to coordinate our descent. We told ourselves we were bailing for lack of water. On the way to the first rap down the Cat Scratch Gullies, Spike and I passed a voluminous trickle, and didn't say a word to each other.


The raps went fine, though the snow at the bottom was a mess in the incredibly hot sun. A random rap station that barely got us down to the glacier w/ some shenanigans allowed us to mostly avoid it. We raced down the glacier in a manic flurry of standing glissades, the pressure finally off our shoulders, hooting and hollering as we sped back to the bivy. Big thanks to Paul for saving our trekking poles from snaffles.




Enjoyable and cruiser ridge climbing



Hiking back out


It was disappointing to skip out on the classic finish to such a full-bodied route. But, hiking out under beautiful skies in my underwear, it was impossible not to gloat over the experience - our first big alpine route together, and firsts for each of us individually, in several other ways.


Gear Notes:

Single rack to 2" with extra .5 .3 c4, 1/ea KB, LA, angle - KB useful for shrund

Emphasis on longer slings

1 picket, 2 screws - screws useless for at least another week or two

70m 8.7mm - would take 30m 6mm static + 30m next time

Tool/axe combo great


Approach Notes:

Nelson & Potterfield approach to the Taboo works great

Edited by Marcus Russi

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Excellent job, and nice write up as well.


The snow traverse is commonly noted to be the crux of the route. Everyone says that the ridge proper looks doable but has anyone actually done it? It would be cool to hear about someone sticking to the rock ridge the entire way, I've not heard of anyone who actually did so.

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Cool write up, it is a stellar, full-value alpine route, especially in semi-early season.


When I did it in 2014 there was a huge avy scare and the snow was very soft, so we bypassed the traverse with some rock around the south then regained the snow higher up on the ridge for a shorter, semi-protected snow traverse, then we continued on rock. We then made to rope stretching rappels onto the ledges on the south side.


Trip Report is linked below. As far as complete traverse on rock, once we rappelled onto the north side from Torment, we did some snow/ice but then gained a buttress and then essentially stayed on some form of rock the whole time (but not on the ridge proper).


If I did it again, I might look more closely at that option. We were the first party on the route in 2014, so no previous tracks or knowledge that the route would even go once we pulled our ropes from Torment.



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Excellent job, and nice write up as well.


The snow traverse is commonly noted to be the crux of the route. Everyone says that the ridge proper looks doable but has anyone actually done it? It would be cool to hear about someone sticking to the rock ridge the entire way, I've not heard of anyone who actually did so.


We avoided the majority of the snow traverse (but still rapped onto the pocket glacier on the north side of Torment). We went straight up the side of the snow field all the way to the ridgeline. Then followed the ridge through easy terrain until things kind of cliffed out. We made two short raps to the south side then followed ledges around to the end of the normal snow traverse. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1141554/Torment_Forbidden_Traverse#Post1141554

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Dave, that crown line from your TR looks huge! I guess if you were going to get a huge natural wet slab release, that would be a pretty good slope for it. I wonder what the trigger was. We climbed over what I'm pretty sure was remnants of a crown from this past winter on that same slope.


I totally agree about the route being full-value. There's plenty of discussion here and elsewhere about avoiding the snow traverse, but if you're lucky to catch it in the right condition like we did, it really contributes to the character of the route. I was super happy that it went for us, avoiding the need to enter routefinding adventureland. What an amazing feat by the first ascensionists.

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