Forbidden Peak (West Ridge)

August 6-8, 1994

To get to Boston Basin Trail, you must travel to the town of Marble Mount, 47 miles east of Sedro Woolley, Washington. In Marble Mount, climbers wishing to camp in Boston Basin must check in at the Park Service Ranger Station and secure a permit. Camping in the basin is limited and it’s “first come, first served” when it comes to getting a permit. In our case, we were lucky, and got the permit for the days we needed. We traveled another 25 miles eastbound on a predominantly unpaved dead-end road called the Cascade River Hwy. The trail to Forbidden Peak is in every sense of the word a “climber’s trail”. Because the mountain requires technical equipment on every route, the climbers have heavy loads. The trail is very steep, narrow and rough. The trip into the climb is a handful itself. Then there’s the mountain. In the case of this one, everything is in a name. It’s been called “Isosceles”, “Forgotten” and finally “Forbidden”. As the name implies, it’s a grandiose, frightening tower from any angle. The most common staging or base camp area for climbers on this peak is Boston Basin. The basin is sort of a huge cirque above timberline but filled with rough, sloping meadows of thickstemmed meadow grass. We camped near the “solar toilet” at the upper end of the basin.

Two of the three members of our party headed out of camp at daybreak of the day following the hike in. We moved upward through the granite slab and ice field covered cirque at the bottom of the south-west face of the mountain. There, we climbed a steep 500-ft. snow-filled couloir and finally broke out onto the famed West Ridge. From the top of the West Ridge couloir our task was to gain 550 vertical ft. in 1,500 of distance. This was Class 4 through 5.3 climbing and it took hours and hours due to belay station set-ups. The ridge is very steep on the north face and straight down on the south face! There were at least two moves where the ridge is overhung and we were looking 1,200 ft. onto rocks and ice below. The still, over cast day did not provide confidence in the weather. We reached the 8,815 ft. summit at 5 pm, the same time as two other parties arriving from two other routes. The climb was far from over. On descent, we rappelled down several hundred feet to a point where we could traverse the North-East face and approach the lower part of the commonly climbed East Ridge. This took a long time, and we dropped down too far. The reader needs to realize that this traverse was rather difficult because the face is nearly 45 degrees and a couple of hundred feet below our route the face drops into oblivion with the bergschrunds of the Boston Glacier far below. By the time we figured out how to get back up to the top of the East Ridge, it was almost midnight. So there, at 8,000 ft., 2,000 ft. above our camp, we bivouacked on a barren ridge top. It was a long night. We had pile clothing, Goretex suits, a space blanket and one foam pad. It rained all night. We huddled under the space blanket and when one would get up, the other would get really cold. Then, when night was over, we still couldn’t leave for two hours because it was too foggy to see the route down.

When we finally struggled our way down and through the fog, the third member of our party, Pat, was gone. He had left a note saying he was off to find the ranger that he knew as somewhere in the area. Rick set out immediately in the thick fog, hoping to find Pat. I [Ken] remained in camp all day in case Pat returned, and spent the day figuring out new ways to dry out wet gear in wet conditions. Rick found the ranger — but not Pat. Rick traveled on out and finally caught up with Pat at the Ranger Station in town. Pat had walked literally half-way to Marble Mount before getting a lift from other climbers on the Cascade River Road. I, the remaining group member in the mountains, headed out as planned at 5 pm with all the remaining base camp gear. When I arrived at the trailhead, both the other party members were waiting. What a relief that was! This was a great conclusion to a truly classic climb of a 50 Classics Route. Before leaving the area, we found out that one of the other parties on the mountain with us also bivouacked, but they descended the West Ridge. Members of this party were Rick Peterson, Pat Antoine and Ken Ball (leader).

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