A number of clibmers had been vying for the second ascent of this route, myself included. I attempted it the previous year but turned back in the face of deep, unconsolidated snow. A number of attempts had been made this season with the parties reporting poor conditions. I had good information from friends Wayne Wallance and Dave Parker were able to see the couloir from the North Ridge that the route was indeed in shape, but thin and mixed. Sounded like fun.
Easy section low on the route
We hiked up in beautiful weather enjoying the approach every step of the way. Many people claim this approach to be difficult, but these may be the opinions of dilettantes. Experienced Cascades climbers acknowledge it for what it is; direct. Soon enough we ran into other parties who upon hearing our plans firmly announced that the route was ‘out of shape’. We smiled and nodded and went on our way, eventually establishing a camp at the base of the East Ridge.
Passing chockstones yielded tricky climbing
We awoke the next morning and made the approach, occasionally having to reverse our course, eventually following bear tracks through the correct pass down to the glacier. We made a near circumnavigation of the mountain to arrive at the base of the route. As promised it looked thin and mixed. My partner, Eric Sweet lead the first pitch through a rock band, around a serac to a belay below a very narrow and steep step. I headed up vertical ice, barely squeezing my shoulders through the slot. Easier climbing ran to the belay. We continued on running up the 60 degree snow and ice, slowing down at vertical mixed steps. As it would happen the hardest pitches fell to my partner.
Steep, thin ice leading out of a belay cave
Near disaster struck when 360 meters up my partner lost a crampon following a pitch. I led the next pitch but he insisted on swinging the lead through the final half pitch to a flat spot below the summit. We climbed the final knife-edge to the summit then hurried back to the tent, packed up and raced to the car against fading daylight. We lost the race and got lost in the last talus field. After tripping and making a full somersault and landing on my pack I decided to nap while my partner kept searching for the trail. He eventually found the easy trail and we were motoring home that night.
View of Torment-Forbidden from the summit.
We felt lucky when a strong storm pummeled the Cascades. News spread of our ascent and dozens of climbers climbed the route, in much fatter conditions than what we found, including the first solo ascent by my friend Colin. My partner liked the route so much he was back for more, climbing it a second time in as many weeks.