PrologueWho: Josh Lewis and I
What: Climb of Forbidden Peak West Ridge
When: September 20-21, 2012
Why: For a fantastic classic alpine climb!
Climbing Forbidden Peak has been something Josh has always wanted to do. After just coming off our big trip to Boston Peak where I saw Forbidden Peak for the first time, from all angles, I became very excited about it and put it at the top of my priority for the remainder of the year. We planned for the Torment Forbidden Traverse and toyed around it for quite awhile but we just couldn't find a time for both of us to get it going. Then when we finally did find a time, Gimpilator invited us both to his Dome Peak and Spire Point trip for the same weekend. Since I really wanted to meet him, this trip got delayed once again. Come mid-September, we finally found a time for the climb. We chose a Thursday and Friday to try and avoid crowds in Boston Basin. Knowing that we both didn't have quite enough experience to do the Torment Forbidden Traverse quick enough for the time we had, we decided just to do the West Ridge rated 5.4.
On the morning of September 20th, I picked up Josh early and I could tell he was excited. He express to me he had wanted to climb Forbidden for years. We made the drive to the trailhead and upon driving up the Cascade River Roadwe noticed the smoke in the air. Although I was slightly disappointed, the crisp, clear air and unsurpassed views we had on our Boston Peak trip was more than fulfilling for views and photos. This trip was all about the climb and the quality route suited very well for a team like us who are relatively new to alpine rock climbing. Upon reaching the trailhead, it was very warm. The sun had just rose and we already saw snow and ice falling off the north face of Johannesberg. We could hear it almost constantly. Some day, I will climb this peak but for now, Forbidden Peak was the goal.
Boston Basin ApproachWe began up the trail leading up Boston Basin. It was actually in decent condition for most of the way except for the annoying part through the avalanche chutes. Here it was fairly rooted and overgrown but easy to follow. We had our packs full of technical gear and overnight gear. This was by no means the first time Josh had been up Boston Basin since he had come up this was on one of his Sahale Peak climbs. However, for me it was my first. Boston Basin is a massive place stretching from Sahale and Boston Peaks all the way to Mount Torment. The trees end abruptly and you break out into beautiful meadows. I was in awe at the views of Boston, Forbidden and Torment. It was a great new perspective of the area. We had a great view of the Torment-Forbidden traverse and I thought to myself...someday!
We continued up higher into the Basin and the views of Johannesberg across the Cascade River Valley just got better and better. Soon enough we made it to where we wanted to camp high up in Boston Basin. Views of Forbidden Peak were amazing and I was very excited. We set up camp and by this time it was about noon. I convinced Josh we should just relax for the rest of the afternoon since I knew it would take us forever to climb it. So we just enjoyed the beautiful afternoon and took a nap. I was unusually tired for whatever reason so I had no trouble sleeping from about 2pm all the way until the next morning with a short time up to take some sunset photos, and man what that one beautiful sunset! We agreed to wake up right at first light and start up. We saw a couple groups heading down that afternoon but they had all been on the traverse. We got some nice information from them. What was really striking though is that all night long we saw moving headlights on the east face of Mount Torment. They were really in trouble since we saw their lights all night long. We never saw them the next morning but we figured they made it down.
The ClimbThe next morning we got up quickly and was surprised how warm it was. We started up the slabs that have been exposed in recent history due to the receding glacier just south of Forbidden Peak. Water was flowing freely down these exposed slabs that have recently seen the light after thousands of years buried under glacial ice. Ascending these slabs was quick and easy but it's important to stay left (west) to avoid some cliffs above the designated camping area. We hit snow and put the crampons on. We didn't even bother to rope up since this glacier is only a few feet thick. All the crevasses we saw were at most five feet deep and we clearly saw the rock below. This glacier doesn't have much life left. We continued up, circling around some moats near the top and made it to 7,500 feet at the top of the snow. Getting up and over through the final moat was a bit of a challenge. We had to step over but there was open air quite a ways down between the rock and snow so I put my back on the rock face with my crampons on the side of the snow and shimmied across to easy terrain. From there we stashed our snow gear and scrambled up a chossy, loose chimney to the base of the three cat scratches. The traditional route follows the deep couloir that was off to our climbers left but since we were there so late in the season, the couloir was so dry and icy so that was out of the question. With beta from Steph Abegg's trip report we planned to take the "catscratch variation". To the left of the deep couloir, there are three distinct small gullies. The easternmost gully, the one closest to the deep couloir is the one we ascended and the one you want to use if you climb this route in late season.
We began by ascending the initial 4th class section at the base of the gully. We started by free soloing the climb but after I got a little off route and climbing some exposed 5th class we decided to simul-climb the rest of the way. So we roped up and I led the way up the steep but pretty simple gully placing pro occasionally whenever I saw a nice crack. We continued all the way up to the top of the gully, which got more mellow the higher we went and we saw many rappel anchors everywhere since this is the standard descent for anything on Forbidden or the traverse Just below the notch in the west ridge, a near disaster occurred. There was about 50 feet of rope between us and right as I topped out above the gully and began climbing the final feet to the notch a beach ball sized rock broke loose just a few feet above me and began falling down. Luckily I was able to jolt to the right and slide the rope to the side. The rock barely missed the rope but was hurdling down towards the gully we ascended which Josh was just about to top out of. I yelled rock as loud as possible and he saw it and was ready to move. Thankfully though the rock caught on a small rib and it took a turn to the skiers left and went flying down the valley just to the west of the one we ascended, which is the middle cat-scratch gully which isn't usually climbed. After brushing it off and listening to the rock fly down the mountain, we finished our way to the notch. From here we got our first views towards Eldorado and Klawatti which was our location for fun just the month before.
Views down to aqua blue Moraine and Klawatti Lakes blew my mind and add to that we had a perfect view down the spine of the Torment-Forbidden Traverse to our west and the objective, the west ridge lie above us to the east. We took a short break to eat and started up the ridge. For the most part this ridge was 3rd and 4th class but there were the occasional 5th class sections. All the rock was fantastic quality and solid as can be. We passed by only one other group on their way down just as we reached the crux tower. The hardest move of the climb was a short 5.6 slab which was easily protected by a permanent piton. This short slab is just below the large 100 foot tower. This tower was actually simple as we just traversed left onto the northern face rather than climbing the tower face itself. This crux area was the only part we full on pitched out. The rest we just simul-climbed. The traverse from the false summit to true summit was a small bouldering move. I just belly slid down the small 6 foot drop and traversed the 20 foot narrow ridge to the true summit with Josh right ahead of me. The exposure along the entire ridge was thrilling but being roped in made it no problem at all. We were standing on top of Forbidden Peak and I gave myself another huge confidence boost in what I am able to do. We both took in the beauty of the summit and sat there in complete solitude with great, albeit smoky views in every direction. What a fantastic place!
The DescentThere came the time where we had to start down which is never the fun part of the day. I always tell myself that if I ever get enough money someday I'll buy a helicopter and hire a pilot to pick me up from every summit I climb...lol. So we traversed back to the false summit and began rappelling. One after another...after another...and another. Ten rappels in all brought us back to the base of the cat scratch gully. We found that rappelling the west ridge was not as bad as we were told. Anchors were found everywhere and once we reached the notch once again it was lots of rapping then pulling the rope. We finally reached snow again and made our way over the large moat and from there we made very quick time down the snow. The descent back to camp was easy and we were greeted to another brilliant sunset as we broke camp. We noticed clouds creeping up the valley far below and we soon realized that a big part of the hike down will be in foggy conditions. This really made for some great photos though. Just as we reached treeline again heading down Boston Basin it got dark and the ensuing hike out on the trail was long and disorienting. We finally reached the car and I was thrilled to have just climbed Forbidden Peak.
This turned out to be a major turning point in my mountaineering career along with my ascent of Boston Peak just a month earlier. I realized I can start really climbing technical rock in the alpine...something I never thought I would ever do just last year. This trip gave me the confidence to tackle this climb which would mark another milestone for me as I lead one of my first alpine multi-pitch climbs. I plan to start climbing much more technical rock more extensively next summer and I have goals to make 2013 even better than my stunning 2012 year. Thanks Josh for coming and for providing photos. Thanks to everyone else for reading!