East Ledges

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 48.51170°N / 121.0567°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical Scramble
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Class 4
Sign the Climber's Log


Technically, this is probably the easiest route to the summit. Yet at the same time it may be the scariest. The reason is most of the route cannot reliably be protected yet is steep enough that if you fall, you die. The ground is largely grassy and/or rubbly ledges with alternating slabs, slabs whose tendency is to slope downhill at just the right angle to warrant concentration for every footfall. There are also several minor ribs and gullies to contour across that add to the excitement. There has been a fatality during this traverse.

Because there is scant protection (mostly because there's little in the way of rocks with which to form cracks) there is no need to rope up for a belay or simulclimb. If you did, if one person fell you'd all fall. And so, in the end, the safest method may be to free-climb* the several hundred yards that make up the most dangerous part. Once the dangerous traverse has been made an ascent is made up the East Face cornering between the North Ridge and the East Ridge, which really trends southeast.

This route is typically done as a descent route for those climbing other routes on the mountain. It is easier than downclimbing/rappeling the West Ridge-especially if the access couloir was difficult--and the East Ridge Direct is not really a route that one reverses. Even so, this route page will be described as if done as an ascent. If you wish to use it as a descent route, then you'll have to comprehend the description in reverse. But read also the Descent section.

* This is just my opinion on the matter. But I say that as a capable and less fearful climber. Others may be so completely sketched out at the scrambling requirements that they will demand a belay. Well if the only way you're going to move is if you're anchored to the mountain by a moving rope, then I guess roping up may be best for you.


Approach as per the East Ridge Direct. From the trailhead it should take about 4 hours to get to the 8,300-ft saddle on the East Ridge (Southeast Ridge). From Boston Basin campsites it should take about 2 hours to get there. You will want to have crampons and an ice axe to climb up the steep snow below and right of the South Face.

If it is late enough in the season you can leave your crampons and ice-axe at the saddle. If there is still too much snow lingering on the ledges or on the upper East Face, I don't know if I'd even attempt the route. Spooky.


From the saddle just northwest of the solitary gendarme downclimb a dirty Class 3 gully for about 100 feet (maybe less) until it is possible to exit left (northwest). You don't want to go down too far as it gets cliffier down there.

Now scramble northwestward along any number of ledges. Go whichever way suits you but try to stay within +/- 100 feet of the elevation at which you left the gully. Too low and there are cliffs above the Boston Glacier. Too high and the terrain gets steeper and more corrugated with ribs and gullies.

Keep going until you can't traverse anymore because the North Ridge has stopped you. At this point you will be in the small East Face directly below the summit. Begin climbing upward mostly up Class 3 ledges. The face gets progressively steeper to the point a belay may be necessary. Some amount of Class 4 should be expected. There are plenteous rappel anchors on the face, so you can belay from them if necessary.

Time = 2 hours from the saddle by the solitary gendarme. Add 30 minutes if you belay the upper East Face. Add another 30 minutes if you have to simulcimb across the ledges to get to the face. Add yet another 30 minutes if you have to set belay anchors for those ledges.


There is a good rappel station a few dozen feet southeast of the summit rocks. Simply rappel down the East Face from rap station to rap station. If you have only one rope (50-60m) you will still find plenty of stations. If you have two ropes you will only have half the rappels but rope management will encumber you.

There is some debate on how many rappels is the right amount. I'd say keep rappeling until it is obvious doing any more rappels will not buy you any safer terrain (i.e., if you rappel again you'll find yourself on the cliffs above the glacier). The key is to not give up on the rappeling too early because traversing from there will lead you to harder terrain below the crest of the ridge. I think descending 400 feet on the face will be just about right. This might amount to 5 rappels but some of the face can be downclimbed with care.

A request: Please try and use existing rappel stations. Add anchor slings if required but don't just add them to add them. There is already way too much tat on the north side of the (South)East Ridge.

Time on descent = 2 hours just because of the futz factor while rappeling. This is the time to get back to the solitary gendarme. From the gendarme it will take maybe an hour to get back to Boston Basin and another hour or so to get back to the car (depends on how fast you are).

Essential Gear

50-60m rope. You could take two to expedite the rappeling but one rope is all that is necessary. If you have a lot of people in your party, though, two ropes might be a better choice. Plus you may have two ropes anyway.
A very small rack. Maybe two cams and four nuts. Most of the technical climbing on the East Face can be done from rap station to rap station whereupon you can simply add a runner to them.
Three or four runners per person.
Rock shoes: NO.
Ice axe and crampons pretty much all year (used for the approach from Boston Basin).
All your own water. There is no running water on the East Ledges. There may be snowpatches for a trickle or for a slushy contribution to your water bottle.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Eric Sandbo

Eric Sandbo - Feb 27, 2006 6:57 am - Voted 10/10


Just want to reinforce your comments about much of the route being unbelayable. I've climbed all three of Forbidden's main ridges, plus the NW Face and this route, and this is the one that had me scared. We did it fairly quickly and mostly unroped, but there's damn litle room for error. I'd rather descend the W Ridge than this if I hadn't just come up it.

Viewing: 1-1 of 1



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