East Ridge Direct

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 48.51170°N / 121.0567°W
Additional Information Route Type: Alpine Rock Climb
Additional Information Time Required: Most of a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Grade III 5.8
Sign the Climber's Log

Overview and Approach

Forbidden Peak seen from...
Forbidden is a beautiful, alpine peak of solid Gneissic rock. With it's nearest neighbors of Mt. Torment lying 1 mile to the West and Boston Peak 1-1/2 miles to the SE, Forbidden rises dramatically unopposed for sovereignty above Boston Basin. The three main ridges West, East and North provide distinctly alpine climbing directly to the summit. The classic W Ridge route is a fun climb but the E Ridge Direct route is as equally fun on a more challenging and moderately hard alpine Arête with a degree of exposure which can still impress after 25 years.

The E Ridge Direct route starts to the left of the lone gendarme (on the righthand skyline) and continues up the Arête to the summit. Photo provided by Johnhl94563.

High on NE Ridge
Drive WA State Route 20 (the North Cascades Hwy), E or W, to the town of Marblemount. At the E end of town where the Hwy makes a 90 degree left turn N, adjacent to the Log Cabin Inn (now re-named Buffalo Run Inn), drive E onto the Cascade River Road. At first the road is paved (approx 10 miles) and then turns to gravel. Continue following the road to approx MP 22 and find a short turnoff on the left; this is the TH for Boston Basin.

A wilderness pass is needed for Boston Basin and is available at the Marblemount Ranger Station (free but limited availability). Check here for current information about roads, trails, campgrounds and such. A NW Forest Parking Pass is required for all cars parked at the TH.

Looking up at Forbidden Peak...
The trail starts out (N) as an old (overgrown) mining road leftover from the time before this area was a park. Follow the trail for about ½ mile to the site of some old mining wreckage (now hard to find), scrabble E up a dirt trail and onto the boot-beaten climbers path bearing NE towards the meadows of Boston Basin; several creek crossings (above waterfalls) will keep you from falling asleep on the hike in. The distance from the TH to the start of the meadows is a little over two miles, allow about 1½ hours (heavier packs=longer, lighter packs=shorter).

Two official campsites are in the basin (lower & upper) and composting toilets are available nearby. Note: Camping is allowed on Durable Surfaces.

Route Description

The initial approach gully...
From camp in Boston Basin ascend N (some glacier & firn) to near the South Face, looking NE find a narrow snow couloir which leads to an upper shoulder below the E Ridge. From the shoulder climb N, either snow or rock, and reach a “notch” in the ridge W of a lone gendarme; the belayed climbing begins here.

View of the East Ridge, which...
The main obstacles on the route are the large Gendarmes and the narrow knife edge ridge (a stretch of ridgecrest made of big slivers of stone standing on end, maybe a foot wide at the top, still only a couple feet thick 8 feet below, and uniformly curved so the ridge drops almost vertical on one side and overhangs on the other). These can be climbed directly (sporting) or bypassed on their N or S sides; nowhere is the climbing difficulty sustained.

The crux is reached about three quarters of the way up the route. After climbing a steep pitch up the last gendarme and a rappel down its back-side you will find yourself in a narrow notch with a steep wall directly in your path; we climbed this directly (difficult) and then continued up two more pitches of moderate to easy climbing which leads to the summit.
Tony Tsuboi doing the crux...


Summit view of Forbidden as...
The climbing is not over (all climbs are round-trips) until you reach the basin again. I recommend down-climbing the West Ridge route; this gives you the added bonus of performing a complete traverse of the mountain. Climbing down (the W Ridge) to the crux pitch we double-rope rappelled there, then down climbed (running belay) to the notch on the W Ridge above the couloir W of the South Face; this is the same couloir W Ridge climbers use on ascent. A double rope rappel from the notch takes you down to steep snow, which can then be down-climbed to the glacier below. Years later we climbed the W Ridge and descended the route again using only a single rope. The rappel into the couloir (on the single rope) required an intermediate anchor which wasn’t pleasant.

Klenke describes a different descent here.

Essential Gear

A full alpine rock rack, extra slings, mountain boots, ice axe, rock shoes and helmet. Double ropes would be nice, especially for the second rappel into the couloir on descent. Late in the season the couloir (on the descent) can be out-of-shape and crampons may be necessary. Many climbers have found themselves benighted while still on the peak, a headlight would be handy. There is some seriousness to the peak because of its size, the length of the routes and the fact there is no walk-off descent; lousy weather can make this climb an epic.

Cimbing BETA

Both times I've climbed the peak were near the solstice weekend (June 21st); our primary reason for climbing at this time of year was to have good conditions in the W Ridge couloir. Use your best judgment on this and perhaps call the RS at Marblemount and talk to the climbing Ranger about conditions; ph# (360) 873-4590 or 4500.

NOAA Digital Weather

You can check the NOAA weather site here for current local conditions.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

Viewing: 1-2 of 2
Eric Sandbo

Eric Sandbo - Jun 29, 2005 12:58 am - Voted 9/10

Route Comment

Beautiful entry, Derek! The one thing I would want to see added is the degree of exposure. Even more than the gendarmes and the views of the surrounding glaciers and mountains, I remember that stretch of ridgecrest made of big slivers of stone standing on end, maybe a foot wide at the top, still only a couple feet thick 8 feet below us, and uniformly curved so the ridge dropped almost vertical on one side and overhung on the other. It's been 25 years - I guess I was impressed.

Derek Franzen

Derek Franzen - Jun 29, 2005 8:09 am - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

You bet! I'll work that into the route description, Thanks.

Viewing: 1-2 of 2



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