Northwest Face

Page Type
Washington, United States, North America
Route Type:
Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Mixed
Summer, Fall
Time Required:
A long day
Rock Difficulty:
5.8 (YDS)

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Northwest Face
Created On: Aug 2, 2010
Last Edited On: Aug 2, 2010


The route up the Northwest Face of Forbidden is the tallest, most consistently steep, and hardest to reach established route on the iconic steeple of the North Cascades.

The route follows an 1800-foot tall rib in the middle of the face rising from the tumbling Forbidden Glacier to the summit. Any of the variations to and from this route include a spectacular tour of the mountain and a long climb with some quality terrain and exposed views of the heart of the North Cascades.

The face harbors several large snow and ice patches which combines with the inconsistent rock on the feature to produce a sizable amount of stone and icefall which litters the glacier below.

Getting There

There are three fairly practical ways to get to the Northwest Face of Forbidden and they all include a sizable amount of distance, glacier travel, and objective hazard.

1) Approach the Forbidden Glacier via the North Ridge. Follow the instructions on the North Ridge route page and then drop to the West side of the ridge to the Forbidden Glacier.

2) Follow the directions on the West Ridge route page to the West Ridge notch and make several rappels to the Forbidden Glacier. Previous parties report challenging rappels over large crevasses and moats.

3) Ascend to Torment Col, either via the boot track leading directly to Torment basin from the Cascade River Road or via a high traverse from Eldorado Creek basin. Getting to Torment Col is also possible by travelling from the ridge connecting to Eldorado directly, or via the slopes to the North or South of the same ridge. From Torment Col descend to the toe of the Northwest-trending ridge from Mount Torment where the lower shelf is broken by a narrow, precipitous chasm. Established rappel stations exist on broken ledges at the toe of the ridge which allow two 30 meter rappels to be made and access to the shelf below the Torment-Forbidden Ridge is granted. Follow the shelf across glaciers and slabs to the Forbidden Glacier.

From any of the above options the most reasonable access to the route from the glacier is typically on the South side of the rib that splits the face. Find the most reasonable moat access to the rib, and gain the rib quickly to mitigate the danger from falling debris.

The most common descent from Forbidden brings one down the East Ledges back to Boston Basin, any camp that isn't being brought over the route would be best to be in line with that descent.

Route Description

If gaining the rib close to the toe expect 200 meters or so of loose scrambling on grassy ledges until a prominent tower is reached followed by a short knife-edged traverse.

From the traverse follow another 200 meters of high-quality mid-fifth class climbing to a prominent chimney just climber's left of the center of the face. The short, steep chimney offers solid climbing with fixed gear and from which the upper face is gained. Past the chimney 350 meters or so of mid-fifth class climbing over mostly-solid terrain brings one to the summit.

Essential Gear

Rock rack to 2", ice axe, crampons, rope at least 50 meters long.


Follow the instructions on the East Ledges route page for descent information to Boston Basin.

Northwest Face

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Forbidden PeakRoutes