West Ridge of Forbidden

Forbidden, Boston Basin. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The West Ridge of Forbidden is one of those classic cascade climbs that can’t help but blow you away.  It’s listed as one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America, and it didn’t disappoint.  The spectacular views, wicked your-butt-hanging-above-4,000feet-of-air exposure, and sweet rock all made Forbidden an unforgettable climb!

We hiked in on Thursday to Boston Basin.  The hike is a bit of nasty bushwhack and took 3 hours to get into the basin.  The route into Boston Basin is easy to follow.  The climber’s path, though it is quite over grown, is easy to follow and the camp spots in the basin (about 5400 ft) are easy to locate.  There is also a “toilet” (a box with a shovel) at the camp area.

Getting creative with navigating the climber's path. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Boston Basin, Forbidden. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The route of the West Ridge goes up the glacier on the left, around the large rock on it's left side, through the gully you can see on the left side and then along the ridge to the summit. West Ridge, Forbidden. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The weather was sunny, crystal clear, and a little too warm for my liking, but as a result I found out the value of a good bivy.  Made for lighter gear and the views from my little nest in the mountains were incredible.  How can you beat falling asleep to this?

Room with a view. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

We started climbing Friday morning at 6am.  The route heads around the snow, up onto a crevasse field (only small crevasses were opened), around to the right of the large rock, by the moat and bergshrund and then up the 50/55 degree snow couloir.  It took us 2 hours to travel from camp to the base of the couloir.  We did not need crampons, the snow was soft enough to easily kick steps. We also didn’t bring pickets since with how soft the snow was, they wouldn’t of held a fall.

Approach to the snow couloir. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Hang to the left, through the zig-zag,and then to the right toward the snow gully. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Navigating around the bergshcrund and moat. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The steep snow gully/couloir. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Once through the steep snow couloir, there is a short, sketch rock gully.  The rock gully was a mix of untrustworthy, loose rock and snow making it a hairy section to get through in mountaineering boots. At the top of the rock gully is the notch that marks the beginning of the West Ridge. At the notch we switch to rock shoes and summit packs. We found the north side of the West Ridge to still be under a lot of snow, so we had to climb right on top of the ridge.  The climbing wasn’t difficult, just a lot of exposure.  The rock was class 4, some low class 5 with the crux pitch a 5.6.  At the crux section there is a fixed pin, which my lead, Ira, clipped.  He also placed 2 more cams here above the fixed pin to get to the belay above.

Beginning of the West Ridge. View from the notch. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Climbing the West Ridge of Forbidden. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The West Ridge. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

One of the steep sections of the West Ridge. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Summit achieved! Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Looking down the West Ridge from the summit of Forbidden. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

More views from the summit of Forbidden. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Johannsburg with Glacier in the background. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

View of Eldorado from the summit. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The views from the summit of Forbidden are incredible!  After spending a few moments taking it all in, we began the long descent back down the ridge.  It took us about 4 hours to climb the West Ridge to the summit, but much longer descending.  Blocky ridges basically suck for both rappelling and downclimbing. As a party of 4, it just took a long time to move everyone down the ridge.  Some pitches can be rappelled down and some need to be downclimbed.  There are some rap stations, but not completely trusting the webbing there are added our own webbing and rap rings.  The rappels weren’t straight rappels since we weren’t climbing  directly down the fall line, so on the rappels you have to really work and massage it.  Also, there is a high risk of the rope getting stuck, which happened to us a number of times.  We didn’t get back to the notch until 6pm.

To get down the rock gully and snow couloir we did 3 double rope rappels.  First rappel was from the notch to the base of the rock gully.  Be very careful here not to kick down rocks on your climbing partners – everything is lose in the gulley.  Our next two rappels were down the left side (climber’s left) of the snow couloir.  On our third rappel the rope kept getting stuck in the moat on the left side of the couloir where the rock wall and snow meet.  The cost us a lot of time and when we went to pull the rope, it got stuck high up.  After trying to get it lose we were finally forced to until the knot and leave the stuck rope behind.  It would probably be a better course of action to rappel down the climber’s right side of the couloir since the rappels would be straighter and a moat hasn’t formed on that side.

Aside from the little adventure getting down, Forbidden was an incredible climb!  The views, exposure and stellar rock climbing all make Forbidden and classic peak to bag!

Here are my lead’s, Ira, Gear Notes:
Double cams from .4 – 2
Set of nuts – used one
4-5 double length slings are nice as there are many places to sling rather than place gear

Note: The ranger only grants 6 group permits per day for Boston Basin so get your permits early!  Also bring enough gear for rappels. Also bring enough food and water, the climb can be a long day.


~ by Genevieve Hathaway on July 14, 2010.

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