Forbidden Peak is one of the better-known peaks in North Cascade National Park. At 8,815 feet it is not the tallest peak in the range, but the quality of climbing and the beauty of the peak make it one of the best. Its pyramid shape, surrounding glaciers and solid rock make Forbidden Peak a difficult summit to attain. All of the routes to the summit of Forbidden require technical climbing. There are no “walk-ups” on Forbidden Peak.
The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is by far the most popular route, and for good reason. The upper ridge alone would be worthy of classic status. It is one of the most beautiful rock ridges in the world – wild exposure, solid rock, and moderate climbing all combine to make an amazing climb. You can also throw in a steep snow couloir, a moderate glacier and a beautiful, high alpine camp to round out this classic. It is no wonder why the West Ridge made it into “50 Classic Climbs in North America”.
The approach to the West Ridge of Forbidden starts at 3,200’ on the Cascade River Road just outside the town of Marblemount. The trail leading to high camp starts in the forest but quickly climbs into the alpine. To reach your high, alpine camp you will end up climbing 3,100’ in approximately 3 miles. The approach trail is steep but it efficiently gets you to your high camp and in position for the climb the following day.
After an alpine start early in the morning, you will climb up to the base of the West Ridge Couloir via moderate snow and glacier. Climbing the couloir consists of steep, 45- to 50-degree snow, often with an easy mixed section near the top. Once you reach the ridge-crest you can cache your snow climbing gear and switch into rock shoes. The ridge itself is relatively easy in terms of technical difficulty, but the exposure and views are unmatched. The route follows on or near the ridge-crest all the way to the summit. The summit of this beautiful pyramid is spectacular. After spending some time taking pictures of the surrounding peak you will reverse your route, downclimbing and rappelling the West Ridge. After picking up your cache and switching back to your boots we will continue the descent down the couloir and back to high camp.
The next morning, after your big day in the mountains, you will enjoy a leisurely start and a reasonable, two- to three-hour walk downhill back to the trailhead. You can also add additional days to your trip into Boston Basin and climb other routes on Forbidden, Sharkfin Tower, Sahale, Torment or several other classic climbs accessed from basecamp. Pricing for extra days are at the standard private rates of $425 for 1:1 and $275 for 2:1.
North Cascade Mountain Guides also offer this program as a two or even one-day program. Previous climbing experience with NCMG or a strong recommendation from a certified guide is required to participate on one of these more advanced programs.
- Comfortable climbing 5.6 in rock shoes.
- Previous experience climbing with crampons and ice axe
- Good physical fitness – able to keep moving continuously with short breaks for up to 12 hours