Type: Trad, Snow, Alpine, 1500 ft, Grade III
FA: Lloyd Anderson, Fred Beckey, Helmy Beckey, Jim Crooks, & Dave Lind June 1940
Page Views: 39,724 total · 333/month
Shared By: Mike McL on Jun 3, 2009
Admins: Scott Coldiron, Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick

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The West Ridge of Forbidden is included amongst the 50 Classic Climbs of North America. Expect stunning views, solid rock, an unforgettable summit, and fickle weather.

From Boston Basin, ascend scree slopes and gullies, aiming for the snowfield and the obvious West Ridge Couloir. Ascend the snowfield to the base of the West Ridge Couloir.

In early and mid-season, the best option to gain the ridge itself is to ascend the West Ridge couloir (about 40-45 degree snow). Climb the couloir until it peters out below some steep chimneys. Move left over some 4th class rock into a gully and scramble up to the notch at the start of the West Ridge proper.

In late season the snow couloir may be too melted out to climb safely. If this is the case, you can gain the ridge by climbing the rocky gully to the left of the couloir. This is how we did it in September. The rock gully is 4th-easy 5th class but was a little tricky with wet and loose rock and few options for pro.

Once the ridge itself is gained, start climbing up (duh?). Stay on or near the ridge for most of the time. The climbing is 4th and easy 5th class. Stay to the left (north side) when in doubt. An obvious steep step is reached about 2/3 of the way up. Ascend this on the left side, passing a fixed piton (5.6). Once past this, follow the ridge crest around the left of the false summit and to the true summit.


There are 2 options for the descent. You can downclimb and rappel the West Ridge itself, or you can do the "East Ridge descent route" which is actually on the NE Face.

1. The West Ridge descent seems preferable to me because you're familiar with the route already, the routefinding is minimal, and you can ditch your boots, axe, and crampons at the notch and retrieve them on the way down. Having said that, I haven't done the other descent.

From the summit, downclimb and rappel the West Ridge route (1 rope works for the rappels). Once you're back to the notch, you can downclimb or rappel the snow couloir.

An alternative to downclimbing the snow couloir is to rappel down the rock rib adjacent to the couloir. The rap route is to the skier's right of the snow couloir. From the notch, downclimb some loose 3rd class rock. Instead of moving to skier's left into the couloir, head right onto more 3rd class rock. Just before the rock drops off steeply, you should locate a rappel station. We did 5 or 6 single rope rappels from here back to the snowfield. You may need to back up some of the rap stations with webbing and rings.

2. The East Ridge Descent Route is another option. I haven't done this one, so I'll tell you what Jim Nelson and Peter Potterfield say in their guide:

"From a horn on the summit make the first of five single-rope rappels (approximately 400 feet total) straight down the NE face to a series of ledges, which are followed East. These ledges are 3rd class, except for short sections of 4th class encountered at several rock rib crossings. Traverse at this level, staying well below the ridge crest, crossing five ribs before climbing up the gully back to the ridge crest at the solitary gendarme (there is a large gendarme that marks the start of the East Ridge climbing route). Descend snow and scree into Boston Basin."


Standard alpine rock rack. Ice axe & crampons. A single 60 m rope works.


Chris M
Hailey, ID
  5.6 Mod. Snow
Chris M   Hailey, ID
  5.6 Mod. Snow
In recent years, the couloir has been impassible in late summer due to a significant bergshrund. There is a fourth class gully system on the climber's left side that can be used to gain the ridge. On the descent, there are some established rapell stations along the ridge near the gully. Expect to clean and replace the webbing at these stations. Oct 24, 2009
Trever W.
Salt Lake City, UT
Trever W.   Salt Lake City, UT
I did the East Direct ridge last season (awesome route, lots of exposure and a bit harder climbing) and descended the NE face. The descent is a bit tricky and pretty exposed. The trick is to follow the cairns at each rock rib without wandering too high. There is quite a bit of rap tat left above from parties having to descend after getting cliffed out up high. That being said I think that next time I would descend the west ridge and not deal with the sketchy loose ledges on the East side. Jan 9, 2010
Wesley Ashwood
Squamish, BC
Wesley Ashwood   Squamish, BC
Excellent route covering a nice range of alpine conditions. We did it car to to car in a long day although Boston Basin is gorgeous and would be worth while spending a night or two in. We opted to do the east ridge and found the route finding easy and the overall experience of circumnavigating the mountain kind of fun.

Snow conditions were fine and there was a reasonable set of steps from a group that climbed a day or two before. The climbing on the ridge is stellar, but short:( We completed it in two simul-climbing sections with a handful of nuts and a few of small cams, but could have used more slings.

One other note. We were the only ones in the basin all day! Fantastic spot all to ourselves. Aug 2, 2010
If descending the rappel route in the snow couloir, prepare to leave a good bit of webbing and pack out a good bit of tat. Also, we found having a single 60m rope very convenient. A 50 would have left us short on one or two raps, resulting in downclimbing of the couloir (bad idea in soft snow).

Couloir was climbable in early Aug. 2010, but was quite thin and had two significant moats (see photos). Aug 10, 2010
David Ford
Cambridge, MA
David Ford   Cambridge, MA
+1 for using a 60m rope. We had a 50m rope and found that we had to do some significant shenanigans/downclimbing (on rock) on the descent of the couloir. That said, there are a lot of rap anchors in there and it's possible that one set of anchors is set for a 50m rope... but we didn't find it!

For reference, this was in the second week of September, 2011. Apr 14, 2012
Mark Mahaney
St. Paul, Minnesota
Mark Mahaney   St. Paul, Minnesota
This was a great route! The couloir was starting to melt out pretty good in Mid-July of this year and to get across it was a thin bridge followed by a 6 foot vertical section of snow. After we got to the saddle, it was approach shoes and simul-climbing to finish it off!

We descended the ridge the same way we came up before rappelling to the north ledges and traversing to the saddle (Large group was taking forever to descend).

Excellent route, would gladly do it again! Jan 6, 2014
Bountiful, UT
  5.6 Mod. Snow
morgoth70   Bountiful, UT
  5.6 Mod. Snow
There are no longer any bolted rap anchors in the Cat Scratch Gully; climbing rangers chopped them all a couple of years ago. You can still rap down the gully but you will need webbing for anchors. Jan 6, 2016
Nathan Stegenga
Spokane, WA
Nathan Stegenga   Spokane, WA
Truly a classic North Cascades alpine test peice. Avoid climbing this route on a weekend. Simul-climb everything except the tower - if you pitch it all out you will just back everybody else up. Don't be that party! If you're pitching, let faster parties pass if possible. Bring lots o' slings and place gear sparingly to minimize drag and maximize speed. Generally the climbing is easier on the north, but stay on the ridge as much as possible, why wouldn't you want to??? A few tricky, exposed moves, but nothing harder than 5.6. We saved most of the easier north side climbing for the simul-climb down back to the notch except for two or three rappels (down the tower and a tricky, small, steep face). Ropes do not pull cleanly down the knife edge - they WILL eventually get stuck if you try to rap the whole ridge. My buddy and I found it very helpful to counterbalance rappel down the Cat Scratch Gully to save time and especially to avoid knocking loose rocks down on each other. Aug 22, 2016
I am confused. You guys are saying you feel comfortable using static slings as intermediate pro? I feel like even a factor 1 on a 16mm sling (either dyneema or nylon) would be pretty sketch. Not saying you should be taking whippers on something this mellow, but I'm curious if y'all have higher risk tolerance or there's something I'm missing. May 31, 2018
Forrest Stavish
Hot Springs, NC
Forrest Stavish   Hot Springs, NC
Leif, your rope is (or should be) dynamic. I have taken many a whipper on dyneema slings. Also, a lot of gear has dyneema or spectra in the attached slings. Not an issue unless you're taking a factor 1 or 2 directly on the dyneema without the rope in the system. Cheers! Jun 10, 2018
Will RM
Will RM   Petaluma
Ran into this trip report ...
spokalpine.com/2018/08/06/f… Aug 7, 2018
Chris C.
Seattle, WA
Chris C.   Seattle, WA
2018 August Trip Report (in the smoke)
gethighonaltitude.com/2018/… Sep 11, 2018