Forbidden - West Ridge.. sort of
A late season jaunt at Forbidden in a day? Sure we though, no problem, just wake up early.. It started out plainly, driving into the trailhead on the cascade river road late Saturday night. Luckily avoiding the party the people in the car behind us had planned, we got to sleep soon after arriving. Johanassburg watching over, avalanches roaring, we awoke at 4:30 for our pre-dawn start. Phil, Benji and I packed up and headed up the trail around 5:30. This being the first time I would see Boston basin (the previous time there was spent admiring the inside of a cloud, doh) I was pretty excited to see this totally classic mountain. The West, East and North Ridges are all majority classic cascade alpine climbs.. or so they say!
Making good time up into the basin, we could easily see our melted out gully approach to the crest of the West ridge. Even though we had heard reports of steep ice steps (vertical and 70 degrees) we figured it wouldn't be so bad with one ice tool each. Upon reaching the glacier we took the direct right up a gully and then left across the upper glacier. This was decidedly a better route than trying a strait though approach to the unnamed glacier. The snow was rock hard and we solo'd to the end of the glacier where it has slipped off of the upper slabs. This quickly became a scary place when the ground cracking under our feet started to sound like exploding M-80s. So off we went soloing up the rock slabs in hopes of skipping a jumbled mass of glacier that lead onto the lower toe of the gully. This way we would hook up with the snow just as the gully walls close in. These steepening slabs soon turned into 5th class terrain and things became a little tense. But no worries, after a short roped traverse to phil's ledge we were safe again. Unfortunately an ice axe was dropped during this traverse and it went flying down onto the glacier, miracurously not landing its self in a crevasse. We lost some time retrieving this, and only started to attack the gully difficulties around 10:30.
Basically what had happened to the gully was the lower glacier slipped a little, and the support for the bottom of the gully's snow gave way. This caused a block (house sized) to break off leaving a vertical-ish wall of snow the height of the depth of the snow at that point. This would be very climbable, but unfortunately the snow had warmed considerable to the point where ice tools begin to slide right through. Not the best for a 15-20 foot run-out So we opted for the mixed climbing on the left side of the moat. Basically this consisted of a pullup off the snow, and then a whole lot of stemming with one crampon on. Strange climbing in a crazy kind of place, but very cool! After climbing a pitch of this and pounding a picket strait into the wall of the snow I brought Phil and benji up to the cramped belay. Just before reaching the belay stem Phil's crampon slipped off the ice and sent him ass-over-tea-kettle down into the moat. His fall would have been basically nill had the ice screw below and left of me held any weight what so ever. Those titanium screws go in and come out like butter! Once we had all three of us at the belay we collectively decided to bail due to the incoming weather front and the lateness (about 12:00). We had set a turn around time of 3 pm, but this was a getting-home-at-1-am kind of turn arounds. We wanted to avoid that, and seeing as our current pace probably wouldn't have made the summit anyway.
So we climbed another pitch of rock to some nice rap slings on the walls of the gully. While waiting to rap we saw a guy come flying down the gully on rappell. He had left from the van next to us at 3 am that morning. He was just descending the west ridge. After climbing the North ridge. solo! Between hacking the fastest bollard I've ever seen and taking off we got the details of his ascent out of him. Way cool seeing as he was 9 hours into his trip and Beckey estimates 10 hour to the summit from the basin! Later I spotted him literally running down the glacier, what a nut! I only wish I could climb that fast and confident!
After a short while of descending we ended up ice climbing in some of the crevasses on the glacier before heading down the the basin. This time we took the long north-sweeping descent through the glacier polished slabs of the basin. This proved to be an excellent choice for we stumbled upon a great boulder on the way down. Being in the presence of the new age Ome Diaber (Phil) I instinctively started bouldering on the thing with my heavy mountaineering boots. Soo we were all trying to work this elegant little overhanging problem. Luckily I was able to "send it" and rated it at a difficult V1. Whatever, there was no V system in the 30's! So we just played around putting up all sorts of interesting little routes and taking pictures of our goofy facial expressions as we peeled off and cratered. Phil came up with a nice no-hands, arms, knees, or anything other than toes route up little pockets on the slabby West face of the boulder. Soon the East and North faces were climbed in unparalleled alpine style. The only appealing route left was the infamous Northwest Arret! This stellar line rises out of green pastures in sharp steeply overhanging granite. The approach was short and the climbing strenuous. I tried several times in vain to pull through the final move, then, out of the blue came new aged Ome! Pow! He flashes up the arret like climbing stairs. Stunned, Benji and I decided that bouldering for the day couldn't get any better and we might as well go home.
While wandering back to the moraine Benji spotted a total find! A slightly rusty Chourinard Frost, a precursor to the X-15. Good luck seeing as he was about to invest in a tool! With thoughts of perfectly cooked rainbow trout in our heads, we quickly moved down the trail to the truck. Soon we were in Marbelmount, for once with the restaurants open, enjoying our perfectly cooked rainbow trout and salad! The service was lousy and Benji kept getting hit on by the eldest gray hair'd of the waitresses, but it was all worth it for the food.
Supposedly the gully falls out of shape around the end of July each year and is better done before that. However we're not done with forbidden yet this year!