Forbidden Peak – Alpine Climbing Mecca

  • Duration: 2-3 Days
  • Level: Beginner-Advanced
  • Client Ratio: 2:1
  • Cost: $1500 1:1; $1050 2:1
  • Included: All meals while on the mountain, tents, stoves, cook kits, group climbing equipment, and guide services.
  • Not Included: Airfare, transportation within Seattle, ground transportation hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, gratuities for guides, and all personal items. A detailed equipment list will be sent to all participants.
Call (206) 799-4092 to book this tour!

One of the favorite mountains to guide since it feels like the Matterhorn of the Pacific Northwest. Forbidden features 3 amazing ridge climbs with the West Ridge featured in the classic book, Fifty Classic Climbs in North America. The North and East Ridges offer a more remote feel and we usually have these routes to ourselves.  These routes can be climbed almost anytime from June through September. Many parties elect to combine their climb of Forbidden with other ascents in the areas such as Sahale Peak, Sharkfin Tower, Mt. Buckner, or Torment to make a 4-5 day stay in Boston Basin.

For any of the climbs on Forbidden, participants will need to be comfortable climbing rock up to the grade featured on their chosen route as well as be comfortable using ice axe and crampons to climb snow up to 50°. As with any moderate, alpine, technical route, a reasonable level of fitness is required to keep the climb enjoyable and moving along quickly enough to keep things reasonably safe.

Day 1: We will drive about three hours from Seattle into the North Cascades National Park via the Cascade River Road. From the trailhead, we gain 2500′ up a steep, rugged trail into Boston Basin at 5,700 feet. We establish camp adjacent to incredible alpine meadows, enjoy the views, and eat a delicious dinner before climbing into our sleeping bags for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2: Each route entails different approaches taking a full day to complete, see descriptions below listed in order of skill level.

Day 3 Get up, have a leisurely breakfast, break camp, and return to the trailhead.

West Ridge-Beginner
If you do this climb in the early season, when the snow couloir is still in good shape, it is possible to comfortably do this in a long day from car to car. Most groups elect to spend two days climbing the West Ridge with a guide and use the first day for the approach to Boston Basin and the second day to climb the route and exit. This route involves a 3-4 hour hike from the car to camp, a couple of hour climb to the West ridge notch, and then 8 pitches of 5th class climbing up to 5.6 on the West Ridge itself. The best sections of the climb are on the ridge crest itself, and the entire route features impressive views down the North side of Forbidden to lonely Moraine Lake, as well as the spectacular North Face of Johannesberg Peak, the Quien Sabe Glacier on Sahale Peak, and other peaks in the Cascade Pass area.
East Ridge Direct-Intermediate
Of the three ridges we guide on Forbidden Peak, the East Ridge offers the most sustained rock climbing. The climb starts with a several hour approach up the ridges and gullies on the east side of the Unnamed Glacier (oddly its name) below Forbidden Peak, and eventually spits you out near the base of the climb on the East Ridge itself. 6-8 pitches of rock up to 5.8 climb along the ridge crest and traverse both the south and north sides of the ridge bypassing several gendarmes and featuring the same magnificent views seen on the West Ridge. This route is usually done as part of a longer stay in Boston Basin, or as a two-day climb from car to car. For the descent, we use either the West Ridge or the East Ledges descent.
North Ridge-Advanced
Of the three climbs we routinely do on Forbidden Peak, the North Ridge is our favorite. The North Ridge is a climb that has it all: a tricky approach over loose Sharkfin Col, a glacier traverse on the massive Boston Glacier ending at the North Ridge, a wild pitch of steep dirt to gain the ridge, and finally 8 pitches of snow or ice up to 50° followed by an thrilling and exposed climb up the low 5th class terrain of the upper North Ridge. The route leads directly to the summit pyramid. This climb is always done in at least 2 days, with most groups bivouacking at the base of the North Ridge on the first night and then reaching the car on the second night. It is completely reasonable to schedule 3 days to give yourself more options, including using the 3rd day to climb something like Sharkfin Tower if you make it to Boston Basin by dark on day 2. If you are only going to climb Forbidden Peak once in your life do the North Ridge.


Our recommended clothing system has four layers.

  • Base layer: manages moisture and wicks perspiration away from your skin. (synthetic or merino wool)
  • Softshell: should be a durable, comfortable, insulating and wind/water resistant layer that breathes well.
  • Hard shell: windproof, waterproof and breathable.  (e.g. Gore-Tex, or similar)
  • Insulating layer: should be down-fill or synthetic-fill and fit over all layers. (e.g. down, primaloft or polarguard)

These four layers are usually sufficient for most people, but if you tend to be colder bring one extra medium-layer that would be ideal for extra warmth around camp, such as a vest. When deciding what to pack, remember to bring enough clothes and accessories to ensure your safety and comfort, while not over-burdening yourself with items you probably won’t use.

Climbing Gear

  • Adjustable Ski Poles
  • Alpine Climbing boots Full shank crampon compatible leather, synthetic, or hybrid boot depending on climb and season.Single-weight synthetic/leather mountaineering boots are adequate for mid and late-summer climbs on Mount Baker and in the North Cascades when conditions are expected to be dry.
  • Alpine climbing harness  Must have adjustable leg loops and fit over all clothing and can be put on with ski boots
  • Ice Axe – Lightweight
  • Crampons with anti-ball plate * Must be fit to boots prior to trip,
  • Climbing/ski helmet * Adjustable, should fit with hat on
  • 4 locking carabiners –  2 Large, pear-shaped carabiner is best, screw gate type recommended and 2 smaller locking screwgate
  • 4 regular carabiners (e.g. small wire gate are recommended)
  • 1 double length sling
  • 1 single length sling
  • ! Cordelette 6 mil 18-20’(6-7 meters)
  • 1 12” Prussik or Hollow Block*
  • 1 ATC Guide or similar belay device

Upper Body

  • 1 synthetic T-shirt
  • 1 long sleeve Sun Hoodie or shirt Lightweight, light colored for sunny days
  • 2 synthetic sports bras*(WOMEN)
  • 1 soft shell jacket
  • 1 Down/synthetic jacket with hood
  • 1 Hard shell jacket with hood Waterproof and breathable. Gore-Tex or equivalent is best, roomy enough to fit over multiple layers.
  • 1 pair lightweight gloves
  • 1 pair warm waterproof gloves
  • Warm hat Wool or synthetic
  • Balaclava/Buff
  • Shade hat or Visor

Lower Body

  • 2 pair med- heavy wool/synthetic socks Check boot fit with liner and wool socks on
  • 1 pair lightweight long underwear
  • 1-2 pairs of underwear boxers/briefs
  • Softshell pants 
  • Shell pants Waterproof/breathable with full side zips

Sleeping Gear

  • Sleeping bag Rated to at least 20º F. Line the stuff sack w/ plastic bag.
  • Sleeping pad 1 closed cell foam and/or Neo-Air for extra warmth and comfort.


  • Internal frame pack 3500-4500 cubic inch capacity able to carry snowboard/skis

Miscellaneous Equipment

  • Goggles and Sunglasses 100% UV protection with side shields or wrap around.
  • Personal first aid repair kit Basics: moleskin/blister kit, Band-Aids, first-aid tape, ibuprofen, personal medications, and batteries etc.
  • Lip balm At least SPF 20
  • Sunscreen At least SPF 40
  • Headlamp lightweight LED
  • 2 water bottles 1 liter wide-mouth Nalgene and 1 bottle holster, or
  • Hydration bladder With drinking tube and 1 Nalgene bottle
  • Bowl and spoon Plastic, small Tupperware works well. Lexan spoons are best.
  • Toiletry kit Be sure to include WAG Bag or toilet paper stored in a plastic bag.
  • Bandana
  • Hand wipes
  • Favorite snack foods (no more than 2 pounds)