Forbidden Peak might be the ultimate peak for guided climbing in the Pacific Northwest. None of its three main ridges are overly difficult, nor all that simple. The West Ridge is the most popular of the three main routes as it is 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. We have guided this mountain annually since we obtained our permit for North Cascades National Park in 1996, and it is perhaps our favorite peak in the North Cascades.
West Ridge of Forbidden Peak: 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 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 of Forbidden Peak: 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 of Forbidden Peak: 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.