Forbidden Peak Climb - North Cascades National Park 

Forbidden West Ridge Climb
Summit of Forbidden Peak - Photo by Adam Butterfield

Mountain: Forbidden Peak (8815')

  • West Ridge (Grade III, 5.6; 50° snow)
  • East Ridge Direct (Grade III, 5.8)
  • North Ridge (Grade IV, low 5th class, 50° snow, 5.7 move on approach)

2022 Dates:
  • We only run these as custom programs to ensure that groups are comprised of climbers with similar climbing abilities.

Custom Cost 2-Day
  • $1500 @ 1:1
  • $1000 @ 2:1

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Cost Includes
Guide fee, guide's expenses, group climbing equipment and camping gear.
Cost Does Not Include
Transportation to/from the course area, personal food, personal climbing equipment, trailhead parking pass fees.

Client to Guide Ratio: 1:1 or 2:1

Additional Notes: We also offer guided climbs of the Torment-Forbidden Traverse, and the NW Face of Forbidden. Additionally we offer the Forbidden Tour as an alpine ski touring (Randonnee) trip in the spring.

Expedition PDFs 

Equipment List »

Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School.
Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School.
Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School
Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School
Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School
Forbidden Peak Climb with the Northwest Mountain School
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.

Set Dates vs. Custom 

All of our set-date climbs are based on a 3-day itinerary. This allows you to spend one day on the approach, one day on the climb, and then exit on the final day. It also gives you a potential extra summit day if the weather does not cooperate. We also run this often as a 2-day climb. Currently all of our 2 day climbs are custom bookings. If inquiring about the 2-day climb bear in mind that you will need to be able to climb quickly enough day 2 to have time left to hike out to the trailhead at the end of the climb.


Generally the West ridge is the first route to come into shape, and the East ridge seems to stay climbable for the longest. Any of 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.