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| | |-+  June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
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Author Topic: June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour  (Read 4613 times)

Posts: 358

June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
« on: 07/02/08, 10:41 PM »

This a beautiful tour through a rugged piece of the North Cascades.  It has the full suite of Cascade difficulties: lots of elevation gain from a low valley start, poor access trails and a little mountaineering to spice it up.  It is a significant commitment since the rappel to the Boston Glacier is difficult to retrace.  This adds to the sense of isolation and makes the descent to and climb from Moraine Lake feel that much wilder.  Our experience had a larger "suck factor" then usual (partly due to a couple boneheaded route decisions and partly because Moraine Lake was melted out), but overall we found it to be very rewarding.

We chatted with the two Paul's headed for the Isolation traverse and then leap frogged up the road with several groups of climbers up the headed for Boston Basin.  Jim and I wore running shoes and carried our ski boots below snow line, while Ben (a split boarder) used leather mountaineering boots the entire trip.  We stopped at the Boston Basin trail head to attach our skis to our waist belts, forming a triangle parallel to the ground with tips in the front.  This helped tremendously for the sections of the trail that tunnel through slide alder.  We hit continuous snow just below Boston Basin, switched to skins and toured up to the Quien Sabe Glacier.

L-R: Climbing to col from Quien Sabe Glacier, rappelling to Boston Glacier and overview of the descent route (not recommended).

While climbing to the glacier we had a healthy debate about which col to use to access the Boston Glacier.  We hadn't researched the climb to Sharkfin Col or any alternate routes and the direct way looked steep and chossy.  Ben had climbed Sharkfin Tower and thought we could access the glacier from one of the cols between it and Boston Peak, but wasn't sure how many rappels it would take.  In the end we decided to climb up to the low point between Sharkfin Tower and Boston Peak by kicking steps over a bridged moat and up a gully.  Unfortunately the descent required three rappels to reach the Boston Glacier (two shorter raps and one rope stretcher on our 60m rope over a schrund).  As I watched two wet slides flush the neighboring slope near Boston Peak I was very thankful that our route was in the afternoon shade.  The last rappel ended in steep mushy snow just above an obvious sag and an open crevasse.  I drove my skis vertically past the bindings into the mush to set an anchor and belayed Ben and Jim across the bridge and around the crevasse to a safe place where they transitioned to ski mode.  After confirming with them that they hadn't seen any spooky partially hidden holes, I untied and skied along their tracks.  I made certain to ski below them as I passed since I was pretty sure my track would start a sluff (it did).  We breathed a collective sigh of relief and started to traverse the glacier.

We were initially hoping to make it to Moraine Lake the first day to allow time to climb Austera and Eldorado the second day, but the complicated descent to the Boston Glacier blew the schedule.  We instead decided to at least climb up to the Boston-Forbidden col to camp.  We decided not to rope up on the glacier, and by the time we neared the top of the glacier I was a little distance head of the others.  Uncertain about which col to use I stopped to look at the map.  Accessing the Forbidden Glacier looked reasonable on the map for both choices so no help there.  The closer col looked to have some easy snow leading to easy talus so I made the call to try it.  Well, the easy snow was blocked by a big moat so we had to climb a short stretch of more difficult rock.  Feeling very risk adverse by this point, our ropegun Ben climbed first and belayed Jim and I up.  I was the first to the col and arrived just after sunset.  My heart sunk as I looked over.  "How does it look?"  "We're screwed.  It's at least two raps to the glacier."  Demoralized, we rappelled back down to the Boston Glacier in the dark and made camp.  We had Volken's book in the car, but hadn't read it on the drive up.  A careful reading while noting the elevation of the correct col would have avoided the entire mess.

The night was ridiculously warm and we didn't bother to set up our tarp.  The sun rose in our faces and I found it somewhat absurd that literally the first thing we did in the morning was put on sun glasses.  We had some apprehension climbing to the other col as we weren't certain what we'd find.  Ben put in nice steps over the snow bridge and across to the col.  "Yea ha!" he exclaimed as he stepped onto the Forbidden Glacier.

Top and left: skiing the Forbidden Glacier.  R: Climbing to the Boston-Forbidden col.

We powered up with a Starbucks Double Shot and skied down to Moraine Lake.  The snow hadn't frozen overnight so the skiing at 7:30 was nice firm corn instead of ice.  We were surprised to see a larch on the glacier's lateral moraine.  It is the farthest west (at least in a hydrologic sense) I've seen one in the Cascades.  Unfortunately Moraine Lake was melting out and we had walk down talus and rock slab to the lake (mostly hiking but some class 2 and 3).


Top, L-R: Skiing in the valley above Moraine Lake.  Skinning to the Inspiration glacier.  Bottom: near the summit of Eldorado.

The lake still had lots of ice but also had large areas of open water so we elected to skirt the southern shore on talus and snow.  We toured up the valley on the far side of the lake on continuous snow (except for one 10ft carry) and took the southern route to the Inspiration glacier (the northern route Volken describes was completely melted out).  Some step kicking, some switchbacks and some two hours later we traversed the flat intersection between the Eldorado and Inspiration glaciers.  We dumped almost all of our gear and skinned up Eldorado.  Everyone had already left and we enjoyed the quiet summit.  We flew from our ski cache below the summit down to the gear cache in under ten minutes.  We quickly packed, skied down the Eldorado glacier, climbed up to the Roush-Eldorado creek divide, then down the meadows, boulder field and trail to the river.  The river was ragging over the usual log crossing and there was a short mandatory shin deep wade.  We made it to Good Food before they closed for burgers and milk shakes.  What could be better?

Posts: 236

Re: June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #1 on: 07/02/08, 11:26 PM »

Great report and photos.  We were wondering about you guys as we looked down to the melting of Morraine Lake.  Glad you found a way across!  Congrats on finishing the tour in two days and negotiating the difficulties along the way.  Paul and I did it in 3 days two years ago earlier in May 

Definitely a classic traverse.

Posts: 160

Re: June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #2 on: 07/03/08, 07:58 AM »

Thanks for the TR and great photos, I love the colors in Climbing to the Boston-Forbidden col.. I've gotta do this one someday.

Posts: 24

Re: June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #3 on: 07/03/08, 10:31 AM »

Thanks for getting this tr up Matt!  Was a great trip with you and Jim and look forward to more adventures this summer. 

Posts: 38

Re: June 28-29, 2008, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #4 on: 07/03/08, 11:23 AM »

Great trip report and pics, this traverse is one of my all time favorites. Props to Ben for splitboarding the tour, especially in leather mountaineering boots. After my ride down to Moraine Lake, I was like, that's it?!?  But I guess it’s called a traverse after all. I recall “breathing a collective sigh of relief” a lot after each seemingly never ending objective … getting over the schrund, finding the right col, climbing out of Moraine Lake, making it back in time before Good Food closed. 

Wonderful memories. Thanks for bringing them all back with your report. Good on ya guys.
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