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Author Topic: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour  (Read 7398 times)
danpeck
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May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« on: 05/10/14, 04:04 PM »

This is my second time doing some variation of the Forbidden Tour.  My first time was in perfect conditions with 3 nights and 4 days of blue calm skies, clear air, and predictable snow.  I was led by the most excellent guide, Forest McBrian… and the trip was seamless.  Since that time I have been able to make it a tradition to do a committed multi day high alpine ski traverse in the North Cascades in May.  Last year I completed the Isolation traverse with two of my great friends, one from Jackson Hole, the other from Denver.  Again guided by Forest, but in much more adventurous weather and conditions.  We had such a fulfilling adventurous experience we agreed to try to make this a yearly tradition.  So this year we planned to do another Cascadian Adventure, but wanted to choose an objective that we thought we might be able to do unguided, using our own wits and experience.  A lot would be determined by the weather.  We considered a number of options as we gained a clear picture of the weather.  As luck would have it we saw a small 2 day window of opportunity and decided to do the Forbidden Tour.  It would be a repeat for me, but It would be a challenge for my developing skills and a first for my friends in one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes on earth.

We made an early start from Burlington Wednesday morning and were able to make it to mile 19 on cascade river road, where a tree blocked the way, by 8 am.  From there we hiked up the road until just past the Boston Basin TH where we found continuous snow and were able to ascend the Soldier Boy Creek drainage staying on the edges of the giant slide path--weaving in and out of the forest trees on either side.





As we climbed big ice and cornices were shedding off of Johannesberg.  Unfortunately we were unable to see the biggest, loudest, and longest lasting of these as we were in the trees and could just get glimpses of waterfalls of snow going on for about 5 minutes.  It was a tremendous sound.  A sobering reminder of one of the biggest hazards of the trip.

Because of the small weather window and the serious commitment of this tour, we decided it would be good to cover as much ground as possible.  We set a goal of possibly making it to Moraine Lake for the first night.

We made good time and enjoyed an easy conversational skin up to Boston Basin and the Quien Sabe Glacier.  We stopped for lunch and melting water near the base of Shark Fin Col, our first big technical crux.





Fed and watered we climbed up Shark Fin Col, which was made easy due to the plentiful and stable snow.  We  needed only to crampon rock for maybe 10 foot steps.  I'm sure this snow will be melting out fast though.  We easily located the anchor, tethered ourselves to it, and set up a quick 10 meter rap. 





I was hoping for some sheltered powder on the NW facing slopes of the Boston Glacier but alas, it was not to be.  Instead we enjoyed some of the worst breakable crust and were forced to do a series of defending switch back turns for 600 ft.  But the views were spectacular. 



We skinned through this crust in the direction of our next technical problem, the col that allows passage from the Boston to the Forbidden Glacier.  We were making good time.  Until I made my first, and only, navigational error of the trip.  I did not trust my gut feeling.  As we approached where this col would be, I looked up to my left and saw a similar looking col and wondered if that might be where we should go.  I looked at my map and based on my reading of the route description thought it should be this first col.  It didn't look the same, but then again, neither did the entire Boston Glacier, which was surprisingly broken up. 




In any case we headed to this other col just south of where we should have been.  This climb was longer and more difficult that it would have been had we gone the right way… and the descent was doubly tricky.  I feel lucky that we were actually able to descend over the W side and onto the Forbidden Glacier where we were able to skin around the toe of a large buttress of rock to the proper pass.  Night was falling and I was getting very concerned about this.  Before we started up this climb we had decided that we would camp high on the forbidden glacier and ski it the next day rather than continue on to Moraine lake this evening.






All in all we lost about an hour of time negotiating this other col.  Nevertheless we made good time and positioned ourselves in a beautiful camp setting and enjoyed a calm, windless, star filled evening.




Day 2

Knowing that the Forbidden Glacier would not get much sun in the morning we allowed ourselves some time to rest, hydrate, and eat before we committed to skiing the entire 3500 feet down to Moraine Lake.  At the same time we knew weather would be coming that evening and so we wanted to be on the move.



So we determined that skiing the Forbidden Glacier on supportable crust was better than skiing the Boston Glacier on breakable crust and that it would be worth it to be on the move and we were skiing down around 10 am.




The first pitch was indeed noisy, supportable, bet edge-able crust.   Noisy, but fun to ski.  To our pleasant surprise things just got better and better.  The corn was very pleasant.  For the very last section of our descent as we wound our way through thin bands of snow in rock and considerable slide debris things were feeling warm and too soft.  Within moments we were at the Moraine Lake camp site and enjoying fresh water from the stream and some food for renewed energy.  I was wishing circumstances would allow us to dwell in the valley of Moraine Lake.  There is no finer setting.  But it is remote and the way out is takes effort and we knew we wanted to avoid the steep climb in white-out and stormy weather.  So on we went. 



Gliding across Moraine Lake is one of life's great pleasures.  The smooth flow of skins and skis with towering cliffs and ice above.  I felt small, we were strangers in a vast wilderness.



The incoming clouds preceding the impending weather were a blessing in that they kept the steep south facing slopes nice and cool, protecting us from the dangers of rock fall and wet slides.  The ascent  was a mixed climb of skinning and booting with crampons and crossing over week-old-chunky avy debris.




I was relieved to be out of that exposed zone and onto the gentler slopes of the Inspiration Glacier.  Just as we were roping up to cross this glacier the snow started to fall and the visibility of the upper peaks began to wane.



Up we trudged and I was able to keep the cliffs of rock and ice in view to keep my bearings and to follow up the gentle contours and runnel patterns until we were at about 7400 feet where we entered total white-out conditions.  From then on I was relying on GPS and maps.  Our goal was to find a familiar camp site in the first pass of the Tepeh Towers from the Isolation Glacier to the McAllister Glacier--exactly where we had stayed almost a year ago on our fist night doing the Isolation Traverse.  We knew that we could find shelter there from the wind.  The minutes seemed endless as we navigated the lower slopes of Eldorado until the first pyramid of rock came into view.  Our arms shot up in triumph.

We found good shelter there and quickly dug out a spot for our tent.  The wind still rattled our tent but was considerably less intense.  Hot drinks and dinner warmed us from the storm. 



Day 3

That night 18 inches of snow fell on the lower flanks of Eldorado.  Lots of wind from the NW.  Sleep was difficult.  At 5:30 am we were all awake and decided our chances were slim for the weather to open up based on the forecast 3 days prior.  So we packed up on began another whiteout adventure.  I was able to keep the Tepeh Towers in site behind me for about 100 yards.  As they disappeared I felt like we were out to sea floating among waves of uncertainty.  I kept my eyes on my ski tips knowing that we wanted to descend about 200 feet to circle around the rock band off of Eldorado's western arm.  Finding those rocks was huge relief.

The next challenge was to circle around the Eldorado glacier and begin a careful ski descent to the spot where we would cross from Roush Creek into Eldorado Creek drainage.  Twice while crossing the flat plane of Eldorado Glacier I somehow completely changed direction and headed the wrong way despite my efforts to keep a straight line.  It was an amazingly weird experience.  I learned to trust my compass and check it once every 2 minutes.  Once again having the slope angle downward and having the cliffs to the east of Eldorado glacier come into view ensured me that we were almost home free. 

Conditions changed rapidly as we descended from full on winter, cold, dry snow to big flakes creating a warmer but somewhat fluffy powder on top of very wet, soft snow. 

As we cut into Eldorado creek I expected to see a lot of wet sloughing and that is exactly what happened.  Once we were on gentler slopes we had a blast skiing down another 1000 feet before we started negotiating avy debris and hunting for the climbers trail.

The last challenge of the trip was carrying our skis with heavy packs through a snow covered boulder field with sketchy footing.  We went slow and careful.  The climbers trail signaled the final exit and eventual successful completion of our adventure.  We learned a lot being on our own.  We made a lot of good decisions and managed our time well.  We were in good shape so we could move fast.  But we also made a few bad decisions which cost us time and could have resulted in bigger problems. 




The Forbidden Tour is a very committing tour and is therefore a very satisfying adventure.  I think Forbidden Peak may be my spirit mountain--it seemed to me as if we were allowed to enter this sacred space on the hands of Forbidden and allowed to flow through her wild places and then gently put back where we could glide out into the safety of our own living space. 



Video to come...
Way too many pictures here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/danpeck/sets/72157644196128760/
« Last Edit: 05/11/14, 09:48 AM by danpeck » Logged
Bird Dog
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #1 on: 05/11/14, 09:02 AM »

What a great read for a Sunday morning. Well written and great photos. Congrats.
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rlsg
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #2 on: 05/11/14, 05:56 PM »

Awesome super-adventure!  What a journey...
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runningclouds
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #3 on: 05/11/14, 07:43 PM »

What a trip! It seems to me going guide-less makes for better adventure.
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danpeck
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #4 on: 05/11/14, 07:48 PM »

Absolutely.  My first few guided experiences were really private North Cascade Mountain school classes.  At least that is the way I viewed them.  And I still intend to do many guided trips in terrain that I am still uncomfortable in.  It's all about knowing your limits and then expanding those limits responsibly (in my case I have a wife and 4 kids Smiley  ) 

It's funny because my friends commented that this tour felt a lot easier than the Isolation.  But for me, even though it was perhaps easier from a pure stamina point of view, it was much more challenging and taxing mentally as I was essentially the guide.  I really felt the weight of responsibility as most decisions in the end relied on my experience and judgment.  Not to mention my abilities in keeping *all* of us safe and returning home to our families.

It was indeed a great adventure and it boosted my confidence while simultaneously humbling me considerably!
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jtack
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #5 on: 05/11/14, 08:38 PM »

Let's see, huge trip, check obligatory suffering, check, great story, check great pictures, check.  WOW! thanks Dan.
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Gregg_C
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #6 on: 05/11/14, 09:13 PM »

Thanks for the great read and pictures.  You went out with one of the best for a couple of trips and were ready to launch out on your own afterwards.  That is what it is all about.  Good luck on further adventures and hopefully you will post more great TR.
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Chamois
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #7 on: 05/12/14, 10:23 AM »

Well done - thanks for the report.  Some variation of this is yet on my list before I get too creaky.  Full on Cascades adventure - including some forest schwating - I love it!
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mikerolfs
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Re: May 7-9, Forbidden Tour
« Reply #8 on: 05/13/14, 11:07 AM »

I sure enjoyed reading this, Dan.  Thanks for sharing.  Great adventure!  Really like the sharkfin photos, and that camp in the wind photo is great too.  Nice work on this trip.
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