AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, South Face of Forbidden Peak

S. Face of Forbidden Peak. Whoever ventures into the Cascade Pass area, in the state of Washington, can hardly help admiring the sharp ridges and sheer faces that lead up to the summit of Forbidden Peak (8900 ft.). These impressive features prompted a party of Seattle mountaineers to try an ascent, during the long Fourth of July week end in 1950. Previously, Forbidden Peak had been climbed three times—twice by the W. ridge used on the first ascent3 and once by the E. ridge. We planned to tackle the S. face.

Dick Widrig and I, the first of the party to approach the problem, established a high camp at timberline, directly below the peak, and then hiked up the glacier at the base of the 800-ft. face. Here we met the first obstacle: the lowest 200 ft. of the face appeared to have been so cut back by the action of the glacier as to be vertical and even, in some places, overhanging. We negotiated this bit by attacking the face on its left side, at the edge of a chimney; and then, after passing the overhang, we worked out more on the face. Progress was slow and often tedious, but by the end of the day we had done more than half of the wall—a good start for the next day. We then retraced our route, which Fred Beckey and Bill Fix established more securely with additional safety devices and fixed ropes.

Since Fred and Dick had to return to Seattle that evening, Bill and I were left to carry through the proposed climb. Next morning we moved rapidly up the fixed route and, without much difficulty, reached the high point of the previous day’s efforts—at the base of a chimney that led almost to the summit ridge above. Since this whole face is composed of high-angle “down” slabs, with hardly any natural belay stations, the use of safety and anchor pitons was almost a necessity along the entire route. Many of the belays were of a hanging nature. After exchanging leads several times, we finally arrived at a point some 60 ft. below the summit ridge where our chimney petered out in a jumble of overhanging cracks. After grunting for a couple of hours and using five aid pitons and an equal number of partial aid and safety pitons, I managed to struggle up about 30 or 40 ft. of the blockade. Bill then took over the lead and moved to the ridge. The summit was now 130 easy yds. to the E.—a satisfying sight, we thought, considering that it had been reached only after two days of fifth- and sixth-class climbing that required the use of 34 pitons, five of them for direct aid.


3L. Anderson, Mountaineer, XXXII (1940), 35.