American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Mt. Formidable, Complete East Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Mt. Formidable, complete East Ridge. On July 30 Kurt Buchwald and I completed the ridgecrest traverse (IV 5.7) from the Spider-Formidable Col to the summit of Mt. Formidable. From the Spider-Formidable col at 7,350', we moved northwest and around a rotten tower on the left into the First notch, to get onto better rock. We then climbed generally near the crest to a flat, easy ridge. Next we climbed a blocky ridge on good rock, generally staying a bit north of the crest to the top of a first distinct tower. Then a rappel (or downclimb) was made into the next notch on the north side of the ridge, reaching a spot at the base of a two-pitch headwall, which leads toward the distinct summit that we called the “Two County Summit” (Chelan and Skagit). Climbing the two-pitch headwall (5.6 or 5.7) slightly north of the ridge, we found good rock and awesome ambiance. An easy but exposed blocky ridge brought us to the Two County Summit. Climbing over small towers, we gained horizontal, walkable terrain with stunning exposure and continued down easily to the next notch (first ideal bailout spot to the south). We continued up a steep, narrow tower with exposure and good rock. We next encountered a series of lofty gendarmes that involved steep rappels, which made for slower going and harder bailouts. Eventually we gained the notch that leads to a distinct summit just east of the Formidable Glacier (another north or south bailout option). From the Formidable Glacier col we stayed on the crest, crossing over the subsummit (not very good rock) to the summit proper, which didn’t present any new challenges. This last section takes a little longer than the southern ledges described in the Beckey guide, but the scenery is wild and the rock good. We descended the summit ridge a short way and then a distinct couloir heading south. The route can be split into three sections: section one goes from the Spider-Formidable col to the Two County Summit. Section two goes from that summit to the Formidable Glacier. Section three goes from the Formidable Glacier to the summit. The second section is certainly the most complex and time-consuming, even though the hardest climbing occurs on the way to the Two County Summit. The ridge is about 2km long, involves a lot of exposed 4th- and easy 5th-class climbing, and offers pitches of 5.6 to 5.7 in the center section. We spent 11 hours moving from the Col to the summit of Formidable and approximately 13 hours from camp to camp. It resembles the Torment- Forbidden traverse in many ways. The route features more complicated ups and downs than the T- F traverse, but it is more reasonable to bail in two or three places.

Martin Volken

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