The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak is one of the most sought-after alpine climbs in the North Cascades. This fine route is included in the legendary “50 Classic Climbs in North America” and it holds all the challenges of a quintessential alpine climb: a glacier approach, steep snow climbing in a skinny couloir, extensive 5th class rock climbing on a supremely exposed ridge, and a technical descent. Whew! Last week Gordon, Sonya, and I made a perfect ascent of this fine route.
The wind lashed our faces as we ascended through heavy clouds toward the summit of Mt. Rainier. Icy gusts and crystalline rime coated our jackets with a layer of thick crust that made our movement rigid, almost robotic. Upward progress had become difficult as the storm intensified. We breathed hard in the thin air of 13,000 feet and our pace slowed under the weight of the effort. As I looked at my team of climbers stretched out on the rope below, I understood the expression etched onto each face. Would we make it?