Skiing the Forbidden Traverse

On my sabbatical I signed up for every Pro Guiding trip I could. Even trips that I didn’t know much about. The Forbidden was one of those trips I didn’t know much about. Unfortunately the original days in March were too stormy and we rescheduled to May. Turns out that we probably couldn’t have picked a better four days to do it!

Forbidden Traverse Route

Day 1: 4360′ climbing, 0 descending, 10 km

After a frantic night packing (it always takes longer than I think) my alarm went off at 4:30 AM (in hindsight, I might have considered car camping near Marblemount like Devin and Tom did) and I scrambled to get out the door for 5 AM to make the two hour drive to the ranger station in Marblemount where we were meeting.

There I met our guide from Pro Guiding Service, Chris Simmons, and fellow clients Tom and Devin.

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We spent some time getting everything sorted out in the ranger parking lot while it drizzled rain. I was happy for us to take as long as possible in the hopes the rain would subside. Fortunately it did!

We left a few cars at the Marblemount Visitor Center and then drove the Cascade River Road for about 18 miles which is as far as we could go until we ran into snow.

From there we had something like six miles of road travel before we headed up into the mountains. Unfortunately the road wasn’t totally snow covered so travel was a mix of skinning and hiking with a few partial and full transitions.

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At mile 24ish we headed up the Boston Basin Climbers Trail to about 3700′, then continued onto 4600′ where we then went up between Midas and Morning Star creeks (you need to cross over above 4200′).

The weather on the way up was variable. Mostly cloudy, sometimes a little drizzle, towards the end though near white out!

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We set up camp at the knob at 6482′. Surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones there! We ran into the Smileys and their friends. Turns out that Chris knew them and we’d end up spending the next couple days together.

To save on weight we camped in a BD Mega Light Tent. This style of tent is floorless, kind of a cross between a normal tent and a snow trench and after three nights (one of which was really windy) I can say I highly recommend it!

Day 2: 2250′ climbing, 4250′ descending, 7 km

We woke up at 5am and I poked my head out thinking it was cloudy. Once I left the tent I realized I was just looking at the slope across from us and it was in fact a beautiful clear day with great views of Johannesburg and Sahale.

We set out at 7am for Shark Fin Col. Snow conditions were perfect. 6″+ of light snow. I was sure jealous of the party heading up to Sahale and then skiing down. They had perfect powder skiing in May!

When we reached Shark Fin Col we headed up the left side and found the snow to be “balls deep”. Given that it was so light we struggled to boot up the couloir and had to resort to shoveling it out. Mark said it was his first time shoveling out a couloir :).

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At the top of the couloir we rappeled off the summer climbers rock down something like 20m. Here’s Mark setting up the belay for his 60m rope:

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Here’s Tom heading down:

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Sadly by the time we got down we found that the fresh powder had already started to warm up. Regardless we got some good tracks in:

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We stayed above 6600′ and then headed over to Forbidden Col. There we found the couloir snow conditions warm and we kicked off a few small wet slides. While this Col was a little less challenging, it was still challenging. I was the second one up and found it tricky given that the rock was super fragile, easily breaking off. Folks behind me got short roped depending on their experience.

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Next up it was a huge descent down to Moraine Lake.

Here’s a photo courtesy of Martin Volken. Our tracks are on lookers left.

Forbidden Peak. Photo: Martin Volken

The path we took was to ski down to the Larch tree. From there we skied the fall line. (If the slope gets steeper than 30′ you’re going the wrong way.) We ended up heading a little too much skiers right. The other group went far skiers left but had some exposure to the hanging glacier.

We setup camp on the north-east side of the lake. Nice bonus of this camp site was fresh water from the lake.

Day 3: 2450′ climbing, 0 descending, 7 km

Another 5 am start time!

We started the day off by skiing across the lake then headed up to Inspiration Glacier.

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The conditions started off very firm requiring ski crampons. We also had to boot a few steeper sections.

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In terms of snow conditions, closer to camp and around 1 to 2pm pinwheels were pealing off the skin track.

After setting up camp just west of Klawatti Peak we had planned to head up Austera Peak but felt the wet slide hazard was too great so we relaxed and practiced crevasse rescue.

Our highlight of the night was when we checked in with Martin, owner of Pro Guiding, he said he’d be doing a flight over the North Cascades in a couple hours. Sure enough, two hours later a plane comes flying by! Sadly, no beer was tossed in our direction :).

Day 4: 2450′ climbing, 8100 descending, 13 km

Another early start!

The day started off with us descending into McAllister Basin. We stopped descending around 7000′ then headed up to Tepeh Col. Then did a quick traverse across to east ridge of Eldorado. Here we stashed our packs and stormed up the 1000′ feet to the summit of Eldorado.

Turns out the summit of Eldorado is a little pointy and we ended up booting about the last 100′. I was a little nervous but survived :). It was surprising to see that the group ahead of us and skinned almost to the top and then did a ski descent from the top. Ballsy. But I’m glad we booted up the last bit and glad we roped up going down.

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After a celebratory lunch we skinned across the Eldorado plateau, then skied across the Rousch Creek Divide at 6150′ and had snow to about 3800′ feet. Which is where we packed up our skis and started to boot. The first couple hundred feet was pretty steep and sketchier than a lot of the skiing we did! Just thin moss over steep rock.

Fortunately at 3500′ feet we picked up the Eldorado Climber’s Trail which I certainly wouldn’t have recognized. Fortunately Chris did. But trail is a generous designation! I lost track of how many trees we had to climb over and under. Here’s Devin going under one:

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And to exit back to the road we had to navigate a couple downed trees as bridges:

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Total:: 12,400 climbing and descending, 38 km

Foot issues

I’ve suffered through sweaty feet for years now. For day trips it really isn’t a big deal and for multi-day resort trips not a big deal as long as I dry my boots.

For multi-day ski trips though I’ve been really challenged by them. I’ve tried sleeping with my liners, using hand warmers, sunning them when I get to camp but nothing has worked.

For whatever reason on past multi-day trips it has been only a huge inconvenience. On this trip though, after probably 50 days in my boots this year, my feet reacted really badly. Maybe it was the new sock I tried on day 2 or maybe my feet were just tired but after day 2 my feet had some hot spots and my big toe was kinda sore. I put some Compeed patches on em and soldiered on. After day 3 my feet were getting pretty raw. On day 4 it was real painful getting going in the morning and just terrible booting down.

After getting home I posted about my general sweaty foot issues on Turns All Year where someone pointed me at vapor barrier socks which I promptly ordered. Can’t wait to try them out and wish I discovered them sooner! Now I just hope I don’t lose my big toe nail…

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One Response to Skiing the Forbidden Traverse

  1. Ow, ow, ow, losing a big toe sounds REALLY painful! But from the photos it looks like you had a worthwhile, rewarding trip! :)

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