Perfectly Forbidden


Forbidden Peak was first climbed by the Beckey brothers in 1940. In the ensuing decades the peak became an unavoidable classic of northwest alpine climbing. With good rock, reasonable difficulty, and incredible exposure, the West Ridge is unforgettable. But it took fifty-nine years for northwest ski mountaineers to uncover the ski touring counterpart to this classic climb. When Martin Volken and his party christened the Forbidden Tour in 1999, they probably couldn't guess that it would become perhaps the most-repeated glaciated ski tour outside the volcanoes.

The Forbidden Tour is reasonable--good conditions evolve almost every year, and the itinerary is physically attainable for the average ski mountaineer. But it's also not easy--the combination of crevassed glaciers, remote skiing and significant terrain bottlenecks requires a wide array of alpine skills and judgement. Careful timing--and a little patience--are rewarded with a safe trip and an incredible series of ski descents.

I went to the Forbidden last week with Daniel, and on the hike in we learned a startling fact. Each of us had produced a report on the North Cascades for a middle-school social studies class; in each case, it was seemingly a random choice. But the distant range began to exert its pull; we recalled the books and catalogs that followed, fueling the visions of high mountain travel that have haunted us for so long. It was an honor to bring Daniel into the mountains for his first glaciated ski tour--something he'd been dreaming of for over 20 years.

As usual, Daniel was fully prepared. He had trimmed his pack down to a respectable 35 pounds, selecting gear with the utmost care. He was plenty strong for the big push on the first day--from the car up to the Quien Sabe glacier. Most importantly, he brought excellent weather: high pressure, still winds, and clear nights.

I'll leave the rest of the story to a short film I put together. If you are new to this world of alpine ski touring, consider that the snowy paradise in this movie is just two and a half hours from Seattle--we can defensibly call this our backyard. Also, a brief caveat: In this film you are looking at some of the biggest glaciers in the lower 48, and while you won't see any rope-work taking place, please know that this trip is only safe and reasonable when you are equipped with the right glacier travel gear and knowledge of how to use it. We did in fact use the rope to rappel the backside of Sharkfin Col, to cross a broken section of the Inspiration glacier, and to secure our summit climb of Eldorado Peak. Whether you aspire to do the Forbidden yourself, or perhaps just need some ideas for a school report, please enjoy.

Martin' excellent guidebook chapter covering the Forbidden Tour can be found for sale here: