Still wanting to do a climb in North Cascades National Park, I solicited Daniel for a midweek climb of the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak. I want to have climbed all three ridges on the mountain. Then of course, I’d have to come back and climb the wild and enticing Northwest rib. I thought the chances might be low that he could pull it off in such short notice, but either way, I’d be happy: If the trip fell through, I’d just stay in Robert’s cabin, extending my trip and building more trails. But, Daniel made it happen.
I was a little late in arriving the next day, and we wasted a bit of time hunting down the rope from a co-worker, but we arrived at the Boston Basin trailhead around 3pm, enough time for the relatively modest hike in. the trail was hot and the usual July biting flies were out, serving to push us onward and upward to our camp, somewhere beyond Sharkfin Col on the Boston Glacier.
(above) Sharkfin Tower is located between Boston Peak and Forbidden Peak
I have been to Boston Basin many times but never to Sharkfin col, the key to accessing the North Ridge route and, unfortunately, upon arriving in the high basin, I realized that our lack of planning might cost us, or so it would seem. Locating the col is tough; from below, there seems to be multiple possibilities, and all are unsavory. So, we moved right, looking for a break in the imposing cliffs. We found one, almost immediately underneath Sharkfin Tower. We hopped over the bergeschrund, climbed some low fifth class rock, and continued up to the base of the tower. The rock pitch wasn’t very hard, so we were skeptical that this was the route to Sharkfin Col. The view from the snowfield at the base of the tower confirmed it – the col was much farther below to the west. It was getting late at this point so we wondered what to do. Daniel suggested a climb of Sharkfin Tower instead of Forbidden. It didn’t take much persuasion; I’ve been stymied once on each ridge I’ve climbed. Maybe this was fate. Plus, I could use the extra time back in Seattle. OK, let’s do it!
But then, we had an even better idea: climb now, during the sunset, bivy at the base, and hike out in the morning.
We found a good bivy site, then headed up Sharkfin Tower for our sunset climb. The climb is great, I really can’t say enough about it. The only problem is it’s so short! There are only three pitches and all are easy. We soloed the first, a rather exposed but easy traverse to the base of the ridge. The second pitch is the money pitch – right up the edge of the ridge on solid granite. We just simuled through the third pitch to the summit just as the sky turned a deep orange.
The final rappel was by headlamp, but we were back to the bivy sites less than two hours later. After a late dinner (the sun went down around 9:30pm) we turned in, probably around 11pm.
I slept like a log on the edge of the cliff, much like Frodo and Sam in “Return of the King”. Daniel woke me up in the morning around 6:30. Apparently, he’d been up for a while taking pictures. It wasn’t until he had to say, “Uh, turn around and have a look”, that I realized just how fortunate we were. Iw as delighted to see the ocean clouds down in Boston Basin. I always enjoy being above the clouds.
Daniel patiently waited on me while I prepared my things. We made two rappels down to the Quien Sabe Glacier. Below the glacier, we began feeling raindrops. The rain was quite gentle at first, then stopped. A second gentle shower visted us, then stopped. It wasn’t until the third time that the rain we realized how fortunate we were that we didn’t find Sharkfin Col. The clouds opened up. I quickly pulled out my rain jacket, but Daniel, who only had a soft shell just endured the driving rain. My shell ended up making very little difference actually (and I am half wondering about the place that I ordered in from in the US…have they been importing fake goods from China?) It rained the whole way down and the wet brush caused the moisture to penetrate every dry spot. We were utterly soaked when we got back to the car. Good thing we weren’t on the North Ridge. To quote Daniel’s pithy comment: “What a wonderfully successful failure!”