My first foray into Boston Basin was to climb the Torment-Forbidden Traverse with Goran back in July of 2013. The phenomenal route finishes on the classic West Ridge of Forbidden Peak and, from the summit, the two other prominent and classic ridges of Forbidden are in plain view. Hence, the North Ridge had been on my radar for nearly two years before the temptation became irresistible.
The Nelson-Potterfield guide describes a NW Face variation to the complete, original 1952 Beckey line, but still offers the following wisdom: "the North Ridge on this impressive peak is...a major undertaking, requiring a wide range of mountaineering skills." Crux number one is the approach, requiring an ascent of Boston Basin, the West edge of the Quien Sabe Glacier, finding a rappel station just East of Sharkfin Col, rappelling onto the Boston Glacier, traversing the glacier to a prominent notch just shy of the ridge termination, and ascending that notch to a bivy. We got a leisurely start, departing the car at about 12:30pm. It was a little under 4 hours to the rappel station near Sharkfin Col on a very warm day which caused some serious sweating despite wearing running shorts and a tank top.
The rappel was barely necessary as we were hitting the route in early-season shape and the snow on the North side was nearly continuous to the col. Our glacier traverse went without incident and afforded breathtaking views across a sea of crevasses to Mount Buckner, which Kelsey and I had teamed up for last July. We wove our way through the crevasses and got below the bivy notch at about 6:30pm, so 6 hours from the car. The snow was pretty sloppy and steep to get to the ridge and the moat was significant, so we ascended the snow, taking our time to kick good steps since a fall would have ruined our whole day.
There were two bivy spots free of snow on the NE side of the ridge and we enjoyed one of the most stellar bivy views in the North Cascades while making dinner and nodding off. Given the hot temps and desire to really enjoy the hyped-up bivy, I packed in a liter of boxed Pino Grigio, which was lovely.
After consuming coffee and a phenomenal sunrise, we started moving at about 5:30am. The initial 5.6 technical crux, left-facing corner wasn't too tough and we quickly scampered across the ridge to the area where Beckey suggests staying on ledges to the East before regaining the ridge at 8,100 feet. We encountered quite a bit of snow here and traversed it a ways with rock pro every hundred feet or so until running up the steep snow to the ridge line at about 7am. There was a short bit of exposed rock ridge until we made it to the next snow patch, which was pretty flat.
The rock above this section looked improbably steep from afar, but we found good climbing just East of the ridge for the first 100 feet or so before getting onto the ridge proper and continuing along until the final snow section at about 9:30am. We avoided the large cornice and put our tools and crampons away after this snow section since it was clear from there to the summit. Again, the rock seemed improbably steep right at the ridge line, but we stayed very true to it from the snow to the summit. The final 50 feet had some perfect holds and cracks despite being pretty steep and finished on some easier moves before we arrived at the summit at about 12:30pm. We mostly simul-climbed, but did take our time on the route, given the snow and the fact that we weren't in a big hurry.
The view was, as expected, spectacular. Rainier, Glacier, Baker, Shuksan, Eldorado, and Buckner were all out in force. We descended the West Ridge to the notch, did two raps, and then worked our way down snow to the glacier before slogging out to the car. A great alpine ridge route in a stellar setting. It reminded me quite a bit of the NE Ridge on Triumph, but was much longer and more consistently exposed.