Forbidden Peak: A Pristine Gem in the North Cascades
Forbidden Peak

Forbidden Peak, situated in the North Cascades of Washington state, is a captivating and challenging mountain renowned for its jagged ridges, rugged beauty, and excellent alpine climbing opportunities. With its remote location and striking features, Forbidden Peak beckons climbers and adventurers seeking an extraordinary mountaineering experience.

For good reason, this is one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the entirety of the Cascade range. The routes are tidy and traditional, and the rock quality is satisfactory in comparison to other alpine climbing areas. The landscape that surrounds the peak is quite beautiful, and the vantage points there are hard to surpass.

A quote from the Nelson guide notes that “there is no easy way off Forbidden Peak; it is one of the most difficult descents in the range.” Bring supplies with you, but don’t let this put you off. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and it’s absolutely worth it.

Forbidden Peak is covered in volume II of Beckey’s guide. The first volume of Nelson and Potterfield’s Selected Climbs in the Cascades has information on all three direct ridge routes: the West Direct, the North Direct, and the East Direct.

Key Features:

  1. Elevation: Forbidden Peak reaches an elevation of 8,815 feet (2,687 meters) above sea level. While not as towering as some of its neighboring peaks, its technical difficulty and stunning surroundings make it a coveted destination for climbers.
  2. Location: This peak is part of the North Cascades, an extensive mountain range known for its pristine wilderness and dramatic terrain. Forbidden Peak is situated in the Boston Basin, providing a stunning backdrop for those exploring the region.

Activities and Attractions:

  1. Mountaineering: Forbidden Peak is a magnet for mountaineers and alpinists due to its technical routes and alpine climbing challenges. The West Ridge and the West Ridge-Couloir are among the popular climbing routes, offering a mix of rock and ice climbing. Climbers can expect to navigate steep, exposed terrain, making it an exhilarating endeavor.
  2. Scenic Beauty: While climbers face the peak’s technical difficulties, they are rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the North Cascades. The rugged terrain, deep valleys, glaciers, and alpine lakes create a picturesque backdrop that photographers and nature enthusiasts will appreciate.
  3. Hiking and Backcountry Exploration: For those not attempting the summit, the surrounding area offers fantastic hiking and backcountry exploration opportunities. Hikers can follow the trail to Boston Basin and delight in the wildflower-covered meadows and dramatic views. It’s an excellent way to enjoy the North Cascades without the rigors of mountaineering.
  4. Wildlife Watching: The North Cascades are home to diverse wildlife, including black bears, marmots, mountain goats, and various bird species. Observing these creatures in their natural habitat is a highlight for wildlife enthusiasts.

How to Get There:

  • Access to Forbidden Peak typically begins with a drive to Marblemount, Washington. From there, adventurers often proceed by hiking to Boston Basin, the primary base camp for climbers aiming to summit Forbidden Peak.

Climbing the Forbidden Peak

Forbidden Peak is a hidden gem in the Cascade Valley. It is on Washington’s 100 steepest list and on the Washington Top 100 in North Cascades National Park.

The “great obelisk of rock” is a characteristic horn formed by multiple glacial cirques merging. Three spectacular ridges—N, W, and E—radiate from the summit, Alpine Grade II-III and 5.2-5.8 (route and guide). The icefield and valley vistas, alpine approaches, rock quality, sheer magnificence, and summit location make this a memorable and stunning ascent by any route. Fred Beckey’s Challenge of the North Cascades chapter describes the initial ascent well. Before his first ascent party coined the “Forbidden” name in the early 1940s, the mountain was known as Mt Forgotten and Isosceles Peak (since the summit pyramid looks triangular from almost all vantage points above the tree line except when foreshortened from close beneath Boston Basin or Boston Glacier, etc.).

Due to its inclusion in the 50 North American Classic Climbs, the West Ridge gets the greatest attention. The attention is well-deserved, but don’t expect a lonely day on the path. The East Ridge Routes are more difficult (5.7-5.8 on the Direct Ridge) or loose and unpleasant (NE Ledge AKA Northeast Face had a tragic fall on traverse in 1975) than the North Ridge. The warm south face is downslabbed and has 8-10 pitches of Grade III-IV / 5.10-A3 alpine rock climbs. Selected Cascade Climbs says “There is no easy way off Forbidden Peak.” Yep. Many of us have felt uneasy on Forbidden’s top after only half the trek… Sources: Beckey Guide Vol 2 and Potterfield and Nelson’s Selected Climbs in the Cascades.

Creating an itinerary for climbing Forbidden Peak in the North Cascades requires careful planning to ensure safety and a successful ascent. Here’s a sample itinerary that covers a five-day climb:

Day 1: Arrival and Acclimatization

  • Arrive in the North Cascades and settle in at a nearby campsite or lodge.
  • Spend the day acclimatizing to the higher altitude and conducting gear checks.
  • Briefing and orientation with the climbing team and guide (if applicable).
  • Review the climbing plan, safety protocols, and emergency procedures.

Day 2: Approach to Base Camp

  • Begin the trek to the base camp. The approach typically takes several hours and involves hiking through forested areas and meadows.
  • Set up the base camp at a suitable location near Forbidden Peak’s base. Ensure all necessary supplies, including tents, food, and equipment, are in order.
  • Conduct a group briefing on the climb’s logistics, safety measures, and environmental considerations.
  • Rest and prepare for the climb ahead.

Day 3: Ascent to High Camp

  • Early morning start for the ascent to the high camp. This involves crossing snowfields and glaciers, and climbers should be roped up for safety.
  • Arrive at the high camp and establish tents. Check and organize gear for the summit push.
  • Hydrate, eat, and get an early night’s rest in preparation for the summit day.

Day 4: Summit Day

  • An alpine start in the early hours to maximize the climbing window and avoid softening snow and potential rockfall.
  • Ascend Forbidden Peak’s technical sections, including steep rock faces and snow slopes. Climbers must navigate challenging terrain and use technical equipment.
  • Reach the summit and savor the incredible views of the North Cascades.
  • Descend safely to the high camp, where climbers can rest and recover.

Day 5: Descent and Return

  • After breakfast, pack up the high camp and begin the descent to the base camp.
  • Return to the trailhead, celebrating the successful climb.
  • Debrief with the climbing team and guide (if applicable).
  • Drive back to the point of origin or to nearby accommodation for a well-deserved rest.

Please note that climbing Forbidden Peak can be physically demanding and should only be attempted by experienced climbers or under the guidance of a certified mountaineering guide. Climbers should always consider weather conditions, safety protocols, and environmental responsibilities while planning and executing the climb. Additionally, this is a general trekking itinerary, and actual details may vary based on your group’s experience, route choice, and other factors.

Getting There

Google Maps Easy instructions gives you accurate instructions from your location.
From Seattle, travel I-5 north to Arlington and turn right onto highway 530 at exit 208. Shortly after turning left into highway 9 in downtown Arlington, the roadway turns right onto route 530 east to Darrington. At Darrington, where the road ends, turn left onto northbound highway 530. After 19 kilometers, turn right onto route 20 toward Marblemount. About 7.5 brings you to Marblemount. After passing many petrol stations, stay straight onto the Cascade River Road as the route turns. This road leads to Forbidden Peak’s “trailhead” past mile marker 22. Remember that the last 10 miles are gravel and wash away almost every year. You may pull off before the Cascade Pass trailhead on the left side of the road when traveling up.


Forbidden Peak, situated in the North Cascades of Washington State, is a striking and challenging mountain for climbers. Its name is a testament to its formidable nature, and while there are several routes leading to its summit, all require technical climbing skills and should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers. Here are some of the primary routes to the summit of Forbidden Peak:

  1. West Ridge: The West Ridge route is the most popular and iconic way to ascend Forbidden Peak. It offers a mix of rock and snow climbing and is renowned for its incredible exposure. Climbers can expect to navigate steep rock faces, narrow ridges, and snowfields. This route requires technical skills and gear for rock and ice climbing.
  2. East Ridge: The East Ridge is another challenging route to the summit. It involves a combination of rock and snow climbing, with steep terrain and difficult route-finding. Climbers should be prepared for steep snow slopes and potentially icy sections. Like the West Ridge, this route demands technical expertise and appropriate equipment.
  3. North Ridge: The North Ridge is a less frequently attempted route, but it offers a thrilling and demanding climb. This route involves mixed climbing with rock and ice sections. Climbers should be prepared for steep, exposed terrain and should be proficient in alpine climbing techniques.
  4. West Ridge Direct: This is a variation of the West Ridge route, which offers a more direct line to the summit. It includes challenging rock climbing sections and is often chosen by climbers seeking a more technical ascent.
  5. West Ledges: The West Ledges route is considered a less technical and less challenging way to reach the summit. It primarily involves glacier travel and a snow gully, making it a relatively safer option for experienced climbers. However, it’s important to note that even this route requires glacier travel skills and awareness of crevasse hazards.

Before attempting any of these routes on Forbidden Peak, it’s crucial to have proper training, experience, and equipment. Climbers should also check weather conditions, avalanche forecasts, and have a thorough understanding of the route, as the North Cascades can be treacherous and unpredictable. Additionally, considering the technical nature of these routes, it’s advisable to go with an experienced climbing partner or hire a local guide for added safety and support. Climbing Forbidden Peak can be a rewarding adventure for those with the necessary skills, but safety should always be the top priority.


Camping is at “designated Wilderness sites”. Marblemount’s Wilderness Center has a map. Lower camps are around 5600-5800 ft while high camps are at 6350-6600 feet near an ancient moraine. Forbidden Peak climbs are ideal from high camps, however bivy sites on the lower spur to the East Ridge near the glacier are conceivable. Camping on fresh earth or flora/tundra is prohibited. camp on bare rock/snow or authorized areas!

No camping costs. No climbing costs. Only trailhead parking fees.

Mountain Conditions

This mountain can be safely climbed in normal weather, but in poor weather, it lives up to its name! Make sensible decisions, check the weather, and know when to turn around.

See the Noaa Forecast for weather updates.

Contact the Northwest Avalanche Center November–April. Few would attempt this mountain at that time of year, but hard-core climbers do. Winter conditions at this mountain are harsh.

For road conditions, visit the National Park Service website and scroll to “Cascade River Road”.

Forbidden Peak is a symbol of the North Cascades’ wild and rugged allure, drawing climbers from around the world. While it may not be the tallest peak in the region, its challenging technical routes, stunning vistas, and remote wilderness make it an attractive destination for those seeking a mountaineering adventure. Whether you’re attempting a daring ascent or simply basking in the beauty of the North Cascades, Forbidden Peak offers an unforgettable experience in the heart of Washington state’s mountainous wilderness.

Forbidden Peak vs Uhuru Peak (Kilimanjaro)


  • Forbidden Peak: Located in the North Cascades of Washington State, USA, Forbidden Peak is part of the Cascade Range, known for its rugged and pristine wilderness.
  • Uhuru Peak: Situated on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, East Africa, Uhuru Peak is Africa’s highest point and one of the Seven Summits, making it a globally recognized destination.

Climbing Difficulty:

  • Forbidden Peak: Climbing Forbidden Peak is characterized by its technical difficulty. Most routes require advanced rock and ice climbing skills. The West Ridge, in particular, is renowned for its exposure and steep rock faces.
  • Uhuru Peak: While reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is a high-altitude challenge, it is generally considered less technical than Forbidden Peak. Climbers primarily hike through various terrains, including scree and snow, with no need for extensive rock or ice climbing skills.


  • Forbidden Peak: The North Cascades provide a stunning alpine environment with lush forests, glaciers, and diverse wildlife. Climbers can expect a combination of rock and snow climbing, creating a versatile climbing experience.
  • Uhuru Peak: Mount Kilimanjaro offers a diverse ecological experience. Climbers traverse multiple climate zones, including tropical rainforests, moorlands, alpine deserts, and glaciers. This range of environments makes it a unique and beautiful journey.


  • Forbidden Peak: Forbidden Peak is a favorite among mountaineers who seek a challenging yet rewarding ascent. It allows climbers to test and enhance their climbing skills while enjoying the breathtaking wilderness setting. The views from the summit are awe-inspiring and provide a sense of accomplishment.
  • Uhuru Peak: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and reaching Uhuru Peak is significant for its cultural and natural importance. It is a bucket-list adventure for many, offering the opportunity to experience the stunning African landscape and the sense of accomplishment associated with reaching the highest point on the African continent.

In conclusion, Forbidden Peak and Uhuru Peak offer distinct mountaineering experiences. Forbidden Peak is for experienced climbers looking for technical challenges and the beauty of the North Cascades in the United States. Uhuru Peak, on the other hand, provides an accessible high-altitude trek that allows climbers to explore diverse ecosystems and experience the cultural and natural significance of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. The choice between these peaks ultimately depends on your climbing skills, preferences, and the type of adventure you seek.

Similarities between Forbidden Peak and Uhuru Peak

While Forbidden Peak and Uhuru Peak are distinct in many ways, they do share some similarities, albeit on a broader scale:

  1. Natural Beauty: Both peaks offer breathtaking natural beauty and stunning landscapes. Forbidden Peak boasts the rugged beauty of the North Cascades, while Uhuru Peak provides sweeping views of the African continent, including the picturesque plains of Tanzania.
  2. Mountaineering Experience: Climbing both peaks requires a degree of mountaineering experience and physical fitness. Although the technical difficulty varies significantly, climbers on either peak should be prepared for a challenging adventure.
  3. Adventure and Exploration: Whether in the North Cascades of Washington or on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, climbers are drawn to these peaks for the sense of adventure and exploration. Both offer a chance to connect with nature in pristine environments.
  4. Sense of Accomplishment: Reaching the summit of Forbidden Peak or Uhuru Peak is a significant achievement. Climbers on both peaks experience a profound sense of accomplishment and often take away lifelong memories from their journeys.
  5. Environmental Awareness: Climbers on both peaks are exposed to a range of ecosystems. While Forbidden Peak includes alpine environments and glaciers, Uhuru Peak offers a unique opportunity to traverse from tropical rainforests to alpine deserts, fostering an awareness of environmental diversity.
  6. Cultural Significance: While the cultural context differs significantly, both peaks hold cultural significance. Forbidden Peak is situated in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where Native American tribes have cultural ties to the land. On the other hand, Mount Kilimanjaro and Uhuru Peak have cultural importance in Tanzanian and Maasai traditions.

Forbidden Peak and Uhuru Peak, despite their differences in location, climbing difficulty, and cultural context, both offer unique and enriching mountaineering experiences. These similarities in terms of natural beauty, the challenge of the climb, the sense of accomplishment, environmental awareness, and cultural significance demonstrate the profound and transformative impact that mountain adventures can have on those who undertake them.


About Author



Leave a Reply