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North Cascades Alpine Climbing Objectives

Posted Monday, December 28, 2020

The Pacific Northwest's Cascade Range is an excellent place to both learn glacial mountaineering skills and to put your ice and rock climbing to the test in an alpine context. It's hard to narrow down the premium options from such a large pool, but below I've listed some of the more noteworthy objectives, along with links to MountainProject descriptions and then a brief summary/commentary by me. Do take a look at them, consider the possibilities, and be in touch!


Boston Basin is an area with about a 2-3hr hike in. Once in, all of the following objectives are possible. One objective would be a 3-day trip. Putting two or more together would be 3+ days, and that offers the advantage of having some weather "wiggle room" and getting the most value out of your travel/approach time.

  • Sahale: An excellent intro to glacial mountaineering.
  • Sharkfin Tower: A wonderful alpine rock climb, can sometimes be combined with a Sahale summit in a single day.
  • West Ridge of Forbidden: Cascades classic with 5.6 rock and steep snow/glacier travel.
  • North Ridge of Forbidden: A real all-mountain adventure, with rock, steep snow/ice, and glaciated travel. 
  • Torment-Forbidden Traverse: This is an advanced-level traverse along one-mile of mountain spine between Torment and Forbidden Peak. It requires a variety of mountain skills and 5.6 climbing.


This is a heavily glaciated peak that provides a great training intro to glacial mountaineering. For those with some ice climbing experience, the North Ridge is an option. Some ice climbing experience can be gained through practice at the base of the Coleman Glacier, climbing glacial ice. A trip focused solely on climbing would be 3-days; adding in training in mountaineering fundamentals, ice climbing, advanced crevasse rescue, etc would be additional days. Additionally, a climb of nearby Colfax Peak helps to build skills and is a lovely objective in its own right.


Shuksan is "The Matterhorn of America". This jagged Northwest peak doesn't get nearly the attention it should--offering an array of glacial mountaineering and alpine rock/ice options. Some of the favorites are:

  • Fisher Chimneys to the SE Ridge: This really is an all-around alpine adventure, requiring basic rock climbing, glacial travel, and steep snow skills--all in a breathtaking setting.
  • North Face: Another full-mountain experience, the North Face Route takes you on a circumnavigation of almost the entire mountain, requiring skills in ascending, descending, steep snow, and rock skills.


There are two ways to get into Eldorado Peak and they are both--to be clear--both are demanding and often require a full day. But, once you're into the basin, it is a remote, pristine, and rugged wilderness experience. Eldorado is a minimum 3-day trip, but given the effort to get in, it's wise to add on another objective while in there. There are many objectives possible around Eldorado, the most popular are:

  • East Ridge: An excellent glacial mountaineering experience up a snowy spine to the top of the sharks-tooth top of Eldorado.
  • NW Ridge of Dorado Needle: A rock climbing adventure perched above massive glaciers.

Well, there's enough listed above to fill an alpine plate for at least a whole summer! After you've had a chance to review and reflect on the options, do be in touch to let me know what calls out to you--then let's make it happen together.