“I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau
The Torment Forbidden Traverse is the most extensive rock climbing route I’ve done to date. While not very technically inclined, it consists of a large quantity of class 4 and low 5th climbing and of course some mid 5th moves. It is said that every mountaineering skill you’ve learned will be used on this route. Both Mark and I agreed with this statement. From traversing talus, steep trails, glacier travel, rock climbing, loose rock scrambles, steep ledge traversing, down climbing, snow climbing, rappels, wet slabs, snow climbing, getting lost, and a big creek crossing. This route pushed us pretty hard, but we had an awesome time. Plus it was sweet to redo the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak which is listed on the 50 classics of North America. By the end of the trip we arrived exhausted at the car by 2:30 a.m.
Day 1: Climbing Mount Torment
It had been several months since I’ve seen my buddy Mark Straub who is currently living in New York. Due to his work schedule and having to pack we left my house around 12:30 a.m. On the way to the Boston Basin trailhead we both saw a guy walking in the middle of the road with fog all around. I can’t fully explain it, but this guy looked almost like a ghost. I relax thinking that it was me just being sleepy. A few seconds later Mark says “did you see that!?”. I guess you can see new things even after driving through this area a million times. Lets just say it was a weird sight. Any who, we arrived at the trailhead around 3:30 a.m. We decided to sleep in a little due to how late we arrived.
At about 7:20 a.m. we woke up and got ready for the big day ahead of ourselves. After taking a few more pictures we were on our way up to Boston Basin. I once read in a hiking book that it was rated “extreme”, I joked about it as we hiked up the trail. We arrived at Boston Basin at 10 a.m. where we snapped a lot of photos of the flowers and surrounding landscape. Mark and I stashed our approach shoes under a rock, I swapped into plastic boots.
The traverse over to Torment Basin was straight forward. On one of the talus fields a boulder slipt from underneath me. My leg fell into a slot and so did the boulder. I immediately panicked because I wasn’t sure what I did to my leg. After pulling it out of the hole I was relieved that I didn’t break it but did have to wait 10 minutes before evaluating it’s condition. Felt like such a silly place to get an injury, but at least it would be better here than on the traverse. Eventually I was able to walk on it again and announced that we could proceed. I do admit that it did hurt even a week later on my Johannesburg trip. If another boulder issue like this happened again, I would have had to call it quits.
With a little bit of traversing and scrambling we arrived in Torment Basin at about 12:15 p.m. At the glacier we roped up and proceeded to the hidden gully up to the south ridge of Mount Torment. With limited sleep and feeling hungry I was already feeling fatigued. Before arriving at the bergschrund we took a lunch break and let the party in front of us finish up the loose class 3/4 gully. After lunch we crossed the bergschrund and arrived at the hidden gully. Swapping into rock shoes was a little tricky with a heavy pack and all, but was manageable by putting my pack down into the moat. Then I had to carefully cross by Mark to start the belay. I stayed to the left to avoid rocks that were coming down the gully. Mark arrives at the belay station and belays me up. As the rope gets pulled in I saw a big knot in the rope which took some untangling. I carefully scramble up the class 3/4 gully.
At the top there was a low 5th class pitch to the belay station. From here Mark sets me on belay and now I’m on lead. We avoided the headwall in the ridge and went left of it. Staying on the south ridge but lightly west. After a few more pitches we arrive to a friendly saddle on the south ridge below the summit.
There is a perfect spot for putting two big packs on. Of course we used it. Being packless made the last part up Torment a lot easier and safer. From here we traversed upwards (right) along some ledges working around the summit. We went from the south ridge to it’s southeast side and then finished on the north east side. The true summit is the one on the left (south summit). It felt good to have a light breeze and a late afternoon sun. After making a careful photo exchange by traversing folks back and forth we started the descent.
After scrambling down the face we crossed a ledge that took us to the edge of the Torment Forbidden Traverse. Mark rappelled first and hopped over the moat. When I rappelled down, I span around a bit due to it being a huge over hang. “So this is what it’s like to be in space” I joked aloud as I tried not to get out of control. “Mark, how did you deal with this bergschrund” I yelled. “Go to the bottom and just make a jump for it” Mark replied. He was right, it was a simple swing out jump with having to catch the snow. It was fun to watch one of the other guys swing too far and have to swing back. “No going back” I whispered to myself as I looked up the formidable over hanging wall we just rappelled off of.
After putting things away we traversed around a crevasse and started traversing towards Forbidden Peak. While we traveled along side of a moat there was a crevasse on the other side of it. Mark decided to have us rope up which a belay was set up. Mark took the lead, once the rope ran out we simul climbed. As Mark was traversing on the rocks while I was still on the snow the rope got caught pretty hard on the rocks. I had to down climb into steep slushy snow to get it untangled. I then had to scramble up some dangerous talus to get back up on route. Mark wondered what was going on, “I had no choice” I announced as we arrive at a decent bivy spot. The sun was setting and we knew that we might be in trouble if we continued on. So we settled for a flattish rock spot on the traverse. It took a long time to melt snow even with keeping water in the container to speed up the process. After a good round of top romen we got ready for bed. Mark decided to sleep at a separate bivy site to prevent himself from rolling off a cliff in the middle of the night. On my end I faced the slope and had to make a rock pillow. City folks would call it terrible, but it was the best one would find in the area. While looking up at the stars I saw the flicker of thunder in the distance. I would wake up in the middle of the night due to large rock gaps and edges in my back.
Day 2: Torment Forbidden Traverse
In the morning I made a bowl of cereal using powdered milk. After breakfast we packed our gear and started up the traverse again. After passing around the corner Mark took the lead and we went up some easy 5th class.
At one point I came across a huge loose boulder in the route which left me no choice but to throw it down the mountain below me. As I bumped it down I had to be very careful not to knock it onto myself. Once it started coming down I had to give it a good shove and have it lightly fly over me. The usual explosion of rocks came with it’s crashing way down below into the glacier. The next section was a little tricky, while technically we did it unroped, it required much more caution. As we crossed a narrow ledge with heavy packs, I looked down. Normally I’m not afraid of heights but the fact that the pack would catch on the wall made it a bit more dangerous. The next section was a down sloping slab with poor hand holds but was fortunately manageable at a slow speed.
We arrived at the next bivy spot. Someone pooped right in the middle of the route which both Mark and I stepped in. We both had to clean our rock shoes and my hand. Errrrrrrrr. After what felt like 10 minutes of scrubbing we proceeded to the snow crossing. It looked a bit steep but fortunately there were bucket steps in it to make it more comfortable. We placed our axes in deep where we could and had quality crampons steps. I managed to enjoy it a bit.
At the next section Mark led and we traversed down onto the snow. Then we climbed up the snow slope to a nice break spot in the ridge. After resting we traversed onto the south side with a nice class 3 ledge. On the other side we walked along the ridge until it became knifey. Mark proceeded to lead this pitch. At the last part of the traverse I led which was mostly easy going.
The crux of the entire traverse may have been pulling the rope due to the intense rope drag. On the patio I was pulling until my arms were too tired to pull. Once the rope was pulled in we began our rappel down towards the bottom of the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak. Using the south side ledge we followed it upwards until we arrived at the West ridge.
It was about 5:00 p.m. and the weather was looking questionable. “Should we proceed” Mark asked. I already climbed this route but knew how much it would mean to Mark if we gave it a go. I was pretty sure the weather wouldn’t get too terrible. We free soloed the first part of the ridge to save time. Arriving at the air step I forgot how far down it was which one has to build up a little bit of confidence before making the step/jump. “We are flying up” I announced. Finally we had to rope up due to a down climb section that would have scared me a little bit unroped. The next two pitches Mark led to speed up the climb. As we get closer to the summit the clouds move in and were already hitting the summit. With a few more moves we arrived on the summit with only a moment to spare. After having a hasty snack we start the rush down the mountain.
The clouds where blowing in which blocked the views to the south. “Where are the rap rings?” I yell in a little bit of anger. Someone took most of them off the mountain! The previous year the raps down where amazing, but this year we ended up having to do a lot of down climbing 4th and low 5th class. Eventually we managed to get back onto the West ridge by traversing a edge of the face. Lucky for us a few rap rings were still there which we were able to do two rappels. We met up with the other group we saw on the Torment Forbidden Traverse which we shared a rope for rapping down.
After the last rap we hustled the rest of the way down the west ridge. The air jump was scarier looking than I remember it being. “How am I going to get across this thing” I semi joked to myself. After holding my breath I made the step/jump move. After a few more minutes we arrived at the gear stash and put things away. It was getting dark and we had to make as good of time as possible. As I walked down the gully I was reminded of how loose the rock was. When Mark arrived we down climbed to the first rappel station. Just above the rap station I was a bit freaked out because I had to down climb 4th class with a heavy pack while exhausted in plastic boots and high exposure. Mark gave me a “fall belay” here which helped me feel calmer for this. Chances of falling where actually quite high considering that I couldn’t make very good foot holds. I was relieved as I arrived at the rappel station. I let Mark go down first. As he went down the sun was setting which I took a few pictures due to having a short amount of free time.
From here it was a series of rappels down while trying not to knock down rocks onto each other including the other group. As we went down I became nervous as the atmosphere around us became dark blue. Had to make good time, hold fast, and be very careful. By the end of the last rappel it was night time. We pulled out our head lamps, ice axes, and crampons to down climb the gully. Oh the joys of down climbing snow in the dark.
Getting Lost on Waterfall Slabs
Earlier in the day I looked down the glacier to make sure we passed through the proper spot. After jumping over a moat we hiked the rest of the way down the glacier. The other team of climbers was ahead going off to the left. It was obvious they hit the big crevasse and could not proceed. We walked over a few small ones but had smooth sailing for the rest of the glacier travel. I thought for sure we were all good to go for getting off the mountain.
Once we got off the glacier it was time to navigate the waterfall slabs. There were cliffs underneath of us. I managed to get us a few hundred feet further down by traversing a sketchy edge with water flowing on us with slippery moss. Then we went to the left where we found ice chunks that fell off the glacier with more cliffs below. We went to the middle area where it was a complete headwall. I looked at my camera and found exactly where we were or at least where I believed we were. Unfortunately because of the perspective things were a little different from what they seemed. After heading way to the right the snow ended and we ended up at the edge of another major head wall. Mark proposed going down a steep wet mossy slope with cliffs below. “Mark, I really don’t feel comfortable with this” I anncounced to Mark. It would have been quite dangerous to go down at the very least. After an hour or so of wondering around in the dark Mark had us go through the left side to see how it would work out. Mark did quite well navigating down the slabs and eventually in to safety. I was so happy to be in Boston Basin. Looking up above I could see way up on the mountain where the other party was lost on the waterfall slabs.
Enduring an Exhausting Hike Out
We had our gear stashed under a rock. Fortunately I took a picture of it which I used to give us enough evidence to remember the area of which it was at. After 10 minutes or so of looking around we found them, put them on and continued the hustle down. I was quite pleased when I found the trail. A moment later we crossed a big snow patch and the trail was gone. “Where is it” I announced as I looked around for it. I decided to go downwards to meet up with the trail. Eventually we found one which ended up being a fake. The slope ahead looked totally wrong which meant we had to go back up. After doing a diagonal traverse we arrived on what appeared to be the main trail. After walking on it for 10 minutes I realized that it appeared to not be the trail we came up on. It was not as well maintained and had a lot of rocks on it making us slip a bit. After a while I starting thinking “please let this take us the right way, please let this be the right way”. If it was another fake I knew that we would be stuffed and wouldn’t have the energy to make it back down. To our excitement it eventually met up with the main trail. A moment later we arrive at the creek crossing.
The creek was raging, I had a hard time believing how much bigger it got. I was so exhausted that when I leaned over with my pack on, I tipped over and did a cheap catch. After a moment of struggling I was able to get back up from being on my face. We did a evaluation of the creek and could not find an easy crossing spot. So we decided to take off our shoes and cross bare foot. I had to use huge boulders to prevent myself from tipping over. The cold water was numbing cold, but we made it through in good time. After crossing the creek we put our shoes and socks back on and carried on down the trail.
For a while the traveling was decent until we got to the steep section of the trail. Falling down the trail was a serious possibility. There were some trip spots and lots of dirt being kicked around. We both took back our opinions of the trail not being extreme. It certainly is rated extreme when your tired, going down in the dark, and have a heavy packs on. After a long time of walking down in the dark and a few rests we arrived at the car. It was 2:30 a.m. which we were so excited. “What an epic trip” I announced. I was satisfied for a week – until our next big epic Johannesburg.
Special thanks to Steph Abegg for her great trip report which gave us some important clues on where to go and confidence of not getting lost. I admit at first glance the instructions left me very intimidated which is why I waited an extra year. But for a good reason.