Climbing Conditions - Boston Basin Area

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Forbidden approach 9-16-23
Approach to Forbidden 9/16.  There was little water after this point.

T. Denison/NPS

September 16, 2023
Boston Basin is like a landscape painting filled with beautiful fall colors and fat, happy marmots. Bears have been seen often in the area near the camps but have not approached people – remember to bring require bear-proof food storage. Water is still plentiful at both camps and on the approach to Forbidden. There is still an active bee nest on the trail just below the first major creek crossing.

West Ridge Forbidden: It is currently (unprecedentedly?) possible to climb the W Ridge without touching snow or ice. Climbers are encouraged to get an early start with the shorter fall days, and to keep in mind that it is a very popular climb and congestion can slow traffic; parties are often seen descending in the dark, which is not recommended. It is possible to descend by rappelling and walking down ledges entirely on the skier’s right side of Cat Scratch Gully and not enter the gully on descent. As always, be cautious of rockfall between multiple parties in Cat Scratch. Remember that rodents live on the ridge – leaving food unattended while climbing creates a bad situation for everyone.

Sahale: Parties are still climbing the Quien Sabe route using several thick snowbridges over large crevasses. The upper glacier requires travelling on a steep slope above a crevasse where a fall would be very consequential.
Quien Sabe 9-02-23
Quien Sabe Glacier seen from Sharkfin Tower 9/02/23 - note the narrow sunlit path through crevasses.

T. Denison/NPS

September 02, 2023
Bears still roam the Basin but have not been reported near the bivy areas. There are, however, bees present on the trail which have been aggressive and stung several parties. The nest is in a rotting log located just before (downhill of) the first major stream crossing at Midas Creek. There are small notes uptrail and downtrail marking the nest and directing people to hike around uphill (easy).

Sharkfin Tower: There is no substantial moat to access the approach gully, nor any snow travel at all after leaving the glacier The gully itself is very loose with water actively running through it - parties should be careful of causing rockfall while ascending and rappelling down next to the gully. The SE Ridge route is in fine shape otherwise, with rappel anchors offering several rappel route options: from the summit directly or from the top of the second pitch.

Sahale via Quien Sabe: The glacier is very bare with exposed crevasses throughout hindering almost all travel. It is still possible, however, to hug the far climber's left side passing beneath Sharkfin Tower to the upper glacier and saddle of Boston and Sahale - this requires some zig-zagging and crossing two narrow but thick snow bridges across very large crevasses. Boston Peak is actively shedding rockfall just above this path. Climbers on the steepest section of the upper glacier will be directly above the largest crevasse where an unarrested fall would be catastrophic. This area is still snow-covered with no exposed ice, but snow is slushy late in the day. There is no substantial moat to get into the Boston-Sahale col, and no further snow travel required to summit Sahale.
East Ridge Forbidden
East Ridge of Forbidden Peak

NPS/D. Visnick

August 11th, 2023
East Ridge Forbidden: NOCA Climbing Ranger's ventured to one of Forbidden Peaks' less frequented ridges today. Conditions were quite good as the approach from the upper bivy's was dry all the way to the ridge. The approach gully consists of quite a bit of loose rock and scree, so be mindful of parties above and below when navigating this terrain. There is a good water source from glacier runoff as you enter the gully just above the upper bivy sites. The ridge itself consisted of exposed knife ridge traversing and steep pitches up several gendarmes along the way. The rock is mostly solid, but there are several loose blocks so be sure to test holds before commiting. Some lichen covered rock can pose a challenge when trying to find good friction. Rangers opted out of the East Ledges descent and descended the West Ridge to Cat Stratch Gully. Nothing new to report here, just please make sure to be careful with rope management and loose rock on the West Ridge and the Cat Scratch Gully while descending. The snow at the base of Cat Scatch Gully is melting fast, but there currently remains a ~150' patch of steep blue ice/snow from the base of the last rappel to the dry rock slabs below. Consider this terrain when planning what equipment to bring as a slip here could lead to serious injury. Several Bears were seen around Boston Basin upper and lower bivy's so please be responsible with food storage
Late season, firm snow below the Cat Scratch Gullies
Wildfire haze obscuring firm grey snow below the Cat Scratch Gullies on August 6, 2023.
Boston Basin: Late summer conditions have arrived in the North Cascades, including large moats, small snowpatches, ripe berries, and wildfire smoke. There is some wildfire smoke in Boston Basin from the Sourdough Fire, but it is not bad at this time. There is a little smoke smell in the air at times, but visibility is not limited and it does not feel as though you are breathing smoke while hiking or climbing.

There are bears around, and for the most part they seem to be happy eating berries and keeping to themselves. Please remember to store food properly at all times and keep a clean camp, as we don’t want these bears to get even the smallest food reward. The bears in Boston Basin seem to be used to climbers moving between the camps and on the normal approaches, but remember that they are wild animals and we must give them space if they are on or near the routes we frequent.

Forbidden: There is only a couple hundred feet of snow below the Cat Scratch Gullies, but this does not mean you should leave the sharps at home. The snow that remains is very firm, and feels more like ice at most times of the day. We strongly recommend steel crampons and ice axes for parties going up any of the routes on Forbidden.

Sahale: The Quien Sabe Glacier has a lot of exposed ice at this time. Teams are still able to navigate around crevasses, but the amount of ice warrants the use of steel crampons, an ice axe, and potentially some ice screws in addition to pickets to protect the route.
North Ridge/NW Face Variation
Looking at Forbidden from the North Ridge - views of NW Face variation


July 29, 2023
Forbidden - North Ridge
Shark Fin Col ascent is completely snow free, including the alternative gully to climber’s right. The descent can be rappelled with a single 60m rope with some down climbing or using an intermediate pin anchor on skier’s left. There is currently a large, detached hanging snow mushroom in the gully. Traversing to the Boston Forbidden Col on the Boston Glacier requires some navigation and end running. Rangers traversed the Boston Glacier to the Boston/Forbidden Col and gained the North Ridge down low. Moats are getting larger and will soon pose a challenge to transition from the glacier to rock. There are enough bivy sites on this col for roughly 4 people, and no water sources nearby. Further south on the ridge, there are additional bivy sites with water sources at ~8000' on the ridge. The North Ridge route is completely snow free for climbing. There are 2 areas on the route that allow for easy snow access for water. The NW Face snow climb variation requires multiple transitions as it is no longer a fully connected snow slope. Route appears to mainly be an ice climb now and picket placement may be difficult. (ice screws recommended for protection).

Forbidden – West Ridge
Approach is snow-free until a couple hundred feet of steeper ice/snow at the base of cat scratch gully. Ice axes and crampons are recommended for this section as a fall can be consequential. Rangers observed a significant human triggered rock fall event down the south face from a rappel on the West Ridge. Be super mindful when pulling ropes and be sure to test the rock. Bears & rodents were observed lingering around both the upper and lower bivy sites in Boston Basin, be diligent about food storage.
Quien Sabe 6-28-23
Quien Sabe Glacier and Sahale Peak 6/28/23.

T. Denison/NPS

June 28, 2023

Boston Basin
Basin's lookin' great! The Boston creek crossing has chilled out and can be forded safely with slightly wet feet or one can maintain dry feet with some rock hopping. The Lower Bivy sites are snow free and dry, and the toilet is in good shape. There are three snow-free sites (for 2 or 3-person tents) at the Upper Bivy area that are currently flooded but should dry within a week or so; the upper toilet is also melted out and usable.
Forbidden: Both the West Ridge and the East Ridge climbing routes are snow free and climbing well once you are on route. For the W Ridge the Cat Scratch Gully is probably the way to go. The snow couloir has several discontinuities and open moats on the sides. As always, watch out for loose rock and be aware of other parties in Cat Scratch.
Sahale: The Quien Sabe Glacier is in good shape with of snow still covering most of the crevasses. The bergschrund has opened about halfway across the upper slope. Early morning with an overnight freeze will provide the best snow for travel, and as it warms up be aware of punchy snow and the possibility of falling through weak snow bridges. There are still multiple route options to get to the Boston-Sahale Col.
Sharkfin: Snow still exists in Sharkfin gully with a high potential of rock-fall as the gully warms up throughout the day. The rocks in this approach gulley are wet and make for difficult and insecure climbing. The moat at the entrance of the gully poses as a challenge for climbers, and will continue to change as warm temperatures persist. The route itself on Sharkfin is completely snow free.
09-14-22 Boston Basin Patrol
Looking up at the West Ridge route from a couple hundred feet below



Boston Basin
Conditions in Boston Basin are transitioning from summer to fall, with foliage changing color, cool morning temperatures, and shorter days. There is little snow left below the Cat Scratch Gulley, or below the Quien Sabe Glacier, so expect longer rock slab approaches. The slabs below the Cat Scratch Gulley is threatened by serac chunks sliding and falling from the bottom of the remnant glacier that lies beneath the South Face of Forbidden.

We urge people to watch weather forecasts closely, and remember that bears are fattening up for the upcoming winter, consuming all the calories they can find. Make sure to properly store your food - do not leave food or smellable items unattended. And make noise on the trail as bears are distracted and might not notice you approaching.
Boston and Sahale Peaks
Boston Peak and Sahale Peak, with the Quien Sabe Glacier. Photo by NPS/F.Preston.


Boston Basin
Permits for Boston basin are hard to get right now, with parties spread out between Forbidden’s West Ridge, the Torment-Forbidden Traverse, and the North Ridge of Forbidden, as well as parties on Sahale, Boston Peak and Sharkfin Tower. Travel and climbing conditions are generally good, with some firm but not icy snow in the early hours and soft snow during the warm afternoons. The transitions from snow to rock are becoming more challenging as the warm afternoons melt snow and increase the size of the moats, bergschrunds and open crevasses. The warmer days are making creek crossings more difficult in the afternoons, but people seem to be finding acceptable crossings despite the variability in water levels.

A few different bears are regulars in the Basin, often seen enjoying the berries and generally avoiding people. We remind and urge people to keep clean camps, store all food and scented items properly, and make noise while traveling to avoid habituation or incidents with bears or other wildlife. Some teams have also seen goats in the bivy sites, but they seem to come in and out of the area and there have not been issues at this time

Quien Sabe 7-31
Quien Sabe Glacier & Sahale



Boston Basin: Even with the current closure on Cascade River Road, the basin is busy. Most parties are camping at the higher bivy site and going for the West Ridge of Forbidden. Several upper bivy sites are now snow-free and both the upper & lower bivy toilets are useable. Please do not put any food or trash into the toilets as this negatively affects the composting process. On the approach, several parties found the crossing of Boston Creek difficult as temperatures increase, especially in the afternoon. Optional crossings can be found higher up the creek.

Forbidden: Cat Scratch Gully is now the preferred approach for this climb, however there is still some snow travel left at the base that some parties found challenging. As a reminder, Cat Scratch Gully has a lot of loose rock and rock-fall potential is high with multiple parties travelling through it. We strongly recommend parties to rope up this section. The West Ridge itself is completely snow free.
Sahale Summit
Sahale shoulder and summit


Sahale: After a long heat wave, the Quien Sabe Glacier is melting out quick and large crevasses have formed & are growing. The current glacier climb is no longer direct and does involve some end running. The shoulder is mostly rock travel with a single section of low angle snow. The final pitch to the summit is completely snow free.

Sharkfin: Snow still exists in Sharkfin gully with a high potential of rock-fall as the gully warms up throughout the day. A large moat at the entrance of the gully still poses as a challenge for climbers. The route itself on Sharkfin is completely snow free.
W Ridge Forbidden approach 7/20/22
Zoomed-in photo of the W Ridge Forbidden approach.  Note the crack across the lower couloir and the steep snowfield just under the notch at the start of the W Ridge route.

NPS/T. Denison


The switch got flipped to "summertime" and Boston Basin is in rapid transition. The initial crossing of Boston Creek when entering the basin can be done without getting wet with some rock-hopping. The toilets at both bivy areas are melted out and usable. The lower bivies have many snow-free sites while the upper area has only one site with room for a 2-person tent. A large billy goat has been hanging around the lower area - try to pee away from campsites so as not to lure it into camp.

The approach to W Ridge of Forbidden is presenting mid-season challenges. The snow couloir is fully transected by a crack requiring lowering in and climbing out on reported 5.8 movement to regain the snow above - most parties are now opting for Catscratch Gully. There is still a snowfield present where the Gully and Couloir join eachother, which some parties are protecting with pickets on ascent and rappeling on descent - it's worth bringing boots and ice axes up to the W Ridge notch for this snowfield.

The Quien Sabe route up Sahale is in fine shape, with the bergschrund easily bypassed on the right side.
west ridge 7-13-22
Looking at the access gulley to the West ridge from across Boston basin

NPS/ K.Vollinger


Boston Basin: Snow started just before tree-line on the climbers' trail. The main creek crossing to the lower bivy has melted out, expect to get your feet wet. There is a snow crossing further up but it will not last much longer. Listen for rushing water under the snow before walking across it and give holes in the snow above rushing water a wide berth.

There are camp spots on rock melting out at the lower bivy. The toilet at the lower bivy is melted out and open. The upper bivy is under snow currently and the toilet is still completely buried.

Sharkfin: The morning rangers went to climb sharkfin the couloir to access it had looked like solid snow from a distance . The bottom turned out to be mostly unsupported blocks that later collapsed that day when they baked in the sun. This makes the access via the couloir more hazardous and potentially not feasible until the larger blocks meltout. The rangers climbed a low angle crack system with an established rap line instead about 50 ft left of the couloir. The most difficult part was stepping across the moat starting to form at the bottom. Movement was probably about 5.5-5.6. The actual route of sharkfin was mostly clear of snow but for a couple of patches on the ledges on the north side on the last pitch. One can avoid pulling out their ice gear or cutting steps, but it wont be the easier ledge walking you usually expect this time of year.
QS 7-13-22
Quien Sabe Glacier and Sahale Peak


Sharkfin Col: The standard access to Boston Glacier through Sharkfin Col requires crossing a moat and climbing loose 4th class. Alternately the snow ramp to climber's right is continuous and may offer another option for rappelling onto the North-side glacier.

Forbidden: The access couloir to the west ridge is becoming more difficult with a bergschrund forming above the central rock outcropping at the bottom. Some reported getting on the rock to navigate around it. Conditions are changing rapidly however and expect this moat to rapidly grow. The cat scratch gulley is not melted out and sounds like it might be an exposed snow fin to get to the top of and folks are rapping the couloir late in the day. New anchors and old anchors are being used and not all are reliable in this very dynamic environment. There are only a few patches of snow left on the West ridge and you can easily climb around them so it is reasonable to leave your snow gear at the notch.

Sahale: The Quien sabe glacier is looking like it is in excellent condition, though you can see troughs forming and opening where the highway of tracks went. Just because someone crossed a bridge before you does not mean it is good for you to cross now. There is exposed rock on the shoulder and at the summit. So you may need rock gear and to rappel what you climbed up.
6-19-22 BB lower bivy
View of Boston Basin lower bivy sites


June 19, 2022
Boston Basin
For those looking to go to Boston Basin, plan for extra time to get to the trailhead as the gate is closed at the Eldorado Climbers Trailhead. This adds just over 2 miles of road walking to access the climber's route. Roadwork and repairs are underway, but there is no estimate of when the road will open past Eldorado at this point. The climbers route to Boston Basin is snow-free until about 4300’, where more continuous snow fully obscures the trail. Off trail navigation skills are necessary for getting to the camps. Below treeline there is still 2-3 feet of snow, while above treeline there is much more snow remaining.
6-4-22 Boston Basin from Cascade Pass
View of Boston Basin from Cascade Pass


June 5, 2022
Boston Basin
There are only 2 weeks until the Summer Solstice, but the mountains may not have gotten the memo just yet. With a wet, cold, snowy April and May continuing into the first week of June, the snowpack in Washington is well above average for this time of year. Snotel averages show anywhere from 150% to nearly 350% of normal for June 4, depending on what part of Washington you are looking at. In much of North Cascades National Park, snowline is still below 4000’, even on south facing aspects. Many roads are blocked by snow below the trailheads and impassable to vehicles.

Keep in mind that “above average snowpack” can be misleading if just looking at a percentage. Thunder basin snotel site, for example, is well above average for this date (currently 1500%), and the site currently has 20” of snow on the ground. Easy Pass is also above average at 130% snowpack but is recording 130” or over 10 feet.

This amount of snow may sound great to some people and not as great to others. For skiers and riders, it is great to be able to utilize the flotation provided by backcountry gear. For climbers, it might mean more challenging approaches, snow on route, and lots of post-holing. Consider bringing snowshoes depending on the objective. For overnight visitors it might mean melting snow for water if the creeks are still far below the surface of the snow.

One thing that backcountry rangers have noticed in recent weeks is that the snow is wet and heavy and not freezing overnight. This seems to be true at fairly high elevations, and for different areas including Rainy Pass, Cascade Pass, and Hannegan Pass. The slushy conditions have made for slow travel, at times adding about 25-50% extra time if not more. This has been true for skiers and riders, and especially true for climbers without any flotation.

Along with snow considerations, the amount of snowmelt and rain have increased the flows in the rivers, and this could continue for weeks to come as the weather warms up. Even small creeks might not be crossable at some flows, and the timeline for high flows might look different this year than in years prior.

It is important to look into current conditions and plan your trip based on what you might encounter this year rather than assuming that it will be similar to what you saw last year at the same time. This includes many considerations, from travel times if the road is still impassable due to snow, to travel speed on snow versus on a trail, and whether or not a creek will be crossable. It might also include planning for a colder environment if you will be camping on snow, requiring more warm layers and more fuel if you are melting snow for water. Remember, plan accordingly in order to have a fun and safe trip.

Quien Sabe Glacier 7-30-21
Quien Sabe Glacier on 7/30/21 viewed from the west.  Note the several long crevasses about 2/3 of the way up where the glacier steepens, with a few small snow bridges.

NPS/J. Shields

July 30, 2021
Boston Basin Conditions, Sharkfin Col, Quien Sabe Glacier, Boston Peak
It's a beautiful summertime wonderland in the Basin, with a dazzling wildflower display and happy marmots whistling and frolicking about!

However, this long high-pressure period has resulted in lower snow levels at snow-to-rock transitions, calving snowfields, and weakening snow bridges. A longtime climbing ranger observed that the snow at Sharkfin Col is around 20' lower than usual, which necessitates that much more 4th class climbing for access. Start early and take care when crossing under snowfields lying on slabby, polished rock, as the day's heat will cause chunks to calve off and travel quickly downslope. Snow is firm in the morning but softens very quickly after sun exposure.

Streams are still flowing swiftly at high volume - scout for good crossings and remember flow will increase greatly later in the day. Also be prepared for very bad biting blackflies and horseflies!

Quien Sabe Glacier is still navigable but many crevasses have opened. Accessing the steep upper glacier requires dodging several very long cracks and crossing small remaining snow bridges. There is an undercut moat about 6' deep to gain the Boston-Sahale col. There is one short section of flat snow travel (visible in picture) on the ridge to Sahale.

The standard route around the E side of Boston Peak traverses a steep snowfield with a 10' moat on its N side. Rappelling from the summit with a single 60-meter will not reach the second station - expect a 15' exposed downclimb on loose rock to reach it.

We remind the climbing community that because Boston Basin is rightfully very popular, the permit system exists to prevent overcrowding, which detracts from enjoyment and can cause dangerous situations on routes. Bivying anywhere on the Torment-Forbidden-Boston-Sahale ridgeline is considered part of the Boston Basin cross-country zone and permits must specify this. A permit for the Forbidden cross-country zone necessitates dropping down onto the Forbidden or Boston Glaciers.
A busy day on the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak.


July 24, 2021
Boston Basin Conditions, Forbidden Peak
The Cascade River Road is now open and Boston Basin is busy!

The approach couloir to the West Ridge of Forbidden was confirmed to be out of condition and that the Cat Scratch Gully is the preferred approach for the rest of this season. The Cat Scratch Gully can be deceiving in its difficulty and we recommend that you rope up for this section and to be careful of loose rock! There is no way to escape if a rock becomes dislodged higher up.

The rappel stations on route were in good condition, but the rest must be downclimbed. Please keep in mind that going down can take longer than going up, especially with such high visitor use.

We also saw numerous parties attempting to bivy at the base of the East Ridge Route on Forbidden Peak. This area is still considered within the boundaries of Boston Basin and your permit must reflect that. It is also not a good idea to be approaching that area so late in the day. The mountain was actively shedding rocks and snow in the heat while climbers were hiking up a confined gully below an area full of loose scree. A better choice would be to camp at the established upper bivy sites, doing the route camp to camp and avoiding the need to carry big packs up the east and down the west ridges.

This area is receiving a tremendous amount of impact. There is a reason why we enforce park regulations and we kindly ask you to reflect on maintaining safety and wilderness character when you decide to travel in this spectacular area of the park.
July 18, 2021
Boston Basin Conditions
Boston Creek and others are still flowing strongly but are crossable with caution throughout the day at the normal crossing sites. Visitors report the approach couloir for W Ridge of Forbidden has discontinuous snow and a difficult moat. Sharkfin Col's approach gully has continuous snow but shows much recent rockfall. Sharkfin Tower's approach gully is very wet with flowing water and has a ~5' tall and slightly undercut moat at its base, but remaining snow in the gully can now be bypassed. The Quien Sabe Glacier has open crevasses but has a navigable route between them.
20210706 Boston Basin Conditions
Boston Basin Conditions, July 6, 2021


July 6, 2021
Boston Basin Conditions, Quien sabe Glacier
With the recent high temperatures, Boston Basin currently reflects mid-summer conditions. The approach below treeline is straight-forward with some additional deadfall. The snow line is higher than expected at approximately 6200 feet. Water is flowing high and fast. Both branches of Boston creek were difficult to pass in the evening and necessitated an uphill detour to pass them safely. Both lower and upper bivy sites are melted out and both toilets are available for use. We also noticed that people have been building rock windwalls around bivy spots. We kindly request that you please refrain from doing so to maintain the wilderness environment that Boston Basin is known for.

Bears seem to be very active in the area right now with numerous visitor encounters a lot of recent skat on trail. Please properly store your food!

The Quien Sabe Glacier is in good condition but does have numerous crevasses to navigate on your way up. The moat at the top was badly undercut in spots and required scouting of safe exits onto rock. Be careful with what you are standing on and be conservative in this area.

The approach gully to Sharkfin Tower was half full of snow.
The approach gully to Sharkfin Col was still full of snow but also showed significant recent rockfall.
June 28, 2021
Boston Basin Conditions, Sharkfin, and W Ridge Forbidden (Visitor Reports)
There are several treacherous creek crossings early on the approach from Cascade River Rd., the most notable being Midas Creek - travel early and cross with care. In Boston Basin the lower bivy sites are melted out along with the toilet, while the upper bivies are partially melted but threatened by glide avalanches from above. There is a strongly flowing creek on the way to the lower bivies that can be avoided by traveling on snow.
Sharkin Tower is reported in good conditions but the approach gully is currently very steep - one party led adjacent rock instead of taking the couloir.
The W Ridge of Forbidden route is snow-free, but the approach requires traveling under overhead snow and rockfall hazard. The approach couloir is reported easily to be accessed and in great shape.
Remember that high temperatures lead to increased shedding of loose rock and snow which is most prevalent later in the day - climb early and be away from overhead hazard by afternoon.
West Ridge Forbidden Approach Sept 6
Approach up to the West Ridge of Forbidden, Sept 6th 2020. Photo by NPS/A.Brun.
September 6th, 2020
Boston Basin Conditions and West Ridge of Forbidden
The climber’s route into Boston Basin is in standard condition (steep dirt gullies, with roots and many downed trees). We observed a bear near the climber’s route below the Upper Bivy site. The bear was acting normally and was not aggressive. Above the upper bivy site, climbers attempting the West Ridge of Forbidden will encounter and ascend dry granite slabs to a moderately steep snow slope.
West Ridge Approach 2 Sept 6
Snow approach to West Ridge of Forbidden. Photo NPS/A.Brun
An ice axe and crampons are recommended for this short snow climb. Climb moderately steep snow to below a short gully, approximately one rope length below the Cat Scratch Gully. Caution is recommended in this short gully as the snow bridges are thin, the moat is getting larger, and many loose rocks are present.
Cat Scratch Gully Sept 6
A fixed rope left in the Cat Scratch gully, it was removed by rangers. Photo by NPS/A.Brun.
A fixed, 60 meter in length, dynamic climbing rope was found on the first “pitch” in the Cat Scratch gully. This rope was removed by a Climbing Ranger; do not fix climbing ropes or store climbing equipment in North Cascades National Park. Contact the North Cascades NP Wilderness Information Center if this rope belongs to you. Rappel anchors in the Cat Scratch gully are in good condition, but always check the anchors before rappelling and carry extra webbing to backup the anchor if needed.

There are a variety of rock camp sites at the upper bivy area in Boston Basin and plenty of running water from snow patches. Please remember to use the composting toilets and carry blue bags! Do not deposit blue bags into composting toilets. You never know when you’re going to need to go! Lastly, bear canisters or Ursacks are required for all overnight visitors to the Boston Basin area.
Ranger climbing Sharkfin tower
A ranger climbs the Sharkfin approach gully. Photo NPS/A.Brun

August 23rd, 2020
Boston Basin and Sharkfin Conditions
The popular climbs accessed from Boston Basin are in good late season condition, however more crevasses are appearing, and moats are growing larger. North Cascades climbing rangers patrolled the standard route on Sharkfin Tower and observed that the lower approach gully is snow free and mostly dry, be prepared to ascend 3rd class terrain with numerous loose rocks and a few patches of wet rock.

Sharkfin Tower with climber late August
Sharkfin tower. Photo by NPS/A.Brun
Once above the approach gully climber will encounter some firm neve and crampons may be required on this moderately steep snow slope to approach the base of the technical climbing. The notch on the south side of Shark Fin is snow free. Rappel anchors are in mostly good condition, however please remember to remove old and weathered webbing if adding a sling to an anchor, as the climbing rangers removed multiple pieces of faded and worn webbing on the descent.
Quien Sabe Glacier Aug 23
Quien Sabe Glacier, August 23. Photo NPS/A.Brun

The climbing rangers also observed several large crevasses forming on the Quien Sabe glacier, requiring climbing parties to climb around several large crevasses. We also observed a few bare ice patches forming on the glacier.

Please use the composting toilets in Boston Basin, however do not place blue bags or food in the composting toilet! Unfortunately, we observed one blue bag in the upper Boston Basin composting toilet; removing blue bags from the composting toilet is difficult and unpleasant for staff.

Mount Buckner rises from the Boston Glacier
Mount Buckner and the Boston Glacier as seen on the route from Shark Fin Col to the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak.

W. Tarantino/NPS

August 4, 2020
Boston Basin and the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak
The Quien Sabe Glacier is still in early season condition, but the lower icefall and the upper cravasses are quickly emerging, plan on some route finding on the way to the Boston/Sahale Saddle. The Shark-Fin col rappells are still easily accessed via the right-slanting snow couloir. About 2/3 of the way up to couloir turn left up a 4th class step to reach a short scramble to the upper notch. Two single-rope raps easily reach the Boston Glacier. The Boston Glacier is still in good shape with only short and minor route-finding problems, remember to double-check any snow-bridges, even if a previous party crossed safely, there's no guarentee its still strong enough to hold you!
The NorthWest Face of the North Ridge of Forbidden is in good condition, with a minor bergschrund problem at the bottom.
Looking up the NorthWest Face route to the North Ridge of Forbidden Peak, the bergschrund at the bottom is still passed easily.  The constriction up high may become more challenging soon as it melts out.

W. Tarantino/NPS

Assessing the North Ridge involves additional problem solving across a moat and hanging snowfield to reach the ridge, advise visitors going this way to take the time to get a good look at the snow-bridges on the upper snowfield from the bottom, assessing them from above would be more challenging. The Forbidden Glacier is steep and heavily cravassed, but currently presents only minor navigation issues to the base of the NW Face of the North Ridge. An easily negotiated bergschrund guards the face, which currently involves about five pitches of moderate snowclimbing and is in excellent condition. There is a constriction at the top of the face which is starting to get a little hollow and could require more problem solving in the next few weeks.
A NOCA ranger descending the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak
A NOCA Ranger on rappel while descending the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak

W. Tarantino/NPS

Both the Upper North Ridge and the West Ridge are in standard summer condition, the approach gully for the West Ridge has a large moat in the middle, not visible from below. Advise climbers to approach via Cat Scratch Gully. All of the rappels along the West Ridge and Cat Scratch Gully are in good condition. The Boston Basin approach trail is melted out almost the whole way to the Upper Bivy sites. There is still quite a bit of snow at the upper bivies, and only the high sites on the rocks have melted out. Both composting toilets are free of snow and functioning well. While servicing the toilets, rangers noticed a number of wet wipes in the lower toilet. Please remember that wipes do not break down like toilet paper, they should be considered trash and packed out.

Marmots and other animal are awake in the Basin. Bears have also been seen in the Basin this time of year. Please use a bear can to store all of your food!

July 28, 2020
Boston Basin, Torment and Forbidden
The approach to Boston Basin is in standard condition and mostly dry now. Creek crossings at low elevations are now melted out. At treeline, the creek crossing to gain the Lower Bivy Site is challenging due to high water flow, so be careful. Both the Upper and Lower Bivy sites are in great shape. The Upper Bivy currently is halfway melted out, with several dry sites. Please make sure to camp on durable surfaces in this fragile environment, choosing snow if there are no more impacted dry sites available. The composting toilets are also both operable and in good condition. Please do not put anything but solid human waste in there. There are ample water sources available now in the alpine, even higher up in the basin as snowline has receded. We have had several bear sightings in the Lower Basin, so please remember to keep all food and trash in animal resistant containers. Overall, the moat transitions from rock to snow in Boston Basin are now a significant crux. Snow bridges gaining the Cat Scratch gully are becoming hollow, and ascending the Forbidden couloir is now not recommended. The glaciers in this dynamic zone still have adequate snow coverage, but crevasses are now beginning to open up. Conditions are changing rapidly, so be certain to make thorough assessments during your trip

Torment, Forbidden, Shark Fin and Boston Peak rise above Boston Basin on a glorious summer day.
Torment, Forbidden, Shark Fin and Boston Peak rise above Boston Basin, taken from near the lower bivy sites.

K. Arackellian/NPS

July 18, 2020
Boston Basin, Shark Fin and Quien Sabe Glacier
Approach to Boston Basin is in good condition, the lower creek crossings are straightforward and the route has melted out to treeline. The final crossing of both the South and North branches of Boston creek still have solid snow bridges, but current warm weather trends will change this rapidly. Climbers should exercise extreme caution and assess all snow bridges well.

The lower bivy sites have melted out and the backcountry toilet is open for use. Most of the upper bivy sites are still under 5 to 8 feet of snow, but climbers can go a little higher to bivy on rocks. The upper toilet is also melted out and ready for use.

Climbers reported that the couloir to the West Ridge of Forbidden is still filled with snow, but that the moat at the bottom is forming rapidly. Assess conditions well to determine the safest approach to the ridge. Good climbing conditions were reported on the West Ridge.

A ranger ascends the Quien Sabe Glacier towards Shark Fin Tower
A ranger ascends the Quien Sabe Glacier towards Shark Fin Tower.

K. Arackellian/NPS

Quien Sabe glacier is currently in good condition, though some crevasses are starting to open up. The moat at the saddle between Boston and Sahale peak is starting to open up a bit as well. Current conditions make accessing Sharkfin Tower from the Quien Sabe glacier challenging. Climbers left of the access gully is wet with overhanging ice. The right side currently provides better access through a snow finger. As before, expect rapidly changing conditions and assess well.

Rangers report seeing multiple mountain goats and a bear in the alpine. Goats crave salt and will destroy fragile vegetation to get at the salt in urine, please pee away from your tent, preferably on rocks or snow. Bring an Animal Resistant Food Storage Container and store your food properly!
Snow covers still lingers in Boston Basin
Early season conditions persist in upper Boston Basin (taken from the lower bivy sites)

E. Reed/NPS

July 7, 2020
Boston Basin Conditions
Expect brushy conditions and early season creek levels on the approach into the basin. The lower Boston Basin camp is starting to melt out and the toilet is available for use. Conditions in the upper basin remain snowy, plan on packing out all human waste if you want to stay at the upper bivy site. Climbing approaches and the basin's remaining glaciers are still in early season conditions.
A park ranger walks on snow in upper Boston Basin
A North Cascades ranger descends from upper Boston Basin.

E. Reed/NPS

June 28, 2020
Boston Basin Conditions
Early season conditions continue to persist in the Boston Basin area. Rangers assessed the lower bivy sites and found the compost toilet melted out and available for use. There was also one melted out bivy site and running water nearby. The upper Boston Basin bivy sites are snow covered, no running water was observed and the upper compost toilet is still buried in snow. Plan accordingly and please bring Blue Bags.

Consistent snow starts at around 5,500ft, close to treeline. Some ridge lines in the basin are starting to melt out, but the majority of travel is still on snow. Due to wet weather and poor visibility rangers did not get a good look at the snow in the West Ridge of Forbidden approach gulley or other route features, but we did observe previous wet loose avalanche activity. Please plan ahead and be prepared and enjoy the wilderness.
Ranger in foreground looks at a snowy Boston Basin mountain landscape.
Current condition of Boston Basin


June 11, 2020
Boston Basin Conditions
Early season conditions exist in the Boston Basin area of the Park. The un-maintained climbers trail is snow free from Cascade River Road to approximately 4,500’, where visitors will encounter patchy snow. At 5,000’ visitors will encounter sustained snow coverage and the trail is completely obscured by snow. Be prepared to navigate up steep snow slopes to reach the Basin. Estimated snow depth at the Lower Bivy site is 4 to 5 feet. The composting toilet is completely buried in snow and all visitors should carry and plan to use Blue Bags for removing human waste. There is extensive snow cover in the Basin and visitors should be prepared for snow travel across steep slopes and be aware of possible wet slide avalanche activity later in the day as the slopes warm up. We observed signs of a large avalanche that occurred in the Boston Basin lower bivy site area over the winter. The west ridge couloir on Forbidden appeared to be in good condition and we also observed fresh snow on the ridges and summits of Peaks in Boston Basin.

Cat Scratch Gully Rappel
Rappel down Cat Scratch Gully. 09/01/19 K. Beckwith
Cat Scratch gully is in good condition, please be aware of party’s above you as they may inadvertently knock rocks down. The west ridge climbing route is in standard condition and rappel anchors are in good shape. Use caution when rappelling down the Cat Scratch Gully as it is easy to knock rocks down from the West Ridge notch. Rappel anchors in the Cat Scratch gully are in good shape. 5 single rope (60 meter) rappels will get you down to the base of the Cat Scratch gully. If planning to bivy at the West Ridge notch, there is no running water, be prepared to melt snow if staying there

Last updated: September 17, 2023

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