Tormented on Mount Torment

Bjorn and I intended on completing the Torment-Forbidden traverse in North Cascades National Park. We made excellent time on the approach, but slowed down on the South Ridge of Mount Torment. Despite free soloing the entire route, we were already behind where we thought we would get. More time was spent getting out of a 50 foot deep moat on the north side glacier at the start of the traverse. Once out of the moat, a gapping bergschrund lied below. New snow had fallen the previous weekend, leaving a half foot of sugary snow on top of rock hard ice. One previous pair of climbers stayed on the rock, but this route looked like more difficult climbing than we had bargained for, especially so late in the afternoon. Another climbing party had bailed that morning at the exact same spot as us (we saw them descending the couloir from the notch in the East Ridge of Torment as we ascended the South Ridge). Furthermore, the sound of helicopters throughout the day (probably attending to the fire near Lake Chelan) increased the overall nervousness. The fire had caused the sky to be hazy and views were less than spectacular.

We both decided that the late season conditions and dangerous snow made the route above our skill levels. We bailed on the route, making about 8 rappels down to the glacier below Mount Torment. From here, it was cruising back to the car and home late last night.

We probably could have completed the route, but I think our judgment to leave was correct. We were tired, it was getting late, and conditions were making overall routefinding much more difficult. The Torment-Forbidden is very committing – once you start, you have to finish it, so at the last exit point we decided to bail. Despite not doing the route, I had a good time and I learned a lot. As always, it was fun to climb with Bjorn and I am glad we were able to make difficult decisions and stay calm when getting rattled and nervous were definite possibilities.

I will probably return to complete the Torment-Forbidden sometime in the future, but probably earlier in the season when snow conditions make for an easier trip. I think I am going to stick to the mellower climbs for the rest of the season!

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