Forbidden Traverse Express

Martin Volken pioneered this multi-day ski tour in 1999 and we still love guiding it.

May 24, 2019 - May 26, 2019

Difficulty rating and Skill requirements

Difficulty Rating System Explained

Overall Difficulty Level: Very difficult

Skills Required:  Advanced skiing ability and prior ski touring experience

Fitness Level: Very strenuous due to skitouring with big overnight packs

  • Category: Ski
  • Type: Guided
  • Ratio: 3:1,6:2

Martin Volken pioneered this multi day ski tour in 1999 and we still love guiding it.

Pro Guiding Service has guided this by now classic traverse in several different variations.  The Frobidden Express follows the same route as the standard Forbidden Tour, but we move a little further along on the first day and leave out the Moraine Lake Camp on the second day. The combination of the high alpine atmosphere, the great skiing and mountain wilderness make this trip a must for every serious backcountry skier. The region hosts every element that is needed to show what advanced ski touring in the Cascades is all about. Spectacular scenery, big glaciers, demanding skiing, big vertical drops and gains, winter camping, difficult navigating in sometimes questionable weather and a touch of mixed mountaineering. This trip will prove that the North Cascades are a ski mountaineering destination hard to match in the lower 48 states.

Suggested Forbidden Tour itinerary:

Day one: We will meet at the Ranger Station in Marblemount, conduct a gear check and commute to our road head. This should get us touring by mid morning. We will then reach the Quien Sabe Glacier via Cascade Pass or the Diamond Mine Road. We will establish our first camp near Sharkfin Col between 6500 and 7000 feet.

Day two: We will traverse the infamous Sharkfin Col first thing in the morning and then ski the Boston Glacier under Forbidden Peak. From here we cross over to the Forbidden Glacier. The 3400 foot ski descent to Moraine Lake will bring us down to Moraine Lake. From there we have to reascend back up to Klawatti Col for our second camp. 

Day three:  We will brake down camp early and start moving towards El Dorado peak. Ski summits don't get much better than this. From here we traverse the El Dorado Plateau to its southeastern edge and ski down the Roush Creek drainage to 3800 feet. From here we have to descend steep forest on a climbers trail to the Cascade River Road. There should certainly be enough time for a few well deserved beers in Marblemount. Please prepare well. This tour is strenuous and not over until you are at the car!

Sign up for a course or a trip and receive a 10% discount on purchases and a 20% discount on gear rental.

Pro Ski and Mountain Service is our retail specialty store. It has been located in North Bend, WA since 1999.

The past trips and courses have had a large influence on what we sell. Many of our Pro Guiding customers come on trips and courses with gear they purchased from our store. Not only do we want our clients to have the right gear for the job; we also receive direct feedback from them while they are using it in the field. Trust us - if the gear does not work - we won't sell it.


o 1 Bottom - midweight or lightweight
o 1 or 2 Tops - midweight or lightweight
o Sock Liners - 2 or 3 pair
o Ski Socks - 2 pair
o Windshirt, Soft Shell, Fleece - only one of these is necessary
o Schoeller™ type pants - soft shell
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Jacket
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Pants
o Softshell Ski Touring Pants
o Warm Hat - should cover ears
o Sun Hat - baseball type or visor
o Lightweight Gloves
o Ski Gloves
o Down or Synthetic Jacket
o Internal Frame Pack - 50 Liter (3100 cu in.) minimum
o Sleeping Bag - down or synthetic, 15º F to 20º F minimum
o Compression Sack - for sleeping bag           
o Sleeping Pad - closed cell foam or self inflating
o Headlamp - lightweight LED recommended
o Water Bottles - 1 or 2 liters, wide mouth
o Bowl or Cup
o Utensils
o Small Knife
o Sunglasses - adequate for snow travel
o Goggles
o Sunscreen - SPF >25, waterproof
o Lip Balm - SPF 15+
o Lighter
o Personal Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, waterless hand cleaner, etc.
o Small Personal 1st aid kit - blister repair (Compeed™), aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
o Skis - Alpine Touring or Telemark
o Ski Boots - Alpine Touring or Telemark – no downhill boots
o Ski Poles - telescopic poles work well, but not required
o Climbing Skins
o Ski Crampons - THESE ARE REQUIRED!
o  Ski Brakes
o Transceiver - single frequency,  457 kHz only
o Shovel - compact, lightweight, metal blade preferred
o Probe - dedicated probe only, ski poles do not suffice
o Ice Axe - 55-70 cm length, lightweight
o Boot Crampons – Aluminum is recommended for this trip
o Climbing Harness - lightweight, BD Alpine Bod style (no padding)
o  2 Locking Carabiners- (1) large HMS style and (1) regular locker
o  2 Non-locking Carabiners - any style, we recommend wire gates
o  1 Single Length Runner
o  1 Double Length Runner
o  1 Cordelette - 6 mm diameter, 6 meter length
o Camera - we’d like some shots for the PGS website!
o Ear Plugs - essential for sound sleep
o Camp Booties
o Thermos - vacuum type
o Note Pad and Pencil - Rite-in-the-rain brand waterproof notebook works
o Compass - adjustable declination a must
o Altimeter - Suunto watch works well
o Map Case - large zip-loc will suffice
o Maps - contact guiding office for appropriate quadrangles
o Collapsible Water Canteen - good for storing snowmelt at camp
o Warm Socks - to sleep in
o Lightweight Bivy/Tarp - handy with a floorless tent
o Foot Powder
GROUP GEAR PROVIDED BY PGS   *Please contact the guiding office if you prefer to bring your own gear in place of any of our group gear.
o Tents
o Stoves
o Fuel
o Cooking Pots
o Rope
o Technical Group Gear, VHF radio or SAT phone
o Group 1st Aid Kit

Where in the world is Marblemount? Marblemount, WA is located on the western slopes of the North Cascades along State Hwy 20. Driving time from the Seattle area is about 2.5 hours.

Are there places to stay in Marblemount if I get there a day early? Yes, there are reasonable accommodations. You can stay at:

 Totem Trail Motel


57627 State Route 20, Rockport - (360) 873-4535

Buffalo Run Inn

PO Box 133, 60117 State Route 20, Marblemount - (877) 828-6652

Skagit River Resort

(North Cascades Hwy, WA St Rte 20, Mile 103.5), 58468 Clark Cabin Road, Rockport - (360) 873-2250

Does PGS provide food for the trip? No, we do not provide food, but are perfectly happy to make food suggestions.

Can I buy food for the trip in Marblemount? There is a small grocery store in the local Shell Station, but it only carries basic things? The last bigger grocery store is located near Concrete, WA.

I do not have any prior ski mountaineering experience. Can I still come on the trip? If you have prior ski touring experience, are a good skier and are fit, it should not be a problem.

Where will we be camped? We will be camped at around 6400 feet on a moraine head near the Quien Sabe Glacier, the first night, by Moraine Lake the second night and near Klawatti Col the third night. We will have access to water on the second night, all the other nights we will have to melt it.

Is the skiing difficult? The skiing is not difficult per say, but you will be skiing with an overnight pack in a big variety of snow conditions. Solid skiing ability will make it much more enjoyable. We do not recommend this being your first ski outing with a big pack unless you are an expert level skier. 

Should I tip my guides? And how much should I tip them? Although tipping is not a requirement it is considered standard practice in the guiding industry and is appreciated by our guides. We generally recommend roughly 10%-15% of your course or trip cost or flat price tip that you are comfortable with.