We got up at 3:45 and were moving by 5am. Having a stove was a nice way to start the morning. We quickly reached Sharkfin col, and took the gully to the right of the standard route. 2/3 of the way up, we left the snow for grey rock trending up and left, which brought us to a notch. From here we downclimbed to the Boston glacier. This way is definitely easier/quicker than the standard, and at worst should allow access to the glacier with just one rope.
A long and beautiful tour of the Boston and Forbidden glacier (low crossing of the N ridge) took us the base of the route. We traversed too high and neared the rib on its east side. Although it looks feasable to gain the route here, it seemed loose and unpleasant. So we decided to follow the beta and go to the the west side of the rib. Being high on the glacier, we would have been better off dropping further down and then swinging wide (west) around the large crevasses of the forbidden glacier. As it was we tried several shortcuts. One of these almost did reach the rock, but melt out still made access difficult. So we headed back out and around another crevasse system and eventually reached the rock via a high snow accumulation, perhaps a 200 feet above the standard (?) spot. There are amazingly beautiful bivy ledges at this point. Bottom line: if approaching via the N ridge, check out the crevasses on the west side of the rib from a good vantage point (like the N ridge crossing). Don't be fooled by the possibility of access from the east side of the rib -- it looks easier than it is. Then traverse towards the rib and drop well below it and go wide (west) of the big crevasses. Climb up the forbidden glacier on its right (west) side (essentially below the west ridge notch) and go high enough to get a good view of the rib. From this vantage point, you'll see various options for getting onto the ridge. We found the higher one easier rather than the one closer to the toe. Obviously, conditions will dictate...
From here, we doubled our 8.5mm rope and simul climbed mostly solid rock to the knife edge. More simuling led to the base of a tower. The tower can surely be climbed directly, but being limited to 80 foot pitches, we decided to turn it on the left (east). The trick is to drop onto ledges below the rib, but we started dropping too late, which took us through a hellish section of huge flakes which formed vertical chimneys. A move of aid got us out of this maze and eventually down to the ramp system. The ramp system allowed us to turn the tower as expected. At this point the route steepens and we could see the chimney described by beckey up and to the left. Dan led up this and set up a belay near its top. Exiting to the right (into a notch) seemed harder, so I just went left and got back onto a slab system leading to the upper rib. Nothing here seemed harder than 5.6.
The upper rib provided hundreds of feet of really great 4th class simul climbing, with occassional harder spots where we set up quick belays. The upper rib is of sustained steepness: good belay ledges are pretty rare. The rock varied, but mostly we were able to stay on the good stuff. In places the rock was excellent: rough texture, edgy, with nice cracks.
For a descent we took the East ledges. It had been a while and it wasn't obvious to me anymore. It's definitely worth doing (at least) 4 (single rope) raps, even if it feels like you shouldn't. We crossed (I think) 5 minor ribs, heading eastwards towards the obvious tower on the E. ridge. Just before reaching the final gully which goes back to the ridge, it's cleaner just to stay on the final rib which takes you back to the notch. The debate rages about whether its better/worse than doing the West ridge. The west ridge is obviously more classic, but the E. ledges has to beat it for time. When you finish the East ledges, you can roll back to camp. When you finish the W. ridge, you still have to downclimb/rap the couloir. Of course, the E ledges are really stressful at the end of a long, hard day. It may be safer to rope up for the traverse portion and simul climb it -- there are a few horns, and the ribs provide a bit of decent rock for pro.
TIME: 3 hours to B.Basin (route finding difficulties in avalanche debris). B. Basin to Boston glacier 2 hours. 2 more hours to toe of rib. Nearly 2 more hours futzing around on the forbidden glacier getting onto the rock. 5 hours on the route. (11 hours Basin to summit.) 2 hours descent. 1 hour from E ridge to camp. 1 1/5 hours to car.
It really is a fabulous climb in a great spot. I think if I did it again, I might consider doing it as a carryover. Bivying on the lower rib would be a special experience.
The west ridge approach is probably a bit faster but more technical. It's such a nice trip via sharkfin col though -- why hurry?
ice axe crampons (didn't need them) 50m x 8.5mm rope medium stoppers (5-11) camalot 1,2,3 (didn't need #3) #2 tcu (fixed it, oops!, a favorite piece, donated to the cause) #1.5 and #2 friend 4 hexes 6 single; 4 double slings rock shoesAll in all the rack was maybe a little on the heavy side. The #3 camalot was overkill. Because we didn't simul climb really long pitches, we rarely placed more than 6 or 7 pieces before belaying, so the number of slings felt a little high. We climbed the upper rib in about 4 shifts. Bolder parties could do it in a couple. As was, though, we made really great time on the upper rib.