December, 2000
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Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!

The Tooth, South Face

December, 2000

Paul was in town and we hadn't climbed together in over a year. Making plans to climb the day after Christmas seemed like a good idea. When we talked on Christmas night though, we were both affected by a day of lethargy and rich food. I told him I didn't want to leave before 7:00 and he suggested 8:00. That decided, we ruled out driving to Mount Rainier and opted for Snoqualmie Pass. The Tooth was chosen because it is fun to climb, a good ski out, a relatively fast, easy approach, and plenty of places and reasons to bail if the legs don't show up.

And after I finished packing and we stopped for coffee, it was 10:15 by the time we left the car at the upper Alpental lot. Since it gets dark about 4:00, I was a little concerned that we would simply run out of daylight. But the trail to Source Lake was well trammeled and in less than an hour we were breaking off left up the treed ridge toward Great Scott Bowl. The trail faded there, and what there was was put in by snowshoers (steep). Paul suffered severely on his Voile snake skins, so I stayed in front, breaking. Eventually the showshoe track went straight up the fall line and we abandoned it. Traversing across the slope, I was able to pick a track covered by a couple feet of fresh snow. Up and up and finally we broke over the crest in the lower section of the bowl. I was pleasantly surprised that visibility was good. We could see the Tooth there was very little snow on it.

Source Lake basin in ice fog and morning light

The Tooth (right) and Pinapple Pass (and some blue sky)

We kept moving, sensing that we just might have a chance to climb the route. As we skinned into the upper bowl I spotted two snowshoers coming in on the summer approach line. I knew that we need to say ahead of them to climb the route and ski back to Source Lake before dark. So we put it in overdrive. When I wore out, Paul led on. Even though the snowshoers shifted over into our track, we still beat them to the little pass just south of Pineapple Pass.

Paul wades into the notch south of Pineapple Pass

We ditched our skis and poles there and made the traverse over to Pineapple and the base of the route. I was shocked to see that it was mostly free of snow and the most of the rock was DRY! I ditched my tools and crampons and cursed myself for not bringing my rock shoes. Paul graciously allowed that he was willing to follow the route, so I racked up and took off. The other group showed up about the time I started. I was glad we were in front.

Looking down at Paul and the other party at Pineapple Pass

I took the left variation at the start, which looked inviting until I could see that the slab was verglassed. No mind, I got past it and clipped the fixed cam below the crack (amazing that it has been there at least since the spring). Up and up, careful with the feet, to the first belay. Paul quickly followed and I set off on the second pitch. I just couldn't believe that I was strolling up this fun route in late December bare-handed. With a 60 meter rope, the route can be climbed in a medium, a long, and a short pitch. The second pitch uses almost all the rope, though, so be efficient with your knots and placements. I usually do not clip the second rap station to reduce rope drag and maximize available rope. I had a scary little slip just above the first belay when both my feet cut loose. I had good hands, though, and didn't fall. Above the second rap station there was some wading in the snow, and after one more little technical section, I was belaying Paul up.

Paul cleaning gear on the second pitch

I still think the final little headwall is the crux of the route. And as such, I lost both feet on it and almost peeled again. After that I traversed over looking for better feet and found a fixed nut instead. I clipped it, then made a couple moves. The I looked down and saw the awful rope-dragging mess I'd created: My first piece was good, but the fixed nut was twenty feet directly left of it. I climbed up, laughing and cursing myself. I clipped the first set of rap anchors with a long sling so as to minimize any additional drag. Then I towed the rope up the final slopes to the top. I clipped the slings and called out that I was off belay, then began the arduous task of towing up in the slack. The drag was just terrible. Paul made quick work of the pitch and we were both on top.

Paul finishing the last pitch. The air inversion is evident by the frosted trees in the valley

A few pictures and a candy bar, then off to the rap station. The party below us was just arriving and the last belay/second rap station when we started rapping. They graciously let us pass. We simul-rappelled to save time. No caught ropes and good teamwork landed us back at Pineapple Pass in short order. I climbed, belayed, and rapped the whole route with bare hands. My Suunto showed 45 degrees. Balmy.

Loren on the summit

Paul on the summit (with my finger)

We traversed back around to our skis. I was looking forward to a fast trip out. It was 3:45 PM when I launched (okay, slid) out of the timy little notch. The snow was heavy, but it moved, so the skiing was strenuous, but fun. As we descended the bowl, I saw the other party just finishing the first rappel. They were doomed to walk out in the dark. We found some pleasant turns down on the treed ridge and were soon back on the beaten-in trail by Source Lake. It was less than fifteen minutes from there to the car, which we reached at 4:08 PM. Just over fifty minutes on skis.

Paul skis from Pineapple Pass (my finger was with me)

Fun day. It was nice to be out with Paul again. We climbed well as a team and had a good ski, to boot.


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