Northeast Slab
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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, Northeast Slab

January 12, 2002

I'm feeling uninspired about writing this trip report. I accidentally left my camera in the car, so I don't have any pictures of what was a challenging and fun climb.


Five O'clock AM didn't sound that early. But suddenly it's 11:30 PM and I'm still running around the house looking for odds and ends. Shortly after Midnight I finally get into bed and off to sleep.

Jens arrives promptly at 5:00 AM. We pile my gear into his car and I pour the coffee. It is raining...hard. On the way to Snoqualmie Pass Jens comments that we usually don't go out in weather like this.

"Yes, usually we have more sense that this."

But we keep going. At the upper Alpental lot we play chicken with the road grader that is plowing the lot. Eventually the driver plows open the entrance to the lot and we drive and park in an out-of-the-way looking spot. But it wasn't. The driver of the grader parks, gets out, and politely asks us to move to the other end of the lot. We oblige. Boots on, packs packed. I open my camera bag in the back seat to insert the handwarmer that it seems to need to work on colder days. Then I get out, put my skis and pack on and skin away. I hope my camera enjoyed the day it spent warm and dry in the back seat of Jens' car.

I'm glad that the precip is in the form of snow, but just barely. At 6:30 we start up the trail to Source Lake under headlamp. In four inches of fresh snow on boilerplate, we progress toward the lake. At the large clearing there is recent avalanche debris. It must have been wet-slide induced by the recent warm temps and rain.

It is still dark when we reach the lake. And still snowing hard. The glop, perfect for snowballs, is accumulating at a disturbing rate on my skins. I call for a stop to strip off my fleece jacket and scrape my skins. Jens is tearing it up on his new skins and I'm feeling a little under the weather. Fiddling with gear is a good way to get a breather.

Mt skins free of snow and my jacket stashed, we start up the ridge toward Great Scott bowl. After a few exciting experiences with the rock-hard snow under the fresh, uh, powder, we reach the bottom end of the bowl. I'm pleased to see that the Tooth is not fully obscured by the stereotypical Cascade weather. We skin on, Jens in the lead. At 8:10 we tuck under and big overhang climber's left of the route to ditch skis and gear up. Properly equipped, and after a pull on the water bottle, we climb out of the alcove onto a rapidly growing fan of snow formed by spindrift.  We posthole up and across to a small alcove at the apex. I make a spartan one-nut anchor and lead up.

The slope starts at 45 degrees but quickly comes to a bulge. Though the face of the bulge is ice, the material above is decidedly not. I shaft both tools in the cement, push up, and pull over. From there the going is easier. I'm tucked into a large dihedral on a 50 degree slope. The snow is soft enough for good footsteps, but I find that I'm mostly shafting my tools. There is ice, but it is thin and soft. The rock in the dihedral is surprisingly compact. I mostly focus on the climbing, but keep an eye out for gear. I finally fiddle in a decent nut just below a short steeper section. Feeling good to have some gear I climb on. Several times I'm pummeled by spindrift; I have to stop, put my head down, and wait for it to slow. Despite stopping more than once to excavate the snow and look for cracks, I manage only one more nut, just before a leftward traverse to a nice tree. An old sling and a rap ring greet me, and I take them as reassurance that we are the right course. I sling the tree, tie off, and call down to Jens that I am off belay. There is only ten feet of slack to pull up. I'm glad for the sixty meter rope. Jens comes up as I peer past the tree to watch. I curse myself for not having the camera as he climbs up the gully amid the spindrift.

Meanwhile I notice that my gloves, which I foolishly wore on the approach, are soaked and my hands are getting cold. Jens reaches the belay, drops the one pack we are carrying, and I immediately root out the belay jacket. He leads up and left over more thin ice and snow. There isn't any protection until he reaches a tree about 100 feet from the belay. He slings it and continues up and out of sight. When the rope runs out, I break down the belay and follow, per our usual arrangement.

While I follow a moderate section below, Jens is doing battle with the last forty feet to the crest of the ridge: Thin ice and snow over a fifty degree slab. After a serious effort to get some gear in, he just goes, and reaches the ridge. I follow, cleaning a good 13cm screw and one more slung tree.

Joining him on the North Ridge, I first take leak (which was sorely overdue) and then take the rack. The wind is strong, but not overwhelming.  Below I see four people coming up the bowl. We tie in with Kiwi coils and I lead out. I trend to the right side of the crest of the ridge, past a couple opportunities to climb to the crest. This leads me to an distinct gully ending at the crest. There I sling a small tree and start up a short headwall. It was, for me, the crux of the climb. Somewhat off balance, in the wind, and protected only with a marginal #2 Friend. After some fiddling, I climb past and and back onto the top of the ridge. At the next small col I downclimb to easier ground on the right (west). A few slung horns provide protection, and after regaining the ridge once more, we reach the summit at 11:40 AM.

The celebration is short. After a handshake we start the first of four rappels down the South Face route. We simul-rap the first, and go one at a time for the rest. Other than me tearing a hole in my pants, the decent to Pineapple Pass is uneventful. There we meet the first team of two from the group of four. As the second pair is in the gully immediately below us, we downclimb and traverse to the summer approach route. We downclimb one at a time, feeling somewhat concerned about the rapidly accumulating snow.

At 12:40 we arrive at the skis. In the alcove we're out of the snow, though spindrift pours down in front of us from the lip of the overhang above. It looks like a slow-motion waterfall. Gear stowed and skis on, we start down Great Scott bowl. Thankfully, the snow is still pretty stable and there is some visibility, but the light is still flat and all the fresh snow masks the contours of the bowl, though it is thankfully dry and fluffy. Some remarkably ungraceful slow-speed crashes are had by both of us. But Jens has an excuse, as he is skiing in his LaSportiva Trango Extreme boots with a pair of cuffs salvaged from old downhill boots. In my Dynafit boots, I'm doing little better. Like clockwork I manage to find the hole at the bottom of the bowl and have to climb out. I seem to end up in that thing every time I ski there, despite looking out for it.

More antics ensue on the ridge, but we make it down in one piece. The glide out to the parking lot is more laborious than usual due to the new snow, which is not in the form of powder.. The parking lot, which contained three cars and a handful of RVs when we left, is packed full of school buses and cars.

Back at home, after a long, hot shower, I'm surprised to see that my gear is not wet, but soaked. If there is a way to stay reasonably dry on a winter day like this in the Cascades, it eludes me.

This is a great route, in my opinion. I found it to be longer, more difficult, and more varied than the North Face of Chair Peak. If you've climb Chair and want to up the ante a bit, this may be the route for you.


This page was last edited on Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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