April 19, 2010

The Tooth

I suppose it was nearly a week ago now, but Jake finally made a trip up to Seattle to visit Molly, Phil, Ava, and me.  We spent quite a bit of time eating and playing Settlers over the course of about 2.5 days.  Thanks to Molly for all the delicious food!

I wanted to show Jake one of my favorite things about Seattle: the close proximity to alpine climbing.  I had been looking for an excuse to climb The Tooth on Snowqualmie Pass, and this was the perfect opportunity.

The Tooth is the big block on the right.  I'll refer to the gendarme to its left as The Fang.  The route we climbed pretty much follows the left skyline but is out of view on the other side of the peak.

We skied the approach to the climb, which took us a bit longer than it should have for a variety of reasons, the stupidest and funniest reason I'll share here.  The route description is very clear about ascending the saddle immediately to the left of The Fang.  This we accomplished without much difficulty.  However, once in this saddle at the base of the fang, I for some reason decided to switch from ski mode into climbing mode and begin climbing - completely failing to traverse around the back side of The Fang to the base of The Tooth and the beginning of our intended route.  After climbing what I retardedly believed to be the first pitch of The Tooth, I found myself at the top of The Fang and immediately slapped my palm to my forehead in disgust of my stupidity.  In hind site, I would recommend this route to anyone as it lets you get an extra pitch of climbing in as well as top out on a sweet little spire.

Jake following the first pitch of The Tooth

We rappelled from The Fang to the base of the Tooth and were quickly back on route.  There had been a lot of snow in the previous weeks, but the weather forecast for this day was sunny and hot!  Our route was on the south face, so I hoped that the sun would turn our climb into a straight forward rock climb.  For this reason, I optimistically brought rock climbing shoes with me.  It turned out there were only a few moves on the entire climb where rock shoes would have been appropriate due to the copious amount of snow that the sun was failing to deal with to my liking.  No problem.  I was prepared to climb in my ski boots.  Jake thought I was crazy when I told him we would be climbing in ski boots, but he soon realized that these were the most appropriate tools for the situation.

The climbing was fun and on the steeper sections the rock was great with sufficient protection.  The flatter sections were covered in snow and we would occasionally start a roller ball down the mountain that grew like they do in cartoons before plunging over the immense and overhanging east face of The Tooth.  The climbing definitely seemed harder than the rating of 5.4, but that's to be expected given the route conditions and use of ski boots.  I unburied many holds that made seemingly tricky moves much easier, which made me wonder how many other holds managed to elude me for the same reason.  Three pitches later, we were on top.

Jake and my leg on the summit with proof of footwear

The views were amazing in all directions - rugged Cascade mountains everywhere!  We rappelled the route in four single rope (70m) rappels.  Finding anchors after each rappel was tricky as some of them were buried under as much as two feet of snow and ice.  However, my strategy of selecting the sturdiest-looking tree and digging down to the base of the trunk, sometimes requiring an ice axe, always revealed some sort of anchor.

Jake rappelling one of the less snowy parts of the route

The ski down was mostly on super wet, heavy, and unconsolidated snow.  Skiing past a couple of struggling snowshoers most of the way back to the car reminded us of how much better bad skiing is than good snowshoeing.  We made it back to Molly and Phil's place just in time for an amazing dinner!

No comments: