The Tooth - South Ridge in Winter
January 7th, 2003
Nathan Collins was in town still for the winter break, and I had Tuesday
off, so we plotted to escape from the confines of the city to enjoy some
rare winter sunshine on The Tooth. We got a very non-alpine start, preferring
to wake up late and enjoy the day... all of it, as it would turn out!
Several days of sunshine after a weekend of rain had consolidated the
snowpack into something resembling concrete. We cruised up to source lake
with our snowshoes in hand, and started up the approach gullies. We were
under the dreary Snoqualmie Pass ice fog until we broke out into the sunshine
in Great Scott bowl.
Nathan approaching the Tooth.
Soon we were racking up in a very summer like heat at the base of the
route. The southernly aspect of the route keeps the steeper rock entirely
snow free and, on this day, warm!
Nathan coming up the first pitch.
There was less snow on the ledges than I found the last time I was here
in winter a few years back. This made the ice-tool I was toting pretty
useless, but I sure wasn't complaining. The second pitch was mostly dry
as well, except for a right slanting crack that was chocked full of snow
Nathan joined me at the belay, and we looked for what the route that
most people tend to follow on the last pitch. Each time I had climbed
the route so far, I had followed the catwalk finish. This time I wanted
to check out the "cracks" on the right.
Dave leading up on the last pitch. Photo by Nathan.
The flake-cracks looked really cool and a bit challenging in my mountain
boots. I had walked up to here from the belay about 25 meters with out
any gear, and was a little dissapointed to find that the only piece I
could find was a small cam in a slightly flarring crack. But the climbing
was steep and fun, and all too soon I clipped the slings on the tree atop
the route. Nathan quickly joined me at the belay, and we continued up
to the summit.
Nathan on the Summit.
The daylight was to be fading away quickly, so we stayed only a little
while on the summit, and then rapped off.
Nathan below the route at sunset. It was just gorgeous.
On the descent down in the dark we experienced what Nathan and I call
"one of the finest aspects of mountaineering", foot glissades!
Sure we were sliding on top of the rain crust and would unexpectedly go
smashing through it to halt in a man-hood crushing position, but it was
a heck of a good time!