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 and ice.

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!

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