The Tooth - South Face
A (wet) classic
The Tooth could be called Seattle's local mountain. Less than two hours away The Tooth sees nearly daily ascents of it's regular routes. This did not discourage me from planning a weekend climb on one of Northwest Washington's classic alpine summits. Though The Tooth has a comparatively short approach and just a few hundred feet of rock climbing it still requires technical climbing skill and, on our chosen day, and fair bit of Northwesterner gusto.
I wanted to beat the traffic, crowds, and supposed afternoon rain so I picked Mark up at 4:30am. We swung through Bellevue to pick up Ron, who just hours before agreed to head up The Tooth with us, and were at Snoqualomie Pass just before 6am.
The last times I had approached the Tooth and Source Lake was during winter excursions so I absent mindedly followed the winter route towards the base. “There has to be a better way,” said Ron, as we bushwacked up a steep waterfall and splashed through wet meadows. Turns out there's a trail that heads right up to the basin we were aiming for but I explained we were in it for the adventure and that the wet bushwack added to the excitement of the climb. I don't think they agreed.
After cross talus and low-angle snow, and making our way quickly through steep gullies we were at the base of the rocky and damp South Face. Mist swirled in the air and hid the entire route from view. It was silent and eerie below the unmeasurable mountain face at 8am. We brought two 8mm ropes – I tied into both and tied Ron and Mark into one each. We were going to be climbing in a cold cloud, I put my jacket on, and finished adding gear to my harness. I set out on damp rock placing little gear but feeling pretty nervous not knowing the route, not being able to see the route, and watching my toes slip on the wet granite.
After three relative easy pitches we were at the top. The clouds swirled and teased us with views of the rocky ridgeline we were a part of. The last pitch had been exposed and required a few moves of real climbing on real wet rock. I had made a committing desperate move for wet hold just before the summit approach and was happy to now have the three of us standing on top of the vertiginous summit. On the was back we found the trail, and the tourists – I liked the bushwacking better.
Photos: 1)A modified misty photo of the Tooth and adjacent spire. We climbed the illuminated ridgeline from the notch just left of center. 2)Happy summiters.