The Tooth - 5604' - South Face 5.4
So finally I got around to doing the Tooth! A few friends of mine managed to do it back in March but I had to wait for the next weather window for various reasons. I convinced Dane to come along and on a quiet Tuesday morning I picked him up in Seattle and we headed off to the Alpentol Trailhead and was parked by 6am. We started quickly up the packed trail to Source Lake and after about an hour or so we arrived at Source Lake to find a gigantic avalanche debris field where the end of the slide was a wall of snow and ice 15 feet high! Source Lake was completely covered and the slide appeared to start way up on Chair Peak. It wasn't until we got back home after the climb that I found out this slide happened only two days before and was triggered by a cornice fall high off Chair Peak. Luckily we weren't headed up that way but instead we turned left (west) and headed up the bowl leading towards Pineapple Pass. The snow was very firm and made ascending quick and painless. Add the nice ski tracks we had and going up most of the way we didn't have any post-holing problems. This was very fortunate because neither of us brought snowshoes. After about 800 feet of ascending the slope eased and we entered a beautiful bowl completely covered in snow and our first views of the Tooth came around. The east face of Bryant was also clearly visible just to the north. We continued walking up the gentle bowl until we got just below the small saddle to the right of Pineapple Pass. Here the fun began.
We entered the sun at which point the snow instantly seemed softer and we ended up post-holing the final 150 feet up to the large moat guarding the saddle. The moat was large enough to prevent easy passage so I ended up heading to the right and climbing up a short section of 60 degree soft snow to get to the rocks above. Careful steps and banging my hands into the snow allowed me to climb 40 feet and reach the saddle. Dane followed nicely and we successfully avoided the deep moat. Once at the saddle, we descended about 50 feet on hard snow and traversed around the tower reaching the actual Pineapple Pass and the base of the south face route. We dropped gear, racked up, had a snack and I studied the route. I made the last minute decision to climb the route in my boots instead of my rock shoes to which I was very glad. All the snow covered ledges were hidden from the base of the 400 foot ascent.
So I began up the first pitch which started simple with some easy Class 4 rock and snowy ledges. A series of small traverses and rock steps led to an anchor 30 meters up where a few pieces of webbing were wrapped around some rocks. Above that I climbed an easy crack and clipped a fixed piton and traversed right on a ledge past a dead snag that I was able to sling. I then continued up where the snow really began. There was a long section of steep snow that was really in quite bad condition. We had left our ice axes at the base and I didn't bring pickets (there was one spot I wish I had one!). So I was forced to carefully climb bucket steps and pound my hands into the snow to make holds and slowly finish the long 70 meter pitch which ended at a 15 foot tall tree with a sling around its base. I clipped in and belayed Dane up which he had fun climbing what he thought was going to be a rock climb but really it was more of a mixed route lol.
Once we were both at the top of the first pitch, I started up the second which began as a snow traverse on a ledge to the right to the base of a 50 foot step which provided good rock to climb on. I made my way up easy cracks bearing to the left, past two fixed cams stuck in the crack and up to the horn a few feel below the summit where a nice anchor was already in place. I liked this 35 meter pitch a little better. After belaying Dane up we finished the last few feet to the summit where views of Bryant, Chair, Kaleetan, Denny and Guye Peaks awaited us. It was about noon when we reached the top and was mostly clear with only a few high clouds so we could see all the way to Rainier which looked very impressive. Once we had our summit fill, we made the first rappel back to the tree atop the first pitch. The rope didn't quite reach so we had a short down climb section on soft snow. From there two raps brought us down to the base of the route at Pineapple Pass. We then packed up and decided to rappel the gully heading straight down from the pass instead of trying to traverse back around the tower. I was able to dig out the webbing which was mostly buried under snow. It looked solid so I put the rope through and dropped off the cornice and rapped steep snow until the end of the rope. Once off I finished the descent into the bowl with an awesome glissade!
After coiling the rope, drying off and taking more photos, we began the long post-hole slog back to Source Lake. The snow had softened a lot during the day and Dane had quite a bit of trouble with the soft snow. My trekking pole I brought helped me a lot though. Once we made it back to Source Lake a group of skiers was beginning their way up to ski the bowl we just came down. I informed them it would be a good ride right now. Once back at the car at 2:30 PM I had to hurry to work...luckily I was only 15 minutes late.