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Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - The Tooth/South Face

A successful climb of the Tooth on 6/4/2016.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The winter route is no longer in! We made it up via the approach, but not without significant bushwhacking through devils' brush. It did not save us any time.

    The descent via the regular route is also somewhat challenging, with snow melting rapidly, creating very thin moats in places. 

We left the Alpental parking lot at just before 5 AM on Saturday, June 4, opting for the winter route, as a recent trip report suggested that the route was still in. It definitely was not. The snow has largely melted out, creating routefinding challenges that involved struggling through thick devils' brush. While we largely stayed on the track (relying on prior GPS tracks and prior knowledge of the route), it did not save us any time, and was not particularly enjoyable. We made it to Pineapple Pass after approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes.

As we got to the pass, we noticed two young climbers trying to access the South Face via the ~4th class double rope rappel descent route. We suggested they follow us up the easier scramble route instead. They had never done the route before, but evidently had been climbing since they were 5 and their dad had told them to go up the first gully they saw. We chatted a bit as they followed us up the safer route. It turns out that they knew from the Mountaineers website that we would be there, so they camped out at the Alpental parking lot. When they heard us arrive, they jumped out of their cars and got a 15 minute head start from us via the Snow Lake approach. We were happy that we were fast enough that we passed two spry 16 year olds and made it to the base before them, but also figured they wouldn't want to get stuck behind a group of 6, so we let them go first on the route.

The route itself was uneventful. After waiting for the two teenagers to go, we started climbing at after 9 AM. Everyone climbed very strongly and we topped out before noon. After enjoying some glorious summit treats and photos, the rappels were very efficient: we all rappelled the first rappel to the large ledge and then I took the three ropes and set up the remaining rappels  such that everyone could just jump from rappel to rappel.

The descent was a little challenging. We followed a bootpath to where we thought we could end up in the basin, but got cliffed out and had to reascend to get to the correct descent gully. Even once we were in the right area, the rapidly melting snow created some steep, slightly icy conditions with some precarious moats over waterways that caused pause. Everybody was very careful, and while we were slower than we'd have preferred, we descended safely, crossed the talus field, and eventually made it back to the trail (which is currently more of a mild waterfall than a trail... this is definitely as "alpine" as the Tooth gets. Earlier season, the snow makes it pretty easy. Later in the season, you can actually find the climber's trail that leads to the base of the climb.) This was the full shebang for our students: bushwacking, precarious snow crossings, fourth class rock scrambles, and a lot of navigation. Each of them definitely earned their basic rock and intermediate rope lead credits! They did an amazing job.

We got to the cars at 5:15 PM, total trip time 12 hours, 19 minutes. We beat the teenagers we back to our cars by 20 minutes. :-)