Tooth SWF as climbed 8-11-23.png

Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - The Tooth/Southwest Face

A route-finding challenge. Here is the way we did it.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

We met at Alpental and started the hike in at about 6:40am.  The weather was cool and cloudy on the approach.  Everyone was feeling good, and we made it to the base of the climb without any notable occurrence by about 8:45am.  I think we had all climbed the usual South Face route before, but this was everyone’s first time on the SW Face. We had tried to read all the route descriptions we could find, but oddly, there aren’t many clear descriptions and many of them conflict.  I think this is because there are a lot of possible variations.

Tooth SWF as climbed 8-11-23.png

The SW Face With Lines Showing Our Routes Up

We decided to start up a crack in the center of the face on the middle of the three open books at the base of the route.

 I would say the crack felt like about a 5.6 or 7 with a couple moves that made me stop and think.  I followed the purplish blue line up and then traversed left and up then behind a tree that is often used as the first belay.  The tree doesn’t offer the best stance though, so I continued up another ten feet and built a gear anchor.  The sun broke through the clouds about that time and the rest of the day was sunny and warm.  The other two teams followed the orange line up traversing above and behind the tree which reduced the rope drag but the drag was still substantial.  That pitch is the longest using nearly a full 60m rope.  Joe led the second pitch along the blue line traversing left and then up an open book.  That book was much more difficult than it appeared at first and the crux is about ten feet above the last protection over an uneven sloping ledge.  I think you would be very fortunate if you could still walk out after a lead fall from the crux.  To make it worse, a hand hold broke loose when Joe reached for it.  Following up, I was super glad I hadn’t been the one leading!  We recommended that the other teams not try that way.  Continuing up the blue line, the climbing gets easier, but the rock is all broken up so I constantly felt like it might fall apart if I wasn’t careful.  The next belay was from another gear anchor.  The other teams headed up the yellow line to the base of a dihedral with a couple of pitons in it.  They built an anchor there on a ledge to reduce drag since moving up the dihedral is hard enough without that.  Tony led it and based on his description it seems pretty difficult, but it can be protected better than the open book Joe and I went up.  The hardest part is getting up to a 4” ledge about 12 feet up.  This requires some difficult moves on small flakes or nubs or aiding with a sling off the fixed pitons.  It can be protected reasonably well with cams in the 1”-2” range.  I think an easier route might be to traverse left from the first belay passing below the poorly protected book to a blocky area near the buttress that the Tooth Fairy follows.  The climbing looks easier there, but I can’t give any information on pro since none of us went that way.  From the belay where the blue and yellow lines meet, we all followed basically the same route ascending diagonally to the right to the south face then up a ramp and belayed from a tree below the last pitch of the South Face route.  By the time everyone summited, and we raped off (We raped down the South Face) I think it was about 6:30pm.  I’m sure we could do it faster next time, but route finding was harder than expected.  Also, an important safety note about this route is that there is a lot of lose rock along the way and we actually had a couple close calls with falling rock.  I think in the future I’ll do this climb with two rope teams instead of three because it will be easier to mitigate rockfall hazard.  After a short rest, we started the hike out and made it back to the cars just before dark.