2600' Elevation Gain
4 miles RT
Left Car: 7:45am
Summit: approx 4pm
Return to car: 10:30pm
15 hour car to car
It was time for me to revisit the Southwest Face of the Tooth. Last year Julie and I had a great time with great weather on this climb. I had fond memories of it and decided I would share them with some friends (and a stranger.)
So I finally saw a coyote in Washington. Not in the desert where I expected. Not even in the wilderness. When we picked up Steve at the Eastgate P&R, there was a coyote pouncing around the tall grass on the north side of the lot.
We arrived a touch later than expected at the Alpental lot and geared up deciding to bring snowshoes, but leave the crampons in the car. The snow was already soft as there was no refreeze during the night. We started hiking up the trail behind a Washington Alpine Club party of about nine. Bare boots seemed to work well as there were nine people ahead of us stomping in tracks. When the trail started to head for the gully near Source Lake, we donned snowshoes for the softer less consolidated snow. Shortly after the gully got steep we went back to bare boots as the WAC was making some nice steps up the gully. We passed the WAC group in the basin as they geared up and we made our way to the base of the climb after stashing snowshoes and trekking poles at the notch.
We got the to base of the climb in a little over two hours, and noticed that about half the first pitch was still under snow. I proceeded to find a spot where the moat could be filled in and we could access the rock for the first pitch. After some snow engineering and gearing up, we were finally starting the route around 10:45am. Lori led off in boots on some spicy wet moves to gain the flaring off width. After some slow progress and minimal gear options she gained the ridge a bit. Then back across the top of the off width to easier ground and the tree at the top of the first pitch. I followed up, and Matt led behind wearing rock shoes.
I led out on the second pitch with minimal gear options and got to the point I believe we belayed from the previous year. (Having looked at last years photos, I attempted to belay from a much higher point this year.) I searched for a while for adequate anchors before building an anchor with blue and green aliens, and a slung horn. I brought Lori up and we discussed the next pitch.
Lori headed up the money pitch which starts on some slabby moves and gains a wide dirty crack before transitioning right into more blocky terrain. Now with rock shoes on, Lori sailed up the pitch. Steve and Matt had wisely set up a belay below me and Matt proceed to lead the pitch above me. He was well past me by the time I got my rock shoes on and headed up. I got to the next belay and had some water and a snack before reracking the gear, and heading out.
Once I turned the corner, there were people everywhere, as well as ropes. I climbed through/past a WAC group anchor, and then went to the final wall. I put a piece in and attempted to head out on the catwalk. There was no gear above my last piece and the rope drag was horrible. After a bit of attempting to make the moves go, I down climbed to the ledge and set up a belay to bring Lori up. By the time she arrived, the WAC were pulling their ropes, and we would have the summit to ourselves. She led off on the ramp variation as she did not like the description (not good pro) of the catwalk that I had given her. She reached the summit with some hooting and hollering, and then brought me up. As it was late, I left the gear in for Steve to clip to save us time.
We spent a brief amount of time on the summit, and prepared our raps. While I know many people do double rope raps off the South Face, I usually prefer single rope raps. However, the last rap station is somewhat dubious, and it also is a little higher than 30m from Pineapple Pass. So after two single rope raps we decide to do a double to the pass. This reminded me why I favor single rope raps. The ropes were blown in the wind and got tangled. Being the first to rap down, I had to stop at least three times to clean and rethrow the ropes. It seemed like an eternity. Once back at the pass, I waited for Lori, and we went to retrieve Steve's and my packs from the base of the climb.
After some time, we were joined by Steve. Shortly afterward, Matt yells that he is having trouble pulling the ropes. I put my harness back on and ran up the snow to help him. We pulled at the ropes, and it almost felt like there were knots on both sides of the anchor. I told him it looked like the ropes were twisted and perhaps we should set about getting that in order. Once untwisted the rope pull acted the same way. At this time Steve came up to help and mentioned that the knot may be catching on the lip. With a strong flick of the rope, it cleared the lip and we were pulling the rope. After that, it was time to hike out.
The snow out was super soft. Ken had told me waist deep mashed potatoes, and he was correct. Once out of the steeper sections near the notch, we donned snowshoes and proceeded to the gully. With headlamps on, and back in boots, we plunged or glissaded down the gully where we put the snowshoes on again and hiked out.
Overall a nice fun trip. Although it was long, it was not an epic, and other than pulling the ropes, we did not experience any issues. I think when the weather is nice and we are exploring the route, time just got away from us. Sure there were time wasters. It took a fair amount of time to make a safe starting belay at the base. Lori took a while on the first pitch. I took a while finding a suitable anchor on the second and even the fourth. But there was no negative impact other than we all missed dinner. It was really great on the hike out to see the stars start coming out and it was my first time up in the Source Lake Basin at night. It was also my first night hiking in a while, and I do miss it.
I will say too, that I remembered enjoying this climb more last year. This year, I felt like the route had worse rock, and less pro. Not sure if that is a symptom of this being my first alpine rock climb of the year, or how my memory softened the edges. I do remember thinking when I first climbed it why it wasn't done more often. I now have a better understanding of why it is not done too often, but I think it is still worthy of doing.