Classic Climbing at Snoqualmie Pass: The Tooth's South Face

JR called me Wednesday night while I was half-packed for our climb in the morning.  "Chris, I'm really sorry," he launched into it without warning, "Dude, there's a s#!t-storm at work and I'm not going to be able to play hooky like I planned.  I'm sure you'll have a good time with Chuck - he's strong."

So this Trip Report is dedicated to JR.

The solo drive up to the pass gave me time to think about the past summer, the past month, and writing about this post.  Before highway 2 was opened over Stevens Pass, and highway 20 was pushed through the North Cascades, Snoqualmie Pass was Seattle's alpine training ground.  Access up the Middle Fork and into the Lemah's was actually easier than it is today, with maintained roads making both of these areas reasonable weekend objectives.  Even now, there is classic climbing to be had from the Alpental parking lot, taking only 6-12 hours car-to-car.

The South Face of The Tooth is one of those classics.  Only 400' long, Beckey calls it "low-5th class", and it certainly meets my definition of old-school 4th class or new-school 5.4.  Speed solo alpinists have been known to run in, climb and down climb, and run out in an evening.  Earlier in the summer, the approach demands ice axes and crampons to cross the snowfields in Alpental Valley and Pineapple Basin.  By this time of the year its a fantastic approach-shoe climb.

After a stop at George's Bakery in North Bend for a donut breakfast and a ham-and-cheese croissant for lunch, I met Chuck in the Alpental Parking lot and we were hiking by 9am.  Along the way we saw the unbelievable - a mountain goat in Alpental Valley!  I've seen them further to the north and east, but never here in the valley itself, and there one was, climbing up the Chair Basin avalanche path/talus fields, perhaps 500' above us.  Amazing.

The mountain goat is visible immediately below
the talus field in the middle of the photo.
The smoke from the east-side fires made for some incredible light, but is also completely wrecking the views that I've come to expect to the east and north into the Enchantments.  It makes me wish for the rains to come and help the firefighters out.  That'll happen soon enough (rain is in the forecast for the end of next week).

At the base of the climb we met three teams from the Mountaineers, led by Cebe, who was king enough to let us pass by.  3-2-1 Liftoff!

Pitch 1.

Pitch 4.

Summit photo - where's JR?
The South Face, as I climb it, is 2 pitches of 5.4, a third pitch of 4th class, and another final 5.4 pitch to the summit.  Chuck was awesome, following smoothly and even able to pull out a stopper that I was sure I had placed to well, joining the ranks of a ton of fixed cams littering the last pitch.  We were standing on the summit at noon.

The Tooth - the South Face is the sunlit aspect.
This route gets so much traffic, there are four perfectly spaced rappel stations for the descent.  We made sure to thank the Moutaineers as we passed them on pitch 3.  Back at the packs we ate and drank again, waved good by to the 6 teams that were now on the route, and headed back to the cars.  Mission complete at 4pm.

Statistics:  Pro Guiding Service.  The Tooth (5604ft), South Face (II 5.4, 400', 4p).  27 September with Chuck C.