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The Tooth (5604 ft)

Alpental Valley

October 16, 2010


Two weeks after our climb in Leavenworth, Jesse and I were back for more with a climb up the venerable south face of the Tooth! We had a late night going to the Seattle Sounders FC match the evening before, but we were still in the Alpental parking lot around 7:30am. We were a little concerned with the number of cars already there, but what can you do? We put on our packs and started cruising up the Snow Lake Trail. It had been a couple years since I was last here and they now have a self-registration station at the trailhead.

We set a good pace and caught up to a party that was continuing on to Snow Lake. We met a party of two with rather large packs hiking out, so we were fortuntate so far in that we were the only ones heading to the popular Tooth. Jesse is a Staff Sargeant at Fort Lewis so on the hike in he told me about the Road Marches that he has his men do for training.

At the end of the Source Lake turnoff we made a descending traverse and met up with two older climbers who were also heading towards the Tooth. They continued the fast pace up through the boulder fields. The recent precipitation had left about a half inch of snow on the boulders so we had to be extra cautious on the slippery surfaces. Jesse and I took a more direct line through the boulders while the other two climbers followed the trail around the left side of the basin. We still met up at the bottom of the notch at the same time!

We scrambled down and around the backside of Pineapple Peak and up to the notch at the base of the route. We were suprised to see packs, gatorade bottles and zip lock bags of food scattered around the belay area. A party of three were already on the route starting up the second pitch. We chatted with the two other climbers as we got ready. It worked out well to have the other two climbers ahead of us so that Jesse could see the procedure. They were very fast and efficient and soon it was just Jesse and I at the belay.

Kim had gone over belaying with Jesse two weeks earlier and I reviewed some things with him on the way up. He picked it up very quickly and I did not have my normal concerns when climbing with partners new to belaying. We made our safety checks, went through the verbal commands and soon I was off leading the first pitch.

It was cold in the shade but once I got up about 30 feet I was in the beautiful sunshine! Jesse had climbed harder routes indoors, but it's always different when you are outdoors and climbing real rock with real exposure. He cruised up the first pitch and we were now both enjoying the warm sunshine and the great views.

The leader of other party we were following was already at the end of the second pitch so the belayer took off and we had the belay/rappel slings to ourselves. It was nice to not be rushed with climbers right behind us. We climbed up the next two pitches and at the end of the third pitch we saw the party of three rappelling down. One of the climbers was quite heavy and we were both suprised to see someone that big in the mountains. Good for them to be able to do this! It must have been a lot of effort.

While leading the last pitch I took advantage of a fixed cam just on the other side of the step across. Once at the top, I built a gear anchor and belayed near the edge so I could get some good pictures of Jesse coming up. This is the best pitch of the climb, IMHO, and offers some great views. I told Jesse that there weren't an abundance of handholds, so he would have to just focus on his foot placements. He said he had great hand holds the whole way across, so I was glad that it was easy for him!

The other two climbers rappelled off while we were climbing this last pitch so we had the summit to ourselves! We spent about 30 minutes relaxing and eating some chocolate while taking in the scenery. We could see north to Mt Baker, East to Glacier Peak down to Mt Stuart, South to Mt St Helens, and West to the Brothers over in the Olympic Range.

Congratulation on your first alpine summit, Jesse! Looking foward to more!