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first ascent [TR] Molar Tooth - West Face - FA - II 5.8 9/26/2007

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Trip: Molar Tooth - West Face - FA - II 5.8


Date: 9/26/2007


Trip Report:

This is one of those faces in the North Cascades that is hard to get a look at from popular destinations. Last spring I viewed it from 4 miles away and recognized the profile as seen from the Cutthroat Lake side (but in reverse). I thought that there was probably something to climb there although I couldn't make any detail. Yesterday I went to take a look at it with James Hamaker.

We intended to hike up the drainage shown on the Green Trails map but we never found it. Instead we ascended the forested rib east from where the PCT crosses Porcupine Creek and this took us fairly efficiently up to about 7000 ft.

At this point we weren't sure exactly what was the summit of Molar Tooth, let alone what we should try to climb and the clouds blowing across the mountain tops weren't helping matters. We decided to traverse south, climbing class 3 over one rib of rock and traversing steep slabs around the base of the next. Up a bit and we found a clean 40 ft slab that we scrambled up to set a belay at a small larch tree (center of photo):




James led up some easy 5th class then traversed to the right where there was an exposed 5.7 move around the corner (under the smooth bulge). There were some loose handholds here but solid ones could be found. He belayed closely above at a dead tree.






The next pitch started up a chimney (poor rock but easy):




Above was some 5.8 face climbing and an interesting boulder-pedestal with a fist crack behind it. This involved climbing up one side using the crack then descending the other side to get back on route, not that hard, but awkward. There was a loose rectangular block at the base that I considered trundling but it was OK to stand on with downward pressure only.

Some more 5.8 led to a low angle heathery section. James was eager to lead and I didn't argue as I would have taken longer on the harder moves.

Above were some cool slab overlaps. James went straight up and was able to place pro in a crack at the steep part (5.5):




We were heading for the gap between the two apparent high points seen from the start but weren't sure where the actual summit was. There was a chimney with overhanging chockstone at the end of this 3rd pitch that went at about 5.7. Above this the summit was an easy scramble. The clouds had cleared and the scenery was great:




We descended by the normal rappel route down the north ridge.

The rock on this route was good. There were some loose potential holds but they could be avoided. There seemed to be less black lichen than on the north ridge and east face. We didn't see any signs of previous ascents on this climb.

Robert Campbell




Gear Notes:

50m rope, medium rack up to #3 cam

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Yeah it was a fun route and we were thinking it might be the last day to get in a good climb for awhile.

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This proves that there are still first ascents that Joe Everyman can do. All it takes is a little area knowledge, a critical eye, and the desire to get out and check it all out. Good job!

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Contrary to some opinions, I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a single new technical alpine route this moderate left in the Washington Cascades.

I hiked up Porcupine Creek today to get a look at this. From the opposite side of the valley at a long distance away it looks fairly insignificant but must be around 400 vertical ft of rock. The first slabby pitch is pretty good. The 2nd pitch (5.8) is marred by it's low angle heathery finish. Looks like there are many options on the start of the 3rd pitch (probably 4th class by traversing left) but we went straight up to simplify rope management. There is then a short low angle rubble slope (stable) before the 5.7 exit chimney.

So not really a classic moderate but still a fun climb on good rock.



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