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[TR] The Tooth - Northeast Slab 2/20/2011


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Trip: The Tooth - Northeast Slab


Date: 2/20/2011


Trip Report:

Climbing focuses all one's thoughts and energies sharply on one single point: the present. And there's nothing quite like a winter alpine climb to magnify this focus so much as to light the present on fire!


The day was cleared on the schedule, hall pass granted, partner secured, forecast looked prime. But Friday rolled around and Mark emailed awful news that he had a fever/flu and was out. I scrambled around asking people if they wanted to go climbing. My buddies all seemed to have prior commitments or were going skiing.


Well into the evening Saturday, after deciding to go out solo and trying to figure out what sort of compromise to the ambitions must be made, both Roger and Zoltan came through with a yes!


This was a first winter alpine climb for Roger and it meant some gear-borrowing and a general gear-gathering/prepping hell-fest on Saturday night which had Roger and I up till about 1am. Turns out Zoltan fared no better on the sleep, but we managed to leave town about 5:30am and were on the trail at 7:30am.


There were 3 other cars in the parking lot with a group of 4 skiers circumnavigating Chair and one party of 3 aiming for the South Face of the Tooth. At that point, we were heading for Chair.


As we hiked (Rog and I on skis, Z on snowshoes), I suggested that we consider the NE Slab of the Tooth as an option. As we quickly neared the decision point, Z reasoned that proximity of the climb and the fact that I'd not done before, made it a good option for our party. Soon we were skinning up through the trees left of the gully coming down from Piss Pass Basin.




After seeing inspiring photos of Wayne and Tom S's climb of Pineapple Express the day prior and with the steady cold temps, I imagined that the route would be in good shape, and indeed it was. After getting nice and sweaty wallowing up from the gear depot to the base of the route in deep snow and hot sun, we entered into the shade and Z belayed as I lead up the first pitch.




Our route seemed to vary from the Selected Climbs description a bit. Our first pitch went steeply up the corner on snice (good sticks). I got in a picket and a weak screw and after wandering around a bit at the end of our fifty meter ropes, downclimbed a bit and found a really cool existing belay behind a huge wind-fin of powder snow. Could've bivied in this thing!


Z and Roger followed with Roger getting the spindrift baptism on his first pitch of steep Cascade snice. He made it to the belay with frozen hands, eyes wide, mumbling profanities. A good start!


The next pitch went traversing left across a couple flutings finishing with a near-vertical step of great thin ice over rock. The belay was a comforting huge tree. Zoltan followed arriving at the belay completely stoked. Roger came after going up a full 20 feet right of where Z and we dubbed his interesting and more challenging line the "spice route". The newbie wants a bit more!








The third pitch went directly up the fall line toward another belt of trees and the ridge just above them on thin and variable snice. I deadmanned a picket just above the belay and below where the angle steepened. Tried to place a screw another 30 feet up, couldn't get it to go, and just kept climbing upward. About 80 feet above the questionable picket on the last bit of visible "ice" before moves into the tree belt, I finally got a VERY comforting 13cm screw to go in.




Zoltan said he was nervous belaying, but this placement was "reason to hope". And so we dub this pitch, which ended at another great tree belay just 30 feet below the ridgecrest.


Zoltan and Roger cruised up following steadily to the belay, arriving happy. Looking down the pitch, the exposure was ridiculous and awesome.


The last pitch was short but insecure in that aerated, thin ice covered slabby rock. I placed a picket 10 feet above the belay and continued up, there was a little band of rock to get around or over. I couldn't get any pro into it, but it had some cool handholds and turf sticks just above it, and these afforded a way right and to the crest and sunshine! Twenty feet up the spine to another huge tree and the slab pitches were done!


Zoltan flew straight up to me seeming to float like helium--straight over the small rock band with nary a pause. Roger again following slower but steadily after, figuring it all out on the fly, cursing, kicking around for a semi-solid stick with his crampons, fighting off the incessant pull of insecurity and the void below him as he moves toward the ridgecrest and sunshine.




At that point, we ate and laughed and sat a bit in a spot on the west side of the ridge in the sun. There was still "the surprise" but we surmounted this final difficulty and continued to the top along the west side of the ridge to the summit as the sun lowered toward the horizon and clouds moved in from the west. It was cold and beautiful.


We made it off the climb rappelling hastily in the fading light, got the rope stuck on the last pitch, freed it after shenanigans, had a couple more near disasters on the way down, and made it back to the car around 8:30pm to warmth, beers, provisions, and falling-out laughter as we joked and celebrated the day.


What a great climb!


Here's the full set of photos.


Gear Notes:

2 50m ropes

2 pickets

3 ice screws

3 cams (1" to 2.5")

3 tri cams

5 small nuts

1 knife blade

10 slings


We used the slings, the pickets, one ice screw on any single pitch, all the cams simul-climbing the ridge, and several nuts.

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