The Tooth (at night) June 17 2011
I’ve been getting kind of bored with single pitch cragging and not motivated to organize a big trip, so I decided to celebrate the summer solstice and an almost full moon by soloing the Tooth in the evening. A few days before I saw that Paulina wanted to get out too. She was into the night climbing thing but was not into the soloing thing, so I added a partner, rope, and rack to the trip. I was happy to have the company and we brought the alpine-don’t-try-this-at-home rope and rack which probably only weighed about 3 pounds anyway.
After a hot sunny day in Seattle, things were looking good for the evening (20% chance of rain at night? that’s practically 0). We did made the mistake of taking the ’summer’ trail on the way in. I guess it’s not summer for another 4 days or so. Switchbacking along the Snow Lake trail on the ‘wrong’ side of Source Lake probably cost us about half an hour, but it did make it easier to find the nice uphill boot track (climber’s right side of the gully from Source Lake) instead of thrashing around in the stomped out downhill side of the gully.
It was sunset as we started ascending out of Source Lake (just missing three descending climbers who were probably wondering what we were doing), and just about headlamp time when we got to the start of the traverse around to Pineapple Pass. I was glad to have made the last minute decision to bring a larger pack to accommodate the rope and rack, which left plenty of room to throw in my puffy. My thermometer read 41 degrees, my usual summer climbing outfit would not have worked!
The ‘full moon’ idea didn’t quite work out as planned, as after about half an hour of seeing it rising orange on the horizon, the moon was well hidden behind a thick cloud layer. The views of the snowy surrounding peaks when I turned off my headlamp at the belay were still pretty amazing! Not at all capturable with my point and shoot camera though, even though it’s got some mode with an icon with mountains and stars.
Despite the clouds and 41 degrees the weather was pretty much perfect (ie. it was not raining and it was not windy). The Tooth is well suited for antics such as night climbing with straightforward routefinding, easy climbing, obvious webbing encrusted 3-rap-ring fixed belay/rappel stations (with fresh webbing from the WAC Basic Class about a month ago) on nice ledges. I was actually surprised that I remembered some of the route from 4 years ago as a student in said Basic Class, but it’s not that difficult: go up, follow the incut jugs and flakes, traverse a bit if it looks like it’s harder than 5.4…
About an hour and a half after tying in we were at the top. I know I should be working on moving faster if I want to climb stuff that’s more than 2 pitches this summer, but it was just so beautiful, and this was the first time I’ve climbed in the dark on purpose, so I wanted to enjoy it. And Paulina is Russian so she was not complaining about freezing at the belay. After looking around for the summit register (is there one? I remember there not being one, and Paulina remembers that there was one, and we were both last up there 4 years ago).
Another thing that makes the Tooth conducive to night climbing is that the descent is relatively easy. Well-situated rappels to get back to the snow, and then from that point there’s only one narrow drainage out of there (which contains a cat track, ski resort, road, condos, etc), so even if we lost the trail in the dark it would take an extreme amount of effort to actually get lost (we did briefly wander in a circle looking for the exit from the upper Alpental parking lot, but that doesn’t even count as off route). We did take the winter trail down, which worked much better.
A nice conclusion to the night was that the WAC cabin at the pass was open for a work party the next day, so there was no 3 am drive back to Seattle or bivy in the rain (it started drizzling on the way down), we got to descend to warm beds, real bathrooms, and coffee makers! (and then wake up 6 hours later and help install a door in the room that we were sleeping in… the womens’ dorm is going to be nice this winter).
- The Tooth (5604ft), South Face, 5.easy 2p