The Tooth - Northeast Slab

February 29, 2004

Loren had a half day to play in the mountains, so we decided to make an early morning run up the Tooth. The Northeast Slab route fit the bill as it is rather short and close to Alpental. We couldn't keep the children waiting, now could we?

The truck door slammed shut at 5 a.m. and we donned our skis in the lightly falling snow. Skinning up the continual sidehill of icy tracks leading to Source lake made my left foot ache. I began to wonder exactly how ugly it was going to be skiing down in my soft leather boots. Thanks to Loren, whatever the outcome, it would be recorded in megapixels.

The Tooth's NE Slab climbs the snowy corner on the right, and then finishes up on the North Ridge.

We made good time to the base and cached our skis in a hollow below and left of the route. I labored my way up the approach snow cone, though the snow conditions were just perfect. As an added bonus, the clouds and fog began to part, revealing a spectacular blue morning sky. This was going to be a good day!

Oh Shit! Dave getting pumped and scared, already pulling on gear.
Photo by: Loren

Ahhh, perfect Neve on the first pitch. Photo by: Loren

The ice screws rattled on my rack as I started the first pitch. They were itching to be placed. Each time I moved right to finagle a piece of rock pro, I swear they would jab me in the hip. Loren's poor screws have been neglected this winter. The climbing was superb: solid neve, some steep ground, and a narrow gully to work up. Around 40 meters I worked right over a steep fluting of snow to place a big (2") cam in the rock. There was a fixed belay station below in an alcove, but I decided to traverse way left to the obvious stand of trees for a belay. As my crampons began poking through the snow, clumsily dulling themselves on the rock beneath, my steps became more calculated. Gone were those happy days of perfect snow. I'll admit it, I groveled my way across the traverse.

Loren cruised on up, enjoying every swing and every kick like it was his first. It was a perfect day to be in the mountains. He took the lead up the next pitch, finding some honest full-on-swing water ice.

Loren tackles pitch two.

The nature of the medium kept changing. First was was snow, neve, flutings. This gave way to scratchy snow over rock, thunker ice, and finally steep snow up to the ridge crest. I took over at the crest, and scrambled along the narrow crest of snow covered rock. This lead us to a short rock step on which Loren dutifully and skillfully removed all the snow for me.

I know there have to be holds under here somewhere. Loren on the North Ridge.

After this step was a deep notch with a formidable little rock step leading off to the right. Loren excavated, tooled and scratched until he'd overcome the tricky step. From here it was just a pleasant stroll along the upper ridge to the summit.

Nearing the summit on the North Ridge.

Rapping down the South face route.

Time was running a little thin as the route had taken us about 3.5 hours. We found that, by rapping from the tree below the summit, that you can make it down to the notch with two 60 meter rappels. The ropes seemed to pull easier from the second station too (compared to rapping off the chockstone). The ski out was, as expected, more of a spectacle than anything else. Still, it takes less than 10 minutes to zoom back to the parking lot from source lake on a pair of boards! The Northeast Slab is a route that, when in good conditions like we had, can be great fun. Thanks Loren!

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