TR - Das Toof
Updated: Jul 25, 2019
The Tooth via South Face
Views: 👁👁 Snoqualmie Pass is lovely, but not the world's best views
Snow: ⛄⛄⛄fairly solid over talus... wish there was more!
Rock: 🧗♀️🧗♀️🧗♀️🧗♀️ honestly not that bad!
Suffering: 😈 regrettably pleasant the whole way
Routefinding: 👣👣👣👣👣 quick n' easy!
Timing: ⏰ should've done it on a weekday
Exhaustion: 😴 I never actually feel like I worked the whole time
Crowds: 👯♀️👯♀ there could have been more people but waiting an hour to rappel wasn't fun
The Tooth or as it's more commonly known, "Das Toof," is one of Washington's most harrowing alpine climbs. Truly a worthy objective for the up-and-coming alpinist, it's hard to believe such a gem could reside in Seattle's backyard. At several pitches of almost 5th class climbing and an approach of multiple miles, you can be sure that this worthy summit will turn away all but the most grizzled mountaineer.
I was first inspired to climb Das Toof alpine style when reading the account of the first ascent which used siege-style expedition tactics to gain the summit. The first ascentionists used UW students as porters and brought a fully kitted out Bosch hammer drill up with them replete with a diesel generator for charging the batteries. During a two-month summit push, they chiseled out holds and added a bolt ladder (since chopped) from the Alpental parking lot to the summit. Such a backwards eithic has no place in the modern era of climbing and I wanted to set a better example.
My good friend Maggie and I set out from our houses around 6:30am today and stopped for provisions along the way - she at Safeway and I at QFC. We met up at the dirtbag's home away from home, West Wall Bar, in the grungy basement of a relatively unknown climbing gym. We were met with a familiar face behind the counter. Mitch, an old friend, offered stories of his travels up to Squamish but gasped in dismay when we told him of our plans. He wanted no part in our journey and was hesitant to provide the coffee that would be our fuel for the mission. After a good deal of haggling, I left with an americano in my thermos and a heavy spirit with the knowledge of what was to come.
The drive out to exit 52 was quiet and the tension was as thick as too-dry instant mash. Maggie and I had an unspoken agreement that we could not discuss the climb lest we realize what exactly we were up against. We pulled into the parking lot at 8am where we saw some hikers laughing and sorting their gear out. There was no laughter in our car.
The approach was dispatched in short order, the dark solitude of the forest calming our nerves as the sun began to rise above the eastern ridgeline. Talus field after talus field pushed our resolve to the test as ankles were rolled and expletives were shouted to whatever god would listen. The first sign of snow was both a blessing and a curse - it offered a welcome break from the scree we were hopping on but it wormed its way inside our shoes, inching us closer to hypothermia. But this was no time for weakness.
We trudged up on snow past Source Lake to the fabled Pineapple Pass. The Bryant Massif towered over us, its craggy walls a stark reminder of the danger lurking ahead. Das Toof loomed ever closer, at times eclipsing the sun and sending us into shivering fits from the cold and the sheer majesty of what we were beholding.
The traverse to the start of the rock route was a preview of what was to come. One misstep would surely mean death, or perhaps a fate even worse. But with steely resolve we scrambled our heavy packs to the base of the imposing south face. To our brief delight, the route was snow free. This would be a welcome break from the dangers of winter season and meant we could leave our ice tools, crampons, pitons, ice screws, warthogs, pickets, flukes, leashes, and abalakov tool at the foot of the rock. We knew that fast and light travel was the only way we'd get out alive.
I took the sharp end for the first pitch. Kitted out with several racks of cams, nuts, hexes, chocks, beaks, tricams, quadcams, pentacams, and 2x4s, I knew I could climb my way out of any jam. After what can only be described as a showing of peak athleticism, I reached the first anchor, a slung boulder. I was gripped out of my mind and gasping for air, water, a Luna Bar - anything to distract me from the pain that was my existence in that moment.
Luckily Maggie offered to lead the second pitch which she climbed with ease. I understood while watching her what John Newton meant in 'Amazing Grace' for her heel hooks, gastons, undercling dyno traverses, and no-foot bat hangs were of divine inspiration. I only hoped that I could follow her on our own heavenly path.
The third pitch was a welcome respite as the technical terrain had mellowed out. We opted to simul-solo this part, both knowing that one false step would send both of us plunging into the abyss. Thankfully there was a stuck cam halfway up, probably from a party that made the wise decision to retreat.
The final summit headwall grew until it dominated our vision. Such steep climbing I have never seen on this planet. But as alpinists, it is our duty to push the sport forward and tackle any challenge given to us. As Maggie left the ground, I wished her godspeed and prayed to see her again and in one piece. She seemed to find footholds out of nothing and the smallest crimps became jugs in her hands. Such power and ferocity I've never seen outside of my yearly trip to the lions at the Woodland Park Zoo. Before I knew it, she had achieved the summit. As she belayed me up to join, I had to remind myself that our journey was far from being over.
While on the summit, we each shed a single tear for what we had gone through that day before digging into our last remaining reserves of energy and rigging our descent. Four rappels saw us back at the base of the climb, each of us feeling giddy now that the difficulties were behind us. As we retraced our steps back to the car, we had a hard time containing our excitement at discovering this new classic climb in the heart of the Snoqualmie valley wilderness.
Patchy snow starting at ~4000ft, becoming more consistent at ~4500ft. Snow is melting out quickly and more boulder fields are becoming exposed. Yay.
Didn't feel like crampons, boots, or an axe were necessary in the conditions we climbed in. A trekking pole was helpful.
Rock was very dry, not too many loose blocks on route.
A single rack of cams from fingers to hands will serve you well. Nuts may be nice if you're looking to cut weight.
Rappel stations are all rigged with good tat and rap rings.
There were 4 other parties on the route which was a major bottleneck for rappelling. Waiting for them ended up eating over an hour of time.
The scramble back to Pineapple Pass from the base of the climb is almost certainly quicker and less of a hassle than trying to rappel down.