The Tooth

I’ve been up The Tooth twice so far, first on Oct 10, 2013, and second on May 16, 2015.   In October 2013 we had clear blue skies, but it had freshly snowed on the route.  In May 2015 we were socked in with fog all day, but luckily the rock was bone dry.  Happily, both were successful summits.  As it’s probably the most popular alpine rock climb in Washington state, there’s no shortage of information out there.  That makes this overkill information on a pretty easy route, but here’s my notes on how to climb it, using a mix of pictures from both of my trips.

Overview

5.4, 4 short pitches
Trailhead at 3100′, leave trail at ~4100′, rope up at 5280′, summit at 5604′.
~3 hour approach at a moderate pace from Alpental
Early start highly recommended to beat the crowds.
Every belay anchor is either a tree or rock horn.
To descend, rappel the climbing route.  There are more established rap stations than necessary.
12 hours car-to-car is a pretty typical time if you’re doing this climb to give experience to new climbers.  Stay sharp on efficiency, for your sake and others.
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The Bugaboos

In researching the Bugaboos I read that it is notoriously rainy, so when deciding to stay at the hut versus the Applebee campground, I chose the hut, so if it rained we would have somewhere to dry gear and chill out. We got super lucky and on our 4 day trip it only sprinkled on us briefly on our hike in and out. We still really enjoyed the hut, but when deciding where to stay one should take into account that the hut adds about 1,000 extra feet of gain needed for all the climbs than from the campground.

Day 1 – Hike to the Kain Hut (3 miles, 2300ft)

The first thing that differentiates this area from any other area I have been to is the necessity to surround your car with chicken wire before leaving. Apparently there are animals in the area that like to chew the rubber hoses. Ekk.

Chicken wire around the car

Chicken wire around the car

So after meticulously wrapping Ralph (that’s my car) Ben and I set off around 5:15PM. We had planned on starting around 1 or 2, but between construction and a long boarder wait we got in way later than planned. The sign at the trail head warned of dangerous trail, but it turned out to be just fine. Actually it was the best trail I had been on in Canada, it even had switch backs! (I was starting to think Canadians did not believe in switchbacks). The trail starts off flat and then leads to switchbacks that are pretty steep. There are two sections of trail that are slightly exposed and have chains, probably necessary if it is icy, but not in the good weather we had, and one short ladder.

Chains

Chains

Trailhead warning

Trailhead warning

Up the ladder

Up the ladder

We got great views of the Bugaboo glacier going up the trail, and there were lots fo beautiful wildflowers. We eventually spotted the hut and arrived around 8PM. The hut is really nice, with a fully equipped kitchen (running water, gas stove, pots, pans, plates).

View from the hut

View from the hut

Kitchen

Kitchen

View on the hike up

View of the Bugaboo Glacier on the hike up

Day 2 – Eastpost Spire (Scramble)

After getting in way later than expected the previous night we scrapped our plans for an early start and woke up at the late hour of 8am. Since most of the climbs require an early start this put them off limits for our first full day. I asked the hut caretaker what could be done with a late start and she suggested scrambling Eastpost Spire, so that is what we did. While prepping that morning we made a new friend, Noelle, and she joined us on the scramble.

The approach to Eastpost goes through Applebee campground, which is about a 45min hike up from the hut. We poked around the campground for a bit and then continued our way. The trail up to the col was obvious and well marked with cairns. From the col we got views of the Rockies in the far distance.

Andrea approaching Eastpost Spire

Andrea approaching Eastpost Spire

Andrea and Ben at the Col

Andrea and Ben at the Col

View of the Rockies in the distance

View of the Rockies in the distance

Snowpatch Spire and Bugaboo Spire from the Col

Snowpatch Spire and Bugaboo Spire from the Col

From the col the scramble started and we followed the cairns up the ridgeline. We stopped right below the summit for some pictures. We then did the last 100 feet to the summit, which featured 1 or 2 low 5th class moves. From there we snapped some pictures and then down climbed back to the larger, less exposed, area to eat lunch. The down climb was a little scary, and there were rap rings, so most people must rappel that pitch.

From the top of Eastpost

From the top of Eastpost

Looking down on Applebee camp

Looking down on Applebee camp

After lunch we scrambled/hiked down to the lake just above Applebee camp. We stopped, soaked our feet, and napped for a while taking in the view. Then after an hour or so we headed back to the Kain hut to make dinner and go to bed early.

View from the lake

View from the lake of Bugaboo Spire and Crescent Towers

Day 3 – Lion’s Way on Crescent Towers (5.6)

We left the hut around 8am and headed up through Applebee, around the sides of the lakes and over the side of the Crescent glacier to get to the base of the Crescent towers. Lion’s Way tops out on the summit of the central tower, which wasn’t visible until we were on the glacier. We marched up a snowfield and then transitioned onto boulders to get to the base of the climb (which was luckily pretty obvious.) After snacking, gearing up and poking around the base Ben started the first pitch at 11:15.

Ben on the approach

Ben on the approach

Andrea on the edge of the Crescent Glacier about to transition onto the boulder feild

Andrea on the edge of the Crescent Glacier about to transition onto the boulder feild

Boulder field with the Crescent Glacier in the distance

Boulder field with the Crescent Glacier in the distance

We had been warned that this climb was notoriously hard to navigate, and that proved true. We thought we had totally done the climb correctly until we looked at a blog 2 days later and saw that our 5.6 corner was different than the one on route. The climb was supposed to be 6 pitches, but we ended up making it 8. We were on route for some of the pitches at least, but Ben ended up leading two 5.6+ cracks 🙂 All in all the climbing was super awesome though, the granite there was sticky with plenty of tiny features. Makes me want to go back and climb more! Here is the breakdown of the pitches we did:

Pitch 1: Easy 4th class blocky moves.

Pitch 2: 5.3, meandered right then straight up. Obviously I did this wrong as we didn’t end up in the right corner for the 3rd pitch. We did end up at an obviously much climbed crack/slight corner that looked 5.6-ish

Andrea leading up the 2nd pitch

Andrea leading up the 2nd pitch

 

Pitch 3: 5.6+ crack/ kind of a corner. This had obviously been climbed many times as the crack was clean. If climbed like a crack it was closer to a 5.8, but apparently if you reached in far enough there was good fingers. I was just glad Ben lead this pitch and not me!

Pitch 4: 5.6 at the top. Blocky moves then finished with a crack to a ledge then a flake.

On the top of the 4th pitch

On the top of the 4th pitch

Pitch 5: 5.6, slab that transitioned to a crack

Pitch 6: Easy low 5th slab (I love slab!!). Lots of horizontal cracks for gear

Pitch 7. 5.5-ish. An arête with a crack to the right that took gear well. Finsh was very blocky, 4th class.

Pitch 8: Easy 4th class to low 5th with one hard move to gain the summit at the end.

Climbers on the Donkey Ears

Climbers on the Donkey Ears

Andrea on the last pitch

Andrea on the last pitch

North tower in the background

North tower in the background

Andrea and Ben with Snowpatch in the background

Andrea and Ben with Snowpatch in the background

All in all we had a great time. We chilled out on the summit, ate lunch and took in the views. After we descended down via the gully trail, with one rap at the only rap station (obvious from the trail). The rap wasn’t entirely necessary, the party in front of us just went down  the trail, but we were not in a rush so why not just rap down?

Ben rapping down

Ben rapping down

On the way back to the hut we decided to make the trip a loop, so we crossed the Crescent Glacier, and made our way to under the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col since we wanted to get a look. This Col gives access to some of the Bugaboo Spire climbs (including the very popular Kain route) and Pigeon Spire (which is supposed to be one of the best 5.4 routes in the world.) The Col looked scary, we were very glad we decided to do Lion’s Way and not Pigeon (which had been our earlier plan.) We got back to the hut around 8pm, making it a 12 hour day. (To put this in context the book says Lions Way, hut to hut, should take 6-7 hours. We moved slow and took lots of breaks to enjoy the beautiful landscape since we were in no rush.)

Looking back across the Crescent Glacier at the Crescent Towers. Lion's way is on the central tower, the 2nd from the left.

Looking back across the Crescent Glacier at the Crescent Towers. Lion’s way is on the central tower, the 2nd from the left.

Close-up of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col

Close-up of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col

Day 4 – Hike out

Self explanatory. It took us 2 hours, and sprinkled a bit on the way down. We then drove north to Golden and had some much deserved pizza and beer 🙂

Skywalker

Andrea on the "Skywalker" Pitch

Andrea on the “Skywalker” Pitch

This past weekend Ben and I headed to Squamish, BC to do some climbing in the least hot place in the Pacific NW (and by least hot, I mean the only place that wasn’t triple digits!) Saturday we stuck to shady singly pitch routes, but on Sunday we climbed a route I’ve had my eye on for the past year, Skywalker! And it was brilliant.

At 5am on Sunday our alarms went off and we begrudgingly got out of bed. We had 2 motives to get up at this un-Godly hour. The first was we knew this is a super popular and busy route (last year we did Klahani crack, which is on the hike up to Skywalker, and saw several parties headed up there) so we wanted to be first on the route and be able to take our time. The second was that it was supposed to be in the mid-90s so we wanted to make sure we were on the route while it was still relatively cool and shaded. Well, we were the early birds who got the worms, and our early start ensured we were the first people on the route and were in the shade the whole time.

We got to Shannon Falls a little past 5:30 am and found the gate closed (it doesn’t open until 7am) so we had to park in the overflow lot across the street. We racked up in the lot and were on the approach trail a few minutes after 6. The approach took us about 15 min (would have been much faster, but I had to stop several times to throw up… because that’s what happens when I wake up early.) After some shuffling of gear, flaking of rope, and eating of snacks we were ready to start the first pitch shortly after 6:30.

Start of the first pitch

Start of the first pitch

Pitch 1 (5.7):

I lead this pitch and it was hard! Or maybe just hard for me, since the beginning of the climb is a crack, and cracks are not my strong point. It starts out with a slabby moves to a bolt (fun!) then you have to do a nice little step over to a crack. There wasn’t really a lot of places for gear between the bolt and the step-over so that was a but scary, but not too bad since once I stepped over I got some gear in ASAP. Then it was straight up an obvious hand crack. My style of climbing cracks is place 1-2 pieces of gear and then take, so it took me some time to get up it. The crack peters out and then you traverse right to a slab with 2 bolts. I could reach out and clip the first bolt before transitioning onto the slab, which was very reassuring. The second bolt was only about 2 moves past the first then there was 10-15 ft of unprotectable slab before another obvious diagonal crack. I went slightly up on the slab traverse, moving slowly and balancing. I noted that the next party went slightly down on the traverse to a ramp… so seems like you could do this multiple ways there. Following the traverse there was an easy crack (maybe 5.4) that lead straight up to the bolted belay station.

Pitch 2 (5.8): The Flume

This is the hardest pitch on the route, and somehow I convinced Ben to lead it (in all honesty I probably could not have lead it even if I tried). While we were exchanging gear we heard another party starting the 1st pitch and knew we no longer had the whole route to ourselves. The second pitch is a very hard finger crack, and its only saving grace is that it eats gear. The right side of the crack is about a 1.5 ft arête and the left is a more or less featureless steep slab. The arête really made this crack hard, as I could not center my weight over the crack and was forced to smear on the left slab for balance. Watching Ben do this on lead was scary, especially the one time his foot blew on the slab (which he was able to recover from without falling!) Ben, who usually climbs pretty cleanly, had to resort to the “Andrea” method of crack climbing, ie place a piece or 2 and then taking to recover. From the belay station it looked like the crack gave way to some more gentle angled terrain, but unfortunately that was not the case, it was a sustained 5.8. This was by far our most time consuming pitch, and took Ben about 45 min to lead up it. By the time Ben reached the top the next party was exchanging gear at the belay station I was at.

Looking up at the second pitch

Looking up at the second pitch

This pitch was still an ass-kicker on top-rope, and I had to take several times to be able to get gear out. By the time I reached the top I was super impressed by Ben’s lead. It took me about 20 minutes to follow.

Pitch 3 (5.7): The Fork

After watching Ben make his way up the hard second pitch, the third pitch was on me. I’m not sure if it was because the climb was more suited to my strengths or because I had just come off the 5.8, but the this pitch seemed slightly easier than the first 5.7 pitch. The first few moves were rather scrambly and then I was able to clip a bolt. From there I was on what is called a “technical ramp”, which wasn’t that bad since I could treat it a bit like slab. There was a short easy section between the ramp and the next crack that went straight up to the anchors. The last few moves were the hardest of the pitch, and it was hard to find good gear placements in the crack. With some luck and Gumby like stretching I was able to place a piece high up in the crack and mostly protect the crux move. Even with my piece in it took me several tries to build up enough courage to do the last move! I couldn’t see the anchors until over the move, and sighed with relief when I got over and saw them 2 feet away.

Looking up at the 3rd pitch

Looking up at the 3rd pitch

Ben followed up, and when he got there he exclaimed that the pitch was much harder than it had looked below… I agreed.

Lukas (from the party behind us) coming up the crux of the 3rd pitch

Lukas (from the party behind us) coming up the crux of the 3rd pitch

Pitch 4 (5.4-5.6, depending on which book/website you look at): Skywalker

Skywalker Belay

Skywalker Belay

First things first, the belay station for Skywalker is awesome, mostly because of a plaque that reads “May The Force Be With You.” This route is a traverse with an amazing view, looking out from the belay station it looks like the climber is going to “walk” out into the sky. Ben had the honor of leading this pitch, and while he noted it was not technically hard it might be rated as a 5.6 in the book because it is fairly heady. He seemed to stay a bit higher on the slab and had to bend down to place his gear in the cracks and under-cling. Following him I went a little lower on the slab, so the crack was more at eye level when removing gear. Staying a bit lower was probably the way to go, I barely had to use my hands for the a majority of the traverse.

While belaying Ben across Skywalker the party behind us arrived, and they mentioned that some people actually do this pitch on their knees to get a better view for placing gear. I think that it might also be slabby enough to sit down and scoot across the whole traverse (not that I tried that).

Pitch 5 (5.4):

So, there are sections of the climbers trail that are probably harder than this pitch, I would say it is a really easy 5.4. The hardest move is getting from the belay station up to the slab, on what is basically a tree stump ladder. I got one move up and placed a piece, though I didn’t really need it, but that was one less piece to carry up. One 5- move over onto the slab and I exclaimed “Beautiful Slab!” An easy slab climb protected with 4 bolts and I was at the anchors. Ben was up to the top in less than 5 minutes (I could barely take up rope fast enough, that’s how easy this pitch was) and we stood back for a minute, high-fived and took in the amazing view. We looked down at the slab we just climbed and seeing it was just starting to get sun exclaimed how happy we were to have started early and have done the whole climb in the shade. Looking at our watch the time was 10:30, it had taken us just short of 4 hours to finish the route at a very leisurely pace.

 

Ben at the top of the walkoff

Ben at the top of the walkoff

There was an obvious trail off the route that meet back up with the main hiking trail. At the intersection of the main trail you go right (downhill) to leave or you can go left (uphill) for 5 minutes to reach some small pools and a stunning view of Shannon falls. We chose the later and it was worth the extra 5 minutes, we got some pictures and a the breeze coming off the falls was heavenly. We opted not to go in the pools as we just weren’t that hot and were ready to get down and eat some brunch, but they looked very inviting.

Waterfall Mist

Waterfall Mist

Following the steep trail down (I’m convinced Canadians don’t believe in switchbacks) we made it back to the car about an hour after finishing the route. By the time we reached the car the overflow lot, that had been empty in the morning, was full. There was a girl with a lemonade stand at the end of the lot and we each treated ourselves to a glass, which was probably the most perfect way to end a good climb.

Our Rack:

We took a double rack up (even thought he book only calls for a standard rack with doubles of 1-0.75) replacing 1 set of 1’s and 0.75 with our link cams of those sizes and we also brought our C3s. If I was to do this again we could probably leave the C3s at home, as well as the number 3’s. The route could easily be done as the book suggests, though if it were me I would bring the doubles at link cams, as I defiantly used doubles of some of the smaller cams, If I didn’t have link cams I would bring doubles of #1-0.4.

Resources:

If you plan on climbing this route then just print this description, that’s all you need to take with you.