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South Face

5.4, Trad, 330 ft (100 m), 4 pitches, Grade II,  Avg: 2.8 from 249 votes
FA: C.L. Anderson & Herman Wunderling (1928)
Washington > Central-W Casca… > Snoqualmie Pass… > Tooth > Summer-Fall (rock)

Description

The South Face is one of the oldest rock climbs in the history of Washington climbing, first scrambled by a few intrepid Mountaineers in 1928. It follows juggy features, ledges and flakes up the relatively narrow south face of the Tooth, accessed from Pineapple Pass. There is some dirty scrambling and loose rock on this climb but the position is outstanding, the climbing laid-back, and the summit views excellent.

P1 (5.3, 100ft) - From Pineapple Pass, head up and trend right through the general groove/line of weakness, and belay at the slung block.

P2 (5.4, 100ft) - Climb right to a ledge and follow other ledges back and forth, ending near trees with rap tat on the left. 

P3 (4th, 70ft) - Scramble up through ledges and short steps. The path of least reistance leads right at the end but it really is choose your own adventure. Belay below the final steep wall.

P4 (5.4, 50ft) - There are three options for the crux and best pitch. Most will go slightly right to a juggy right-facing flake (5.4) which leads to the first rappel station and a scramble finish. To the left is a steep crack (5.8) with good gear and more rock to the summit. The classic finish leads left on balancey moves (5.4, exposed) to the Catwalk ledge, from which the summit is scrambled.

Protection

Light alpine rack - singles to 3 inches with a smattering of nuts

Rappel stations are fully equipped: (as of June 2021) 1st - 3 rap rings and many slings/cord around tree, 2nd - 8mm doubled cordelette w/2 quicklinks, 3rd - two trees each with a few slings, 4th - several slings and 3 rap rings around a block.

The east gully from Pineapple Pass has two bolted chain anchors to make two rappels with a 60m.

Location

The climb starts at the saddle at the top of Pineapple Pass (the notch between the Tooth and the smaller pinnacle just to the south). To get there, scramble up to the notch that is just south of Pineapple Pass. Then contour around clockwise to get to the start of the climb. A direct scramble up to Pineapple Pass is not recommended, as this is the rappel route. The final portion of the contour around involves some class 3 to 4 scrambling, but it is short and unexposed. Some parties have elected to do a running belay here, but it is not necessary.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Gabe near the top of p3
[Hide Photo] Gabe near the top of p3
Rappelling south face winter 1991
[Hide Photo] Rappelling south face winter 1991
winter ascent south face 1991
[Hide Photo] winter ascent south face 1991
The south face as seen from the Denny Creek Trail.
[Hide Photo] The south face as seen from the Denny Creek Trail.
View of the South Face Route on The Tooth 5.4 viewed from the base.
[Hide Photo] View of the South Face Route on The Tooth 5.4 viewed from the base.
Final pitch
[Hide Photo] Final pitch
The summit rappel anchor
[Hide Photo] The summit rappel anchor
Added P3 rap anchor to avoid unnecessary down-scramble exposure. With a 60m rope you can't make it from summit to the easier ground at the start of P3 (a couple ledges above the rap station at top of P2) but with a 70m you might.
[Hide Photo] Added P3 rap anchor to avoid unnecessary down-scramble exposure. With a 60m rope you can't make it from summit to the easier ground at the start of P3 (a couple ledges above the rap station at top…
Bret on the last move before the summit
[Hide Photo] Bret on the last move before the summit
South Face of The Tooth 3/16/2019. Face gets enough sun that even during a winter ascent its got dry rock. 
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Rock moves are dry, but patches of snow and lots of snow on summit makes having an ice axe or tool useful towards end of route and summit.
[Hide Photo] South Face of The Tooth 3/16/2019. Face gets enough sun that even during a winter ascent its got dry rock. Rock moves are dry, but patches of snow and lots of snow on summit makes having an ice…
Don Preiss winter ascent south face toof 1991
[Hide Photo] Don Preiss winter ascent south face toof 1991
South face is the left side of the Tooth in this photo.
[Hide Photo] South face is the left side of the Tooth in this photo.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Aaron Wait
North Bend, WA
[Hide Comment] Started this climb kind of later in the afternoon and was glad I did. There were like 12 people who had all been bottlenecking for most of the morning. Aug 12, 2013
Serge S
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Summer approach: as the trail rounds Source Lake heading west, a group of 30+ ft high vertical cliffs is visible ~500' away on your left, at about the same elevation as the trail you're on. You want to pass below those cliffs, aiming for a wooded area below the left-most cliff. The trail starts in that wooded area, 30-50' below the bottom of the left-most cliff.

(The phrase "avoids losing elevation", found elsewhere in approach instructions, seems markedly out of date - you have to lose 100' of elevation to get to those trees. In theory, you could get off the main trail early enough to avoid gaining that unnecesasry 100' to begin with, but with the vegetation where it is now, that would entail a considerable bushwhack).

Once thru that first group of trees below the cliffs, continue traversing south - cross a 100' boulder field and look for a trail heading straight up the hill, near the boundary between the boulder field and the next group of trees. Jul 19, 2016
Serge S
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Beta on the climb itslef

Climbing is easy, 3-5 pro placements per pitch semed enough to protect the 5.6-ish cruxes (I climb significantly harder than 5.6, but I've read similar comments from people who do not).

Not as much fixed gear as in some old trip reports.

Can be led with mostly nuts (all nuts if you have both straight and curved nuts).
#2 or #3 camalot useful early on P1.
Small cams (up to gray camalot) will find placements for sure.
Long slings useful.

P1 belay - rap station (cord around a rock)
P2 belay - 120cm sling around a tree (bring your own sling)
P3 belay - small cams, medium cams, or rap anchor (depending on where you stop)
P4 belay - rap station (cord around a tree)

Route finding

P1 - mostly straight up. Don't stop at the first (tree) anchor - go to the 2nd anchor (cord around rocks) if possible. There is a spot where going straight up is 5.7 - 5.8, right is much easier once you find the holds. 35m.

P2 - diagonally up/left (flake, past a piton), then back diagonally right, past a sharp dead snag, to a small tree. 20-25m.

P3 - 3rd class scramble, a bit left overall. If done unroped, stop at the bottom of a diagonal rightward ramp with a finger crack (the ramp is easy but exposed) - anchor here works best with 10-15mm cams. If done roped, you have the option of continuing up the ramp (medium nuts / small cams), then more 3rd class scrambling to a rap anchor some 10m below the final wall.

P4 - 10m of 3rd class, then 3 obvious parrallel RFC starts separated horizontally by ~2m. All 3 have stuck cams ~5m off the ground.
- Left: 5.8, 3 stuck cams within inches of each other
- Middle: 5.7, 1 stuck new green .75 x4
- Right: 5.6, 1 stuck old yellow cam

Rappel: mostly obvious, except for the rappel anchor at the top of P2 - it can be seen from the P2 belay tree, straight down 3-5m. Good idea to look for it while belaying P2. It is probably possible to get to it from the top in 2 rappels without going unroped, but pulling the rope over 3rd class P3 terrain might bring some rocks down, so I prefer making the 2nd (from the top) rappel short (15m), then scrambling down 3rd/4th class terrain (15-20m).

I have no recent direct experience rappelling east from the notch, but I hear it's loose and the intermediate anchor is either hard to find or not always there. We simply went back the way we came. Jul 21, 2016
Mark Webster
Tacoma
[Hide Comment] I haven't climbed the Tooth since 1979. My daughter (28) talked me into going up again. Once leaving the trail above Source Lake, we only found fragments of trail going up, but on the way down from Pineapple Pass, I was able to spot quite a good trail. After a couple rope lengths of descent on talus, stay to skiers right (climbers left) and there is quite a nice trail that avoids most of the talus. We followed that trail all the way down to where there were views of Source Lake. It occasionally veers left across short talus bands, but the talus traverses are (usually) marked with cairns. There are many streams to filter water.

My wife and daughter traversed high back to the chair peak trail, but I chose to drop straight down to Source Lake. I thought there would be a trail out from Source Lake, but that place is abandoned. I had to bushwhack east (skiers left), and then up from the lake to the "Source Lake" trail. Which ought to be renamed "Chair Peak" trail, since that is where it goes. The bushwhack was easy, and I beat them by 15 minutes.

Regarding the climbing, the Tooth is quite chossy. I am spoiled by the good granite at Index, Leavenworth and Squamish. It felt 5.4, 5.6ish, but the exposure and less than stellar rock added some spice. As others have said, a handful of nuts up to one inch, and a rack of singles up to yellow camalot #2. Bring your small cams in the finger sizes, as there are a bunch of thin cracks and a few fingerlocks. There are large loose rocks in many places, and many of the crux moves involve grabbing flakes that look like they should be loose. The views from the top are as good as I remember, but there are nearby mountains that look like they would have just as good of views but appear to be walkups, without the chossy climbing.

Rappeling down was straight forward on the obvious trees and flakes you may see as you climb up. We had one 60 and it was fine. We did 4 raps, but could have cut it down to 3 if we'd noticed the scramble off to climbers left on the second rap. As non-mountain climbers, we belayed everything, which made us slow. It took us twelve hours car to car on 8-6-16. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was only one other party several pitches above us. Once we got on the route, 8 other people showed up, and they were still going up as we got down at 6pm. I don't envy them navigating down the talus in the dark. Aug 7, 2016
Amine Chater
Bend, OR
[Hide Comment] We were able to link P2 and P3 with a 60m rope.
We rappelled down east of the notch, the rock wasn't all that loose and the 2nd intermediate anchor felt good. Jul 10, 2017
Patrick Nygren
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Rapped east from the notch this week - the intermediate rap anchor was easy to find, but set up over some sharp edges that seem to be putting a lot of wear on the cord/tat that is there. Would definitely bring new stuff to replace if you get there and it doesn't look great.

Also, pulled down a lot of loose rocks when pulling the rope on these raps. Not sure that it really saved us that much time over scrambling around the pineapple the way we came. Jul 27, 2017
[Hide Comment] As Patrick mentions, rappelling east from the notch is suboptimal. The intermediate anchor is usually not confidence inspiring and is exposed directly to rockfall that your rope is fairly likely to knock down. It is both faster and safer to simply return the way you approached. Jul 18, 2018
Abby Hudak
Wesley Chapel, FL
[Hide Comment] Can link 1&2 and 3&4 with a 70m. Rope stuck on then second to last rappel be careful! Jul 31, 2019
Tobin Akehurst
Seattle WA
[Hide Comment] I climbed this yesterday after work just to check it off. I hadn't looked up any info on it but I had heard that everyone does it and there is usually a significant problem with traffic jams, so I assumed there must be a few pitches of real climbing. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered it is in fact 20 mins of 3rd and 4th scrambling with a single 5.4 move. We placed 4 pieces and that felt excessive.

There is an intermediate rap station where you need it if you want to solo it and rap with a 30m, but the sling is missing a rap-ring so bring a quick-link.

Took us 4.5 hours RT moving at brisk hike with no one on the route.

This beta brought to you by a guy who falls on 5.9s Aug 2, 2019
slim

  5.4
[Hide Comment] ummm, are you seriously bragging about how easy a 5.4 was? lolz.... Aug 2, 2019
Steve Johnson
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Tobin Akehurst - thanks! Good intel. Aug 7, 2019
Caleb Mallory
AMGA Certified Rock Guide; PNW
 
[Hide Comment] Southwest face is a great option on a busy day. Sep 6, 2019
Ronald Malavotte
Wittmann, AZ
 
[Hide Comment] Did this climb June 02, 1973. We did the 4th class North Ridge route because of crowds on the South Face, which can create objective hazards. Note: Unlike many other ascents that can be done fairly safely during spring when lots of snow is on the ground. Because you need to go by Source Lake which sits in a deep cirque and thus has a repetition of Avalanches which have killed climbers and hikers in the past. Be sure to get a avalanche forecast and if moderate to high find another climb. Hike to the West side of the Tooth and gain the North Ridge. The route to just below the summit is well defined and the crux is a solid class 4 move which is a 5 foot mantle from a ledge to a ramp. Traverse along the ramp and upward, (Some Exposure) to an exit and about 30 feet of class 2 to the summit. Retrace your steps back down the North Ridge for the decent. Note: If you have two 150 foot ropes and descending rings, you can rappel down the South Face, three rappels. May 7, 2020
Kyle O
 
[Hide Comment] We rappelled with double ropes which worked fine with no stuck rope scenarios. However, the less than vertical terrain of the route made throwing the ropes laborious as we had to throw them multiple times while rappelling down. Rappelling with a single rope and scrambling the 3rd/4th class pitch may have been equally as fast. IMO, I would skip the optional fifth rappel anchor by the start of the route. This rappel leads you directly into the approach basin without having to walk around as you do in the approach to the climb. This fifth rappel really didn’t save much time and the rock was sloping and slippery; I’m glad our double ropes didn’t get stuck here. Jun 23, 2020
K Go
Seattle, WA
 
[Hide Comment] Added a rap anchor (slung tree) midway between P4 and P2 rap anchors (also slung trees) as our party did not feel comfortable down-scrambling either exposed ramp on P3, and our 60m rope did not make it down far enough from the summit rappel to bypass these sections (a 70m rope will get you further down closer to P2 rap station, however).

From the base, take the scramble back around the way you came when descending. Direct east notch descent from Pineapple Pass not recommended, cord on 2nd rap anchor (slung block) was barely hooked by a 1/4" protrusion behind the rock, could easily break or pop off and the cord would slide right off the block. Tried to build a more confidence-inspiring anchor on a couple different spikes but none were positive/undercut enough to trust. A slung tree with rap rings across the gully, about 20ft above and to skier's left from the bad block anchor offers a secure rappel down the chossy face north of the gully (on the other side of the arete that the tree is on) but requires a few exposed moved up the dirty gully walls to access. I belayed my partner up to it, then rapped down from here *almost* to the snow (again with a 70m you'd make it) and hopped the moat to freedom. Jun 30, 2020
Brent Kelly
Boulder, CO
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] Looks like someone removed the slings at the base of pitch 1 (i.e. the saddle summit of pineapple pass) installed a 2 bolt anchor with rap links.

This makes the descent rappel down pineapple pass into the Great Scott Bowl on the descent much more comfortable. Thanks to whoever!

(We made the rap with a full 70m two rope rap, easily made it to the talus. Not sure if a single rope rap would be comfortable. Also, probably still a bad idea to rap the gully rather than walk off if folks are above on route. Rockfall magnet. Scrambling around and down the pass south of the Pineapple is probably usually safer and nearly as efficient.) Aug 16, 2020
Dave Desmond
Bremerton, WA
[Hide Comment] The bolts to rap into pineapple pass have been tightened and there is now another bolted rap station halfway down that allows 2 single rope raps down to the talus. Assuming there's no one on the route above this is a great descent option. Scrambling back around seemed sketchy to me Oct 17, 2020
Alexander Gorobets
Redmond, WA
 
[Hide Comment] Climbed it on Jan 18 2021. No ice, but some snow on rock here and there. Climbed mostly with hands, but in crampons and keeping tools ready. Feb 1, 2021
Daniel Chode Rider
Truck, Wenatchee
  5.4
[Hide Comment] Currently there is hardly any fixed gear en route. Rap stations are plentiful and bomber. Moats are slightly difficult to deal with but only really if you're going to the Southwest Face/Tooth Fairy. Gully rap at the end is set up for two 60m raps (both bolted chain anchors.) Jun 22, 2021
Trevor Cichosz
Woodland, WA
[Hide Comment] P1: Placed 4 pieces of pro
P2: Placed 0. Found many good spots but was climbing ledges and any fall would've dropped me on a ledge anywho.
P3: free climbed. Easy class 3
P4: Free climbed to final 20-30 foot wall, then placed 2 pieces for fun. Cool route. Could do with a few cams. Jul 6, 2021
Daniel Chode Rider
Truck, Wenatchee
  5.4
[Hide Comment] Just realized the FA on this was listed for the Tooth, not the south face. The Tooth was climbed by the north ridge first (4th class). South face wasn't climbed till 1928. Corrected the FA. Aug 15, 2021
HollySpangler Beale
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Did this last week via the summer route (completely snow free).

Approach:
IMO, once you got the scree field, don't bother finding to cairns to find a "trail" through it, as people have said they've wasted hours doing; I think it's a waste of time and quicker to just bust straight up the boulders.

Climb:
Don't forget about simul-climbing! Especially if you have some microtraxions to protect a follower fall. With maybe 4 microtrax and maybe a 1.5 rack and several slings, a leader should be able to string the pitches together and make it to the top without stopping - way quicker than pitching it out, but safer than soloing! Sep 9, 2021
Jared Jones
Seattle WA
 
[Hide Comment] Climbed this last Saturday, fun easy objective with incredible views. There was some good exposure on the 2nd and 4th pitches that made the easy moves feel exciting. It was busy just as we expected, so if you go on the weekend add some time to get stuck behind other parties.

I spent a lot of time prepping for the approach, but it was more straight forward than I expected. There are multiple ways to get there all that aren't too bad, though I would recommend keeping as far left going up the last scree field there is a nice trail that dodges a lot of the rock hopping. The approach took us 2 hours both ways at a pretty casual pace. Don't do the rappel out its far slower than just scrambling back down.

Here is a map I made ahead of time and updated to match our route up: gaiagps.com/map/?loc=15.2/-… Sep 14, 2021
Chris Wu
Newton, MA
[Hide Comment] I climbed the route and brought a 30m to rap down (not a fan of down climbing). It was JUST long enough to make it from the rap stations to decent ledges where I could pull the rope down and scramble down to the next rappel. Had to rap off one horn to make it to the bottom. Still had to do a little down climbing, but for anyone wondering if a 30m will do, it was just enough to get me past the "crux" sections. Oct 9, 2021
Don Sarver
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] As of 06/11/2023 three new rappel anchors have been installed with 100 feet of cord and new hardware on route (tape on rope indicates the cord's manufacturing date) and added new steel rappel ring. New rap anchors can be found at top of pitch 4, pitch 3 and pitch 2) Rap anchor at the bottom of pitch 4 (skiers right) has been reinforced with cord and new black sling as well as two gold GM Climbing rappel rings. Jun 30, 2023
Nathanael Kerber
Denver, CO
  5.3
[Hide Comment] +1 to Tobin's comment, this route is super chill. Makes for an excellent, fun solo pit stop if you're driving through the pass. The actual climbing only took me 20 minutes, and if you are confident soloing it, you can definitely down solo it, don't bother with a rope. Downclimbing from the rap station at the base of the route through the gully was not bad, and I think faster than walking back around and over the pass to skirt the small tower before you get to the tooth. Did it in 3 hours flat c2c with a 10 minute stop at the base to chat with other parties, 10 minutes of lounging at the top, and majorly flubbing the approach including a spicy downclimb through a rushing waterfall. Took the approach at a brisk clip on the way up and trail running the way down, plus some very fun shoe skiing on a ~250ft ribbon on pineapple pass. Jul 5, 2023
Michelle Elizabeth
Las Vegas, NV
[Hide Comment] As of 8/10/23 there is a massive human poop AT the summit rap station. I have no idea what possessed someone to do this but it is truly awful. I'm sure a few rains will start to wash it away, but boy did that put a damper on the summit.

Otherwise great route. Finding our way to the base took a bit of meandering up high but we got there eventually. 4 easy pitches to the top. Barely placed any gear due to large ledge systems and overall ease of movement. All rap stations in good condition. We took the rap down Pineapple Pass with a single 70m and the midway rap station was in good condition. Definitely made the descent easier. Car-to-car in 8 hours. Aug 11, 2023
[Hide Comment] As of today. No snow on the route. Snow was crappy post holing the way up and down bring boots used approach shoes. Feet cold but manageable weather was favorable with warmer temps at the summit. Jun 1, 2024
Brian Hague
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] Found a phone on the approach. If it’s yours, let me know the model/description of the phone case and I can get it back to you. Jun 9, 2024