I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Climbing above and beyond the Chief and Squamish Crags. Check here for trip reports and new routes in the Sea to Sky backcountry
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solojourneys
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I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by solojourneys » Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:45 pm

Having gotten spanked last week on Slesse's Northeast Buttress (I was trying to bring an
absolute beginner up the hill, only her third time rock climbing), I felt like my
ferocious love affair with alpine climbing was suddenly turning sour. Slesse was a real
breakup with the mountains, so I needed a rebound climb and turned to Habrich to boost my
confidence. I made sweet sweet love to Life on Earth, and this time I actually did succeed
in bringing the noobie to the summitt. WOO HOO!

Back on my game, I wanted more. So I heard about this sexy new route called the 'Mouse's
Tooth' from a couple friends of mine. Apparently it's the new 'hot item' in Squamish
climbing circles. It's a real trend, the thing everybody wants, kind of like Cabbage Patch
Dolls or Tickle Me Elmo.

First, let's talk about the name of this route. It's stupid. When naming a new route,
you should spend at least three or four weeks dreaming up something catchy. Like
'Freeway', or 'The Great Game' or 'Cruel Shoes.' Listen up, you new-route developers
out there. Put some work into naming your route - I mean it! I don't want to climb
some sh*t called 'Bullethead East'. No matter how good the route is, it better have a
flashy, sexy name, or nobody is going to scramble up your crack. Brainstorm, ask for
suggestions, treat it like serious homework, even scan comic books for superhero names
if you must. A classic route needs a classic name - period. Nobody wants to climb
something that sounds like it popped into your head while sitting on the toilet.

Enough talk, it's time to rack up for this route with the idiotic name. In my vocabulary,
the word 'splitter' is short for 'button it up', so I asked my buddy to bring all the
gear he owns. I whipped out my double rack, he whipped out his double rack, and we
just beamed with satisfaction and safety as our quadruple rack war machine glowed in
the sun. I wanted gear in every inch of those cracks, double protection, triple protection,
as much shiny gear as the splitter could swallow. I wanted to stuff everything I own
in the Mouse's Tooth. I like my cracks positively choking on gear.

'Do you want that sixth Number 2 Camalot?', asked my buddy. 'OH HELL YEAH', I grinned.

With all the gear, we could hardly even bring water or food. A half liter for the day
was all I could carry in terms of weight, with all those damn camalots jangling on my hip.
I don't drink at all on a climb - hardly even a sip of water. The downside is dizziness,
lack of judgment, decrease in climbing skill, inability to belay safely, and potential
for passing out.

According to the approach beta, two hours of hiking gets you to the base of the cliff.
Having just done the approach-from-Hell to Habrich, Slesse, and the Beckey-Chouinard, I
thought two hours of hiking sounded like a walk in the park. Except this park was a
minefield of alder thickets with boulders and tree stumps hiding in the tall grass,
just itching at the chance to snap your ankle. With the occasional cairn for moral
support, we plodded on through this gut-wrenching bushwack, wandering through an
endless maze of talus and brush, happily galloping across an ice-cold glacial river
just to escape the nightmare alder shwack. And then it was another hour up steep,
loose talus to the base of the climb.

We looked up, as if to Heaven, hoping to glimpse the endless splitters promised by the
topo. Way, way up there on the cliff we saw what appeared to be Shangri-la, but
between us and the Promised Land lay several pitches of mossy cracks and vertical
bush. We racked up, confused.

The first pitch, according to the topo, was 5.8R. It looked mossy and junky. I
suggested my friend might like to lead this one, since he doesn't know how to
place gear and according to the topo there was no gear to place anyway. I motivated
my buddy with a chorus of 'Crush it, dude!', 'Kill it, dude!', 'Murder it, dude!'
because that's the kind of encouragement climbers need. If he had struggled, I might
have fired him up with 'Gun it, dude!', but that could be insulting on a 5.8, so I
held my tongue. Halfway up seconding this mossy piece of crap, I decide there is no
way this is 5.8 after all. Hell, it's not even a runout, so we must be off-route
already. Apparently we were on the new 5.10a start.

The next pitch was also 5.10a with some bolts, but felt more like 5.9. It was really
just one pull-up. I expect 5.10a sport to require two or three pull-ups, minimum. So
this was soft for the grade.

The next pitch looked god-awful; a series of nasty, dirty loose ledges and bushes. A
vertical shwack with choss and moss. I suck at climbing nastiness, but my friend
specializes in it, so up he went. At the end of the pitch there was a nice little
5.9 crack and a big ledge with the first of many seriously sketchy anchors, this one
consisting of a loose nut plus an even looser nut for backup. This two-nut mankfest
threatened to pop out in a fit of rage if you looked at it the wrong way, so I avoided
eye contact entirely.

'Oh man,' I thought. 'How the hell are we gonna get off this thing?'

After belaying my friends up (yes, we were a three-person team again, but at least there
was no noobie mucking up the business), it was my turn to lead. This pitch was rated
5.10d, and actually looked clean. I can lead up to 5.12, but only on clean splitters,
with absolutely no moss or choss. This pitch looked clean, fun and easy - I was stoked!
After strapping on the quadruple rack, I began my first lead of the day, a little
nervously, plugging gear in about every few inches just to get the weight off my hips.
I'll let the second deal with that mess! I'm a big fan of the DP (double protection),
but today I was going for QP (quadruple protection) and really stitched it up. Looking
down from the top of the pitch, I could barely even see the crack, there was so much
colorful gear poking out of it. The anchor at this 'station' was even worse - another
couple wiggly nuts. I backed it up with some good mid-sized aliens and my friends
rocketed up the pitch. So far so good.

The next pitch was rated 5.11a according to the guide, and it looked like the 'money pitch'.
I mean, this thing was full value - splitter all the way to Heaven. The start was a
little tricky, but most of the pitch was 5.8, bomber feet and hands the whole way,
until just below the anchor. At the very top I yanked on a green alien to avoid
pulling on a death-block. If you hate your belayer, pull hard on this one - go for
the send! Then I grabbed the anchor. Whoops. It came apart. One pin popped right
out, and the other two wiggled and gave me the stink-eye. This wasn't the kind of
bolted anchor you get in Squamish, or even a nice slung horn like you find in the
Bugaboos. It was pure mank, junk, garbage, the kind of anchor that could kill a man.
Best of all, it was a semi-hanging belay, just what you want when your anchor is rated
to about 2 kilonewtons. My friends were itching to climb the splitter below, so I
hurriedly backed up this piece of sh*t with a red C3, a tiny nut, and a green alien.
Of course, I forgot the cordolette at the last anchor, so I couldn't even equalize
the mank. I hollared down at my buddy, 'On belay. Climb on. DO NOT FALL!'
They asked if I was serious. 'No matter what, DO NOT FALL!', I repeated. They climbed
very slowly and carefully after that - I think they both sent the pitch, too scared
to take or fall. Thank God!

We were all three nervous and anxious at this villainous station. The anchor was
the definition of SKETCH - unequalized, tiny marginal gear with wiggly pins, the
whole junky contraption just itching to blow. We were chilling on this thing,
racking up for the next pitch, when one of the anchor pieces made some funky
sounds like it wanted to pop out (the red C3). I was in a real hurry to get
moving again. I glanced at the topo - 5.10d 'thin'. I wondered if 'thin' was a
synonym for 'runout' and started to get REAL SCARED. With no way to rappel, and
no one else to lead it, I found myself reluctantly committed to a very heart-pounding
lead. Looking above me, I didn't see any kind of crack, or any gear at all. It just
looked like a slab, without any bolts. Even in Squamish you get a few bolts with
your slab, but apparently bolts are not on the menu here. And the topo promised splitters! Bollocks!

So I fired up this gnarly runout slab, placing the smallest brass offset on my rack,
a tiny 3kn wunderkind. This thing is definitely for psychological value only, but I
thought it might slow me down if I whipped. Then came the crux move, with nothing
a but that little brass piece of hope five meters below me. If that blows, I crash
a factor 2 on a lousy anchor, and maybe we all take the fast way down the mountain.
Usually my belayers secretly hope I fall, especially if it's safe. A little 'schadenfreud'
is natural, and it's always fun to see the whippers and the tears. But nobody wanted
to see a whipper here ...

I tiptoed my way up this nastiness, placing a few hopeless blue and black aliens
here and there. What looked like a life-saving corner crack above the slab turned
out to be a shallow flaring slabby corner with almost nothing in the way of protection.
I have a strong philosophy; when you CAN'T FALL, DON'T FALL. It almost always works.


As you ascend higher on the Mouse's Tooth, you will notice the anchors decrease in
quality with every pitch, eventually becoming little more than wiggly hopeless nuts
behind loose blocks, which is what I was staring at presently. At least I was able
to back this one up with some decent mid-sized aliens. Although I told my friends
they could possibly fall on this anchor - and not die - none of them wanted to put
my engineering skills to the test.

The crack above looked stellar - 5.9 or 5.10 splitter going God-knows-where into
the sky. But it was getting dark, and we were all concerned about how the hell
we were getting off this hill. Rappelling is serious business. This is where
climbers live or die.

Before a climb, I eat voraciously. Two or three days of pounding down calories
bumps my weight a few pounds, just over what my buddy weighs. My friend is all
muscle and radness, but he doesn't have an ounce of fat on his body, which helps
him crank 5.12 sport but doesn't increase his chances of survival on a terrifying
rappel like this. You see, the heaviest guy must go first on rappel with bomber
backups, while the lighter guy follows, removing those precious backups. This
rule ONLY applies when you are climbing with a lighter partner. If your partner
is heavier, just reverse the rule.

It's kind of like outrunning a grizzly bear; you don't need to be quicker than
the bear, just quicker than your friend.

As the fattest member of the team, I rapped first, jubilantly bouncing down 60 meters
of rope, not a care in the world, happier than a pig in sh*t with those three backup
aliens snug in the crack. The second removes the backups, but all my weight was on
the primary anchor. If it holds me, it must hold them - at least that's the theory.

Somehow we all made it to the bottom of the hill, no worse for wear, and without
leaving more than a biner and an old piece of webbing. The only thing nastier than
the hike in was the hike out - in the total darkness, exhausted and spent, dodging
those awful boulders hidden beneath the tripwire alder. The Devil's own bushwack.

We collapsed at the car, glad to have survived, but felt more than a little nibbled-on
by the Mouse's Tooth. Maybe it's an appropriate name after all ...

Jesse James
Squamish Climber & Adventurer

jefffski
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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by jefffski » Mon Sep 24, 2012 5:20 pm

great story, phenomenal writing. It would be magazine quality with a careful edit and proofread and some pics.

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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by c-plus » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:24 pm

dude, that was awesome! thanks for the great read.

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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by scrubber » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:31 pm

Great bit of writing there Jesse. One of the best trip reports I've ever seen on this forum.

K

Brendan
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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by Brendan » Mon Sep 24, 2012 10:00 pm

scrubber wrote:Great bit of writing there Jesse. One of the best trip reports I've ever seen on this forum.

K

That’s because we lack a plethora of noteworthy TRs.

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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by BK » Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:54 am

jesse James, Nicely written story. Just one or two things about it though. At the end of it all it kind of leaves the impression that the route you were on was something to be feared, which hardly jives with my recollection of it. I honestly can't think of too many alpine rock routes around here that have such no brainer protection opportunities. If you have the rack specified I'm not sure how anyone could possibly have a hard time finding anchors going up or down. Same goes with the trail. Its 2 easy hours to the base and might take a little wading through the lettuce patch here and there but if you take your time I think anyone would find it has the easiest approach in this neck of the woods to anything alpine, good or bad.

I think anyone who has sampled it so far would be as puzzled as I as to your description of "Sketch". No doubt the addition of a few bolt stations here and there would at least add some longevity to the rap anchors but the existing wires and trees are hardly "sketch" by practically anyones definition. Lots of places to build your own anyway, if you don't like the existing.

So I have to ask.... are you sure you were on the same route or feature? Incidentally the main route is called the mighty Mouse (which actually jives with your recommendation to pick route names from comic books by the way). The Mouses tooth is the name of the wall or buttress itself, which is a reference to the resemblance to the Moose's Tooth.

Or perhaps when you climbed it you were stoned on acid? That might account for the anchors leaping out of the crack and the alders grabbing your feet. That must have been kinda wild. I thought LSD and climbing went out with the eighties.

Anyway good story. I just think you would do service to those who are thinking of climbing it that the impression you leave has only a vague association with reality and thus should be taken with "a grain of salt" and perhaps "tongue welded firmly in cheek" as it were. I love an article with a bit of artistic licence as much as the next guy but maybe a disclaimer might give the reader a heads up.

Also,If you really want to go test your anchor and runout skills somewhere go over to Joffre peak and repeat the Kelly / Flett route on the north pillar but i'd recommend leaving the drug kit at home!

BK
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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by BK » Wed Oct 03, 2012 9:55 am

jesse James, Nicely written story. Just one or two things about it though. At the end of it all it kind of leaves the impression that the route you were on was something to be feared, which hardly jives with my recollection of it. I honestly can't think of too many alpine rock routes around here that have such no brainer protection opportunities. If you have the rack specified I'm not sure how anyone could possibly have a hard time finding anchors going up or down. Same goes with the trail. Its 2 easy hours to the base and might take a little wading through the lettuce patch here and there but if you take your time I think anyone would find it has the easiest approach in this neck of the woods to anything alpine, good or bad.

I think anyone who has sampled it so far would be as puzzled as I as to your description of "Sketch". No doubt the addition of a few bolt stations here and there would at least add some longevity to the rap anchors but the existing wires and trees are hardly "sketch" by practically anyones definition. Lots of places to build your own anyway, if you don't like the existing.

So I have to ask.... are you sure you were on the same route or feature? Incidentally the main route is called the mighty Mouse (which actually jives with your recommendation to pick route names from comic books by the way). The Mouses tooth is the name of the wall or buttress itself, which is a reference to the resemblance to the Moose's Tooth.

Or perhaps when you climbed it you were stoned on acid? That might account for the anchors leaping out of the crack and the alders grabbing your feet. That must have been kinda wild. I thought LSD and climbing went out with the eighties.

Anyway good story. I just think you would do service to those who are thinking of climbing it that the impression you leave has only a vague association with reality and thus should be taken with "a grain of salt" and perhaps "tongue welded firmly in cheek" as it were. I love an article with a bit of artistic licence as much as the next guy but maybe a disclaimer might give the reader a heads up.

Also,If you really want to go test your anchor and runout skills somewhere go over to Joffre peak and repeat the Kelly / Flett route on the north pillar but i'd recommend leaving the drug kit at home!

BK
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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by BK » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:09 pm

aha! I think I figured it out - you were off route! You don't seem to mention the 30 meter hand crack which leads me to believe that you went up when you should have gone right across 5.7 edges to the hand crack. If you do that there is an off route anchor where the crack peters out.

If you went up from there you would no doubt have faced an alarming runout slab up to Dereks Dilemma, which leads right to the 10d finger crack.

Congrats! I'll save you 3 or 4 weeks of sleepless nights dreaming up route names.... how about the Acidhead Variation?

No wait.... in keeping with the comic book theme .... Revenge of The Fabulous Fury Freak Brothers?

Or the Keep On Truckin' Blotter?

The Harold Head Splat?

Lucy In The Sky with Diamonds Direct?

The possibilities..... Maybe we should rename the feature Drug Dome, seeing howz Damien got that ball rolling

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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by jstod » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:37 pm

BK wrote:aha! I think I figured it out - you were off route! You don't seem to mention the 30 meter hand crack which leads me to believe that you went up when you should have gone right across 5.7 edges to the hand crack. If you do that there is an off route anchor where the crack peters out.

If you went up from there you would no doubt have faced an alarming runout slab up to Dereks Dilemma, which leads right to the 10d finger crack.
That was my first thought as well. That off-route anchor was ours from when we missed the right hand traverse last summer while up there. I remember the slab above looking doable but definitely run-out and certainly wasn't feeling up to launching into the unknown once we realised we were off route.

I'd been thinking of going back and trying to link it after I saw the new topo with DD traversing not far above, but I guess Jesse and Co. beat me to it by accident! So it goes :).

Regardless, can't wait to get back there again. Most accessible high-quality alpine rock from where I live (North Van) hands down! Again, great discovery BK et al.

Julian

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Re: I got bit by the Mouse's Tooth: A Lesson in Sketch

Post by t-bone » Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:18 pm

I think you guys are right....he must have been off route, otherwise there would be mention of the 5.10 hand crack (best pitch of the route IMHO).

To re-iterate my previous comment, the only belay that I thought was suspect was the one under the roof - and it really wasn't too bad. As Bruce indicated there is a bomber nut but it is placed in a piece of rock that has a decent sized fracture.

All the other belays were great, even the ones at 'mid-pitch' (believe me, I used them all).

I think the route is great Bruce, and will definitely be back

Tim

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