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Wisdom

I’ve wanted these lines since I first skied at KHMR. They stare at you, nice and close to the hill, but with a much higher skill level requirement than the rest of the easily accessed rad terrain just out of bounds. Yesterday I finally got the Wisdom Tooth and the Middle Tooth. Luke and I putzed around the KHMR backcountry the day prior and found excellent stability with only the very dormant mid-dec layer producing hard results above treeline on south aspects. So yesterday we went to tick off some lines.

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Wisdom Tooth, Big Tooth is the rocky face behind
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Chasin’ teeth. Whitewall is the face behind, the peak is called Whitetooth

First we went for Wisdom Tooth. It’s an awesome somewhat hanging face, one of the few skiable weaknesses through the cliffs on the big backbone ridge heading north from the resort. Getting there, however is tricky. We went for the high ridge route, a more difficult and technically demanding route, but it avoids the treeline completely, which is the one place that really scares me right now, especially extra thin and windswept. It was a fine balance of exposure to the cornice on the right, windswept rock and facet holes in the middle, and west facing avy paths on the left.

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A fine line through sketchy lines

After a short sporty chimney to the summit block, Scott secured me with the rope so I could suss out the cornice. I found a pretty good place, and after just a bit of shoveling, it was prepped and ready. After entry, the snow turned awesome and powdery to the col below. From there, we looked down the couloir on the left heading toward the bowl under Dogtooth Ridge and dropped in.

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Looking in

 

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Then we started heading up toward the Middle Tooth on Dogtooth Ridge.  We skinned up the fan, covered in solar sluffs from previous sunny days, then booted up a chute. The weather was very kind to us with cloud cover, otherwise it would be a bowling alley, regardless of air temp. The chute concentrated all the sluffs, giving us great support for booting. Not so great for skiing, but it didn’t matter. After the chute ended, there was a bench on the right which most of the sluffs from the westerly aspects above settled on, and the support in everywher likewise became poor. Luke and Scott didn’t have ascent plates, and would be wallowing for quite a ways, so I decided to try putting a skin track up the right bench. It paid off, and after many technical exposed kick turns, we were at the high col on the ridge top.

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The skintrack of dreams…

From there, back to booting to climber’s left, up the deep faceting pow on the east-ish facing rock slab of the Middle Tooth. The lip separating the north and south side of the ridge had great wind pressed snow, but I wasn’t about to trust it. My closest call in the mountains was a couple years ago on a very similar feature, just a couple hundred meters away on the Big Tooth. It was May and the ridgetop seemed to have the same weathered snow as everywhere else, but it was in fact a wind slab, which settled on me while climbing it! I was solo, on a 45* spine, with 500m of even steeper slopes of snow, rock and air to either side and the ground dropped what felt like a few inches.

So needless to say, I looked at the easy uphill progress the wind spine on this slope presented with great distrust. Instead, I skirted the bottom of the wind slab where things felt powdery or rocky, depending how far I punched in. Scott couldn’t go quite as far without the help of plates, and got hung up on a spot that got churned up a bit too much. So we changed over and got ready to shred the awesome pow on the ribs down the slab face.

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Scott facet bashing

I skied down first, having earned it with trailbreaking. The snow was sometimes supportive enough, sometimes letting you kiss rock with the skis. It produced some awesome sluffs. After sampling a few tasty ribs, I decided on one of the last ones, and a long one to boot. It had great supportive snow on it; I finally felt I could ski well instead of simply survive. At the end it terminated in some sharks and trees, recently unearthed by my sluffs. All those sluffs made the chute in much better ski condition than it was when we climbed it. Then ski all the way to the parking lot at the ski hill.

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OH YEAH!!

note: the cover photo is in a different, much less anemic season

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