A spiny backbone of rock rises about 2000 feet up from the Columbia River at the base of Dog Mountain on the S-SW side. The rock is absolute junk and most of it is covered in soft moss which really only adds to the adventure. Nobody thinks of "climbing" when you think of Dog Mountain. And I don't know that you would call this "climbing" so much as adventure climbing. The ridge has many gendarmes which provide either scrambling to technical rock and if you get sketched out by anything, you really can just scramble down to the side of the rock and inch your way up steep scree fields but be prepared for the 2 steps up-1 step down rule if you do that.
About halfway up the ridge is a small spire that gives this ridge its name. The Dog's Tooth is a 5th class objective and we did see webbing up top but it looked like about a 15 foot free solo to get there. Most of this ridge is Class 3 on Columbia basalt, moss and tufts of grass. Depending on the route you take (and there are infinite possibilities as you weave your way through the rocks up the ridge), some low 5th class may be encountered. But be prepared as even the Class 3 climbing is exposed on loose stuff.
The other two things you need to be prepared for on this are TONS of poison oak and ticks. The poison oak is unavoidable if you want to get even close to the ridge. It is everywhere and in the loose scree, you fall, your hands get in it, your face brushes it, etc. Wear long pants and long sleeves if you can and wash as soon as you get off this peak. As for the ticks, we pulled off about a dozen between the three of us in early June, 2006. A lot of the going on this route is through grassy sunny ledges which is just prime tick country. Wear your Deet, tuck in your socks and check each other and yourself frequently.
This route makes a worthy objective on the usually tame Dog Mountain. It tops out near Puppy Dog Mountain at the old lookout site and you can hit the last half mile trail to the summit to enjoy the flowers and/or views. Yes, the weekend warriors with their dogs and kids will look at you funny as you hike past them with your harness and helmet and you have to explain why you have them, but, you've just climbed up a fun ridge and earned it.
If you can do a car shuttle and leave one at the regular trailhead and put one on the road at the base of the ridge, it works best. Otherwise, you will then need to hike maybe a half mile down the road back to your car (assuming you do the walkoff down one of the regular hiking trails).
To get to the Dog Mountain trailhead, see the Getting There Section on the main page. From there, to get to the base of the ridge, continue east on Highway 14 maybe a half mile to a mile until you drive beneath the obvious rock ridge extending down to the river from above on the left. View these photos to see what it looks like just before you come to it, and what it looks like just as you pass it (and where you park). There is a small pullout after a short stone wall at the base of a scree field where a couple cars can park on the north side of the road.
From the east side of the ridge, head up a loose scree field and angle your way to the ridge. We angled up to a small saddle between gendarmes about 2 gendarmes up from the road. The first one was flat on top and looked like the front of a ship, the second had a two-tipped peak. The third had one spiny point on top. From in between the second and third, we weaved in and out on the easiest ground available (class 3) until we came to a small bowl. The gully up the left looked steep and slabby and it cliffed out on the right. There is a small chimney about 35 feet high with a mossy chockstone at the top. Wiggle your way up to it as this was the only spot I could find that would take any pro. I placed a #4 and .75 camalot in here as an anchor. Stem up the chimney gripping one right-leaning flake in the center of the chimney. Once you pull that low 5th class move, you can frantically grip loose-clinging moss above it to mantle up on.
From there, there is about 30 feet of unprotected Class 3 or 4 to a small oak tree above. That makes a decent anchor. We belayed over right from there to another tree near the rock spine. Then we jumped to the right over the ridge and on to easier Class 3 ground.
Above that point, we ascended a loose gully up the right side of the Dog's Tooth pinnacle to another grassy saddle between gendarmes. If you want to climb Dog's Tooth, you can scramble down onto the ridge to that point and it looked like you could build an anchor in cracks at the base but I will not vouch for the quality of rock. Most everything on this ridge moves, you can only hope the moss roots are gripping firmly beneath it.
We scrambled left from here around a gendarme until it cliffed out on the left with good views over to the treed ridge separating us from the thousands of tourons. You can either scramble up the shallow gully in the middle of the gendarme (probably Class 3-4 grassy ledges) or work your way up some better rock on the left to a treed groove. Grovel up the treed groove to top out on rocks and then work your way up Class 3-4 (exposed) rock to the top.
Now the top of the ridge is in sight. Scramble up as desired. We caught either a game trail or an old climbers path that angled right into the trees near the top. When it got too thick in there, we angled back to the rock ridge and up. You will need to stay near the ridge until it finally levels off to a wooded ridge and then angle over left one more ridge still to come out of the trees in flowery meadows a few hundred yards beneath Puppy Dog Mountain. Work your way up easy ledges to that point and then either hike up the regular path to the summit or hit the trail back down if you don't care about the summit masses. (A GPS with a waypoint marked at Puppy Dog Mountain would help you.)
Essential GearWe took two 60 meter ropes but only used one. Unless you are climbing the gendarme spines themselves, I don't think you will need more than one rope.
Use your judgement on gear. I placed only two camalots, the purple #4 and the green .75. Otherwise, I just slung trees for pro and anchors. The rock either moved or crumbled off in your fingers if you grabbed it. If you grab rock on this ridge, try to push down instead of pulling out on it. And beware of the moss.........sometimes it has rock underneath it and sometimes it just falls off beneath your feet.
Above all, I would suggest wearing a helmet from the road on up to Puppy Dog Mountain. Everything is loose and falling. Spacing out and not being beneath any of your party is key. On narrow gullies, I would also suggest going up one at a time.