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MJS

Kautz Glacier - Ice Pitches

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We're planning on attempting the Kautz Glacier this weekend and would appreciate any information about the conditions and length of the ice pitches in the chute above the base of the ice cliff. Are tools required or can they be climbed with an axe. For pro, pickets? or do we need to also bring screws? Thanks

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I'm not sure what ice pitches you refer to... when I did it a few years back we unroped for the chute and hiked up the sun cups. A standard mountain axe was more than sufficient. If your not placing pro, staying roped would only lead to more problems in the event of a fall. Placing pro would take too much time and seems not quite necessary. All depends on your comfort level. It's a great route! bigdrink.gif

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I was referring to the "two pitches of 50 to 60 degree frozen snow or hard glacial ice" that Mike Gauthier mentions in the route description in his guide book. This area starts at the bottom of the ice gully where you move left around the bottom of the ice cliff.

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The two pitches top out in the mid 50 degree range, and the total length of the pitches probably 350 to 500 feet (roughly two ropelengths).

 

It all depends on your comfort level, but I suspect that the average party will be fine with 2-4 pickets and a couple of ice screws per team, and a third tool to accompany the standard ice axe. This should cover you in just about any conditions that you will run into, and most likely be overkill a good percentage of the time as the chute often has steps kicked into it the whole way up, and the conditions are usually a far cry from alpine ice. Even if were to run into blue ice the gear I suggested would probably be a bit on the light side unless your party is composed of reasonably proficient ice climbers.

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When we did those pitches last year about this time, I lead them using a standard ice axe and a Grivel 3rd tool. The rest of the group followed using only a standard ice axe. There were plenty of ice penitente (sp?) you could just grab as handholds.

 

The first pitch was the easier of the two and didn't really need the 3rd tool- also don't remember placing any pro. The second pitch was longer and a little harder - I remember using the 3rd tool quite a bit. Again didn't place pro, mainly because a guide had left a rope with several fixed anchors. Everyone following was just clipping his fixed anchors to save time (bottleneck of the climb). Had they not been there I would have placed a couple of ice screws. It was way too firm a surface for pickets.

 

Approaching the 2nd Icefall - 7/19/03

site1076.jpg

 

This year the icefall could be entirely different....

Edited by russ

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I don't have Mike's book but I think we're talking about the same thing. We did it in July of 2001 and the chute was a frozen 50 degreeish sun cupped ladder. I am not a proficient ice climber and found it mellow without a rope. (although falling is not an option) We did rope back up above the chute. If I was gonna set pro, I think Jayb's gear suggestions are sufficient although I'm not sure how much good an ice screw would be, there was no true ice.

 

We did receive a "deer in the headlights" look or two from a rope team of 3, although they weren't putting any pro in either. I'm not sure what the rope was for other than to drag down the other climbers if one of them fell. hellno3d.gif We told them they were nearly to the summit when one asked hellno3d.gif (not even close) as we passed them on the way down. evils3d.gif

 

Have fun! bigdrink.gif

 

* Damn, must say that it didn't look anything like Russ's pic when I was there. Update us when you return. Just checked my pics, I don't have one from July 2001 of the chute. cry.gif

Edited by slaphappy

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Nice Picture russ . The condidtions sure do change from year to year and month to month. When we climbed it last month it was simply consolidated snow for the entirety of the chute. Placed a couple of pickets along the way but it never felt technical. The ice-fall was extremely active though, which gave us a good adrenaline rush while trying to dodge huge rolling ice blocks.

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Wow, those are penitentes alright. I've only been through it three times (all in July), and it was never like that. Amazing how it changes. I remember it being steep, though.

Have fun.

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Here's a couple more photos taken on the trip by Matt Knapp. Let me know if this is too much info and I'll remove them.

 

The climbers have just finished the lower pitch (doesn't look 50 degree & I don't remember it feeling that steep either), and on the gentler glacier between pitches. The dark ice on the far right is the gully that comes down from Camp Hazard

site1077.jpg

 

Looking down from part way up the 2nd longer pitch. Regarding pro, I think my memory was faulty cause it looks like pickets could be drive based on some of the broken edges..

site1078.jpg

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All I can say is wow! Things sure change. When I did this route only a few short years back, it wasnt a freakin' penitente field, just a smooth steep glacial ice tongue surrounded by house sized seracs. This looks a little less aesthetic frown.gif

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It was just as you describe in the first weekend of June last year. I think the record number of days without precip probably accelerated the meltage by a couple of months by the time July rolled around.

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We had the whole route to ourselves Saturday morning. Left camp at 1:30, summitting at 8:30. Bottom step is easily passed on the right. Steps head right up the center of the upper with less than 30 meters of exposed ice. On the way up, the leader used one axe and one tool but on the way down both used two tools to downclimb with running belay on the upper section.

 

Be careful in the gully - lots of stuff coming down in this heat.

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We passed through and back down July 20th. Leader used one tool, one axe. Axe was sufficient for the rest of us. Screws and pickets were truck! On the return trip, we rapped the upper ice pitch and downclimbed the rest.

 

There's a fixed line that avoids a lot of the shuffling from Camp Hazard (beneath the ice cliff) to the chute. As soon as you hit the upper edge of the Turtle, go left and up. There's faint trail past some camp sites to a notch where you'll find the static line. The line is well secured on the upper end and not attached on the lower end.

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Screws and pickets were truck!

 

Excuse my ignorance, but does this mean they were both useful, or not?

 

And about the fixed line, did you guys use it? Does the rope seem reliable?

 

Thanks in advance. We're headed up this weekend and I'm stoked.

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My apologies for using slang -- and I'm guessing I missed you attempt. Fr anyone else, the pickets and screws were indeed both useful.

 

And we did use the fixed line. It was in good condition and very well anchored.

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