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[TR] Mt Rainier- Kautz Headwall 6/11/2006

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Climb: Mt Rainier-Kautz Headwall


Date of Climb: 6/11/2006


Trip Report:

Recently I was having a conversation with a published navelist [sic!] and they told me I should write about my trips, even if I didn't want to publish a trip report. Memory fails. And one should practice writing if one wants to write. Well, I don't consider myself a writer. I'd rather think of myself as a catalyst enzyme. Copious words are just one of the many byproducts of the reaction.


The Wilson Headwall was a sweet delight Wednesday, all to myself. The layer of clouds at Paradise Tuesday night left me deeply dubious. I had never crossed the Nisqually Glacier. Out of the clouds just in time to drop and cross the glacier, chased by a cloud through the night that never enveloped the upper mountain, took some pokes and inspected from different angles and wasn't dropped by a suspect crevasse bridge on the Wilson Glacier; all of my fears slowly dissolved the higher I climbed.


Then at the top I was delighted to see tracks. Tracks from a soloist. A soloist from a different route, the previous day. There was something very beautiful about seeing that individual's fragile mark remain unblemished in the snows of the harsh environs of Point Success. There were ski tracks heading toward the Nisqually too, nice work!



By Friday evening, the weekend warriors were heading elsewhere. The forecast wasn't good, but I didn't believe it. There was no real weather system out there, just some puny low. The Mountain will be above The Clouds. Desolate solo doubts dissolved during the preceding descent, I found myself driving toward Rainier Saturday evening, je suis seul, seeing the upper mountain clearly in gorgeous alpenglow. Looking at the Central Mowich Face totally gives me goose bumps.


Paradise lost at 11pm, nary a cloud for the neurotic naysaying, this time I took a more direct route on the Nisqually Glacier. I stayed high and left and climbed to Wapowety Cleaver. I took a break partway up the cleaver, maybe 8k, and had some coffee. I saw a headlamp below me on the cleaver somewhere, along with innumerable lights from Camp Muir.


I headed left before reaching The Turtle, hugging the ridge above the Kautz Glacier, until I found the small snowy chutes that drop onto the glacier. The Kautz Headwall is big; its apron is lazy in its crescendo. All the cruces come high on the route. Luckily the natural climbing line goes to climber's left, the side which has a more easterly aspect, allowing it to get the early sun. The snow was nicely consolidated and guaranteed to grow into fat grains of corn.


Near the top of the headwall, having weaved through rockbands to my heart's content, one last rockband remained. Here I found the same solo tracks I saw on the summit Wednesday, albeit with evidence of ample melt-freeze. It looked like the soloist did a bit of traversing and redoubling before picking the spot. Their selection looked good to me so I went for it. Rime ice over sixty-degreeish rocks. Comment descendre?!




The Kautz Headwall is a line of great style. I must compliment it for not slowly rolling to the summit in a neverending fashion. It rolls abruptly. Sitting on Point Success, two sets of solo tracks plus one more in place, I could see people on Columbia Crest. I took a nap. I didn't really feel like eating or drinking. When I woke up to more clouds (none of them anything near a real threat to the mountain), I decided it was time to go. Crampons off, boots tightened, axes packed, click click, click click, time to ski.





I skied gingerly to the edge of the precipice. The rockband looked intimidating from above. This was a job for an ice ax. I put my ski poles in my downhill hand and grabbed the tool with the big shaft. Tool firmly planted, I kicked the shit out of some rime ice (with my skis). Stomp. The ax placements were actually worthless through the worst parts of the rockband, but it still felt better than nothing. Below the rockband, the snow was softening nicely. Ax back on pack, time to make tracks.





The two climbers I'd noticed on the cleaver earlier in the morning were descending the Kautz Glacier. I'm pretty sure one was watching my sidestepping antics. I was watching you watching me.



Last Rockband


The rest of the headwall skied nicely. It was still a little icy in spots, but I like it that way. It's a good compromise for not having too many projectiles dropping. Two long traverses to get around the final rockband and I was free.


I was free for a long, continuous obstacle-free descent. I never enjoy skiing more than below something really sketchy. Keep it steep, remove the danger, and let 'em hang. The apron that was lazy in its crescendo was now determined in its dénouement. Forget the stress and GS the rest.


This is an addiction. No partner, no problem. My way and the highway. Then return to town by three. At least this way I'm not leaving a string of HAPE victims in my wake...



Gear Notes:

Skis, boots, poles

Crampons and two tools

Warm clothes

2L water, six shot americano and a big bag of potato chips


Approach Notes:


  • Rawk on! 1

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Nice writeup, Sky. Thanks. Good call on the weather; we headed for the good forecast and got rained out. mad.gif

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Ha! Standard laws of meteoroligal weather and climate science don't apply to Sky. I think in the depths of the subterranean secret UW physics lab, he's invented some 5th Force-based flux copasitor high-pressure ray gun he uses to keep weather clouds from within a mile radius of him.

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You're on a roll dude. What a year for me to have knee troubles. Dang. At least I'm finally getting a chance to learn rock climbing, and to do some laid back stuff. I'm finding that both can be fun. At least I think so until I read your TR's or get the phone message. Ha. Classic. rockband.gif

Edited by AllYouCanEat

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Very considerate of you to not leave any HACE or HAPE victims in your wake. Again I am jealous that there is no snow around here and that I don't have the mad skillz. thumbs_up.gif

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