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ericb

[TR] Mount Rainier- Kautz Glacier/DC Descent 6/25/2006

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Climb: Mount Rainier-Kautz Glacier/DC Descent

 

Date of Climb: 6/25/2006

 

Trip Report:

Me and a couple of my friends have had this route on our list for a long time. We had orginally planned on doing a one-day climb this weekend - and had the necessary permissions from our respective wives. With the forecasted weather, we decided it was worth upgrading a one-day climbing coupon to a full-weekend coupon and give it a shot. Sitters were found, rides to the airport were arranged, errands delayed, and by 3:45 AM Saturday, four of us were on our way to MRNP.

 

The forecast was for an overnight low of ~ 48 degrees and 5mph winds at Muir, and a very hot Sunday, so we decided to go light with bags/bivys and carry over to avoid the hazards of the ice cliff and glacier crossings later in the day on Sunday. Condition reports said that the ice chute was all snow, so we opted not to bring a second tool and brought only pickets, fluke, and a couple lightweight titanium screws.

 

We had our permits in-hand by 0630, and started the long approach by around 0730. We took our time, as none of us had really trained hard or done any big alpine climbs this year. We ended up doing the approach and camping with another group of 3 from the Midwest/East Coast, and we were glad to have their 22 year old human lung with us as he and two of ours traded leads post-holing knee deep up ~ 2,000 vf of moderately steep snow to just below Camp Hazard. There was ample water flowing at one of the camps at around 9,000 feet where we filled up our various hydration systems - I was glad to have brought my Iodine as this made melting at high camp a much easier process. We easily picked routes across the Nisqually and Wilson glacies that were direct and crevasse free.

 

We made camp on a small partially melted out spot at around 10,500, melted a little, cooked, and jabbered. Luckily for us, the forecast was right on and we were plenty warm that night. The team of 3 had hauled a beefy 3-person 4-season tent which was used as a tarp for them to lay their pads and bags on for the night.

 

We were up at ~ 1AM, and climbing by ~ 2AM. Despite the warm temps the snow had hardened nicely, and great for cramponing. Acting on a tip from the ranger, we looked for a camp just below Hazard (10,900) and followed the tracks where direct access to the glacier was found. This limits the time spent in the gully exposed to icefall hazard. Since guides are using this shortcut, a fixed line is there to protect and awkward class 4 downclimb to access the glacier should you need it.

 

The lower ice chute was all firm snow with nice buckets from previous days descents....very straight forward. I was in fact thinking to myself that I could have further lightened my load by only bring my aluminum crampons/axe. This thought was quickly vanquished when we reached the very top part where it steepens to ~ 50 degrees, and the rotten rock impregnated glacier ice is semi-exposed for ~ 20-30 feet. For the first portion of the chute, Dave on the sharp-end opted not to place a screw in the marginal ice and just carried on carefully up, where gentler slopes and ample snow cover prevailed. I had my plastics laced for comfort, and was a littled sketched here where front-pointing was required.

 

From there, the route was direct and straight forward to the summit. We stepped over a couple crevasses just beginning to open up (~3 inches). We were on the Summit by 8AM with warm temps (45 deg???) and barely a breeze. I had a light poly t-shirt and light wind shell and was comfy. We began our descent of the DC at 9AM, where despite the sweltering heat and crowds, the boot-pack provided added some relief to the sloppy descent. We jumped one ~ 3 foot crevasse near Ingram Glacier camp....the only real crevasse of note in two days.

 

Muir to Paradise was a slog fest as expected, but we were all in agreement that the packed trail of the DC and mindless, albeit sloppy descent from Muir was preferable to downclimbing the crux portion of the chute, crossing below the ice-cliff, descending the turtle snow-field, and crossing the Wilson and Nisqually glaciers in 70 - 80 degree temps.

 

I suspect that the warm temps this week will melt more of the snow cover off top portion of the ice-chute, making it more challenging than what we encountered.

 

Gear Notes:

Ice axe, crampons - brought pickets, screws...didn't use. Some might want a second tool and screws.

 

Approach Notes:

Great coverage on all glaciers, but could change fast given the heat wave

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