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[TR] Rainier - Kautz 7/11/2010

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Trip: Rainier - Kautz


Date: 7/11/2010


Trip Report:

Springtime has officially established itself on Rainier and so I talked my PRG partner Todd E into joining me for the trip. After going back and forth between Kautz and Nisqually Ice Cliffs, we settled on the Kautz.


We leave PDX on Fri after work and unavoidably get stuck on I-5 which does not seem to be a problem with our similar musical tastes wrapped around the Electronic dub. Somehow we feel heavy and immobile and certainly not in the mood for climbing. Todd suggests we go and give blood to an American Red Cross to shave off a few pounds and get perked up.


The good thing is we did not mix up the mountains this time and arrived to Paradise (what a name). Happy about that, we get the stuff ready for the next morning and comfortably go to sleep in the Todd’s sweet truck. With permits in hand, we casually get on the Skyline trail around 7 a.m. on Sat.


The approach is uneventful and nagging as usual. At Glacier Vista we drop down to the lower Nisqually which is surprisingly closed up and cross it en route to Wilson glacier essentially following the early season variation all way to Turtle. There was no need for us to rope up at all. I guess this depends on the comfort level because for others that was an obvious necessity. We met one party of 3 who roped up and put the crampons on already in the parking lot – Mt. Rainier is a dangerous mountain after all.


Snow gets mushy and unpleasant as sun rises higher but Saturday turned out to be one of those rare windless and shirtless days on Rainier:






Wilson HW, FF and FT are all in good shape with crevasses easily passable at the bottom:




We hike higher up the Turtle, reach the Wapowety Cleaver and who do we bump into? 3 cc.comers camping at about 10500’: Chase (nels0891), Ryan (Ryan Canfield) and Kurt (Khartoum Wood). The guys intend to head up the Kautz on Sunday as well. Cool.



Me on Wapowety Cleaver at about 10300’:



We are still full of energy and determined to get to the highest point at the Camp Hazard (~11400’) to scoop different options on the Kautz IceCliff for Sunday. This goes smoothly except for me falling into a moat and Todd spending 15 min to dig me out. No problem.


Kautz IceCliff:




Kautz Headwall from the Camp Hazard:




The Kautz IceCliff is a suspiciously quiet, beautiful formation with lots of blue ice, which is unreal by itself. I put my eye on the direct traverse from the Camp Hazard connecting the ice/rock shelf just below vertical seracs to the next ice shelf on the Kautz chute itself. Todd is not inspired by my choice of sketchy traverses (which besides I kindly suggest we solo) and insists that we take the standard chute instead but allows me to climb through the bottom seracs if I am so inclined.

Good enough.


The plan is to take the direct shortcut from the rap slings off Wapowety Cleaver to the base of the Kautz chute seracs to bypass the Camp Hazard descent gully. Currently, there is a plenty of snow to just walk through this section without rapping.


Kautz chute direct variation:




We downclimb and set the camp near the rap slings (11200’):




The alarm goes off at 2.30 a.m. next morning and this is when the best part begins. I realize that I completely lost my voice and cannot open my eyes – my face is swollen as if I was stung by wasps all night long. Finally by 4 a.m. after a few energizing treatments, I somehow manage to get myself up.

I feel completely spent and suck to the point that unable to bring the ice rack back to the tent. There is no more discussion about climbing through the seracs, I would be thankful if we can get our asses up the standard Kautz chute.


Todd leads before I start feeling a little better and then I take over.


In the chute:



Todd, Chase, Kurt and Ryan:



Jeremiah West and a partner on the upper Kautz heading up to the Point Success:




We reach the rock saddle on the upper Kautz, unrope and the long slog to the crater rim begins.

The slog is a crux for me, I need to stop every ten steps and it feels like eternity. The crevasses below the crater rim seem like giant skyscrapers.


Chase, Ryan and Kurt are doing much better than us and are already on the summit while I am fighting sick stomach. Somehow, I refuse to believe that we got there at only 9.30 a.m. - in my mind it always will be 3 p.m.


Finally on the summit. Winds are unmerciful:




Climbers from Lib. ridge and Kautz on the summit:



The descent down the Kautz glacier back to the Camp Hazard is equally painful if not harder. Everyone who is going that way – 4 parties from Kautz and 1 party from Fuhrer Finger – gather at the saddle.



Joining forces for the attack on the Kautz descent:




Chase kindly rigs double rope raps off pre-existing gear probably left by guides at the steeper section of the chute.






Everyone raps and downclimbs the rest of the chute.


There are hidden crevasses in the chute I never imagined could be there. I step into one, unroped. All ropes are in use for raps. Luckily, Ryan sees me disappearing down the hole and tosses the second tool. I somehow manage to extricate myself out of it by probing for solid snow bridges.


We get down to the rap slings and realize the snow soften enough to open up more hidden holes. This time Kurt steps into one and whacks his face against the axe. I wait for Todd who comes down the chute with bleeding nose. Lingering at the camp is out of question and getting back to civilization in Paradise sounds like paradise (or paradise is it really?).


Todd still has some energy left to joke about the tent being flown away. But for some reason we cannot see it. I am thinking what a bad case of AMS we have got – the one that comes with hallucinations and delusions.


After a few minutes, we spotted the tent jumping down the Turtle. Todd makes an effort to be reasonable: its OK, we’ll have less crap to carry to the car. Not. $3K of gear going down into the Nisqually belly.


Miraculously, Ryan catches the tent at the level of their bivy at Wapowety cleaver. Good god, thanks Ryan.


We pack up and leave the Camp Hazard before anything else happens.


Glissading 6000’ down to Paradise takes 2.5 hrs:



Awesome trip.


The crew arrives to Paradise:





Gear Notes:

Pickets and screws, two tools, double ropes for rapping down the Kautz chute


Approach Notes:


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Excellent trip report! Thanks for all the beta and photos. Funny, I've never thought about bypassing the garbage chute at Camp Hazard even though it is the most unsavory part of the route.


Great job!

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Interesting to see the route with so much snow in July compared to other years. Except for a few routes on Rainier I have become a big fan of carrying up and over and coming down the In/DC or Emmons. Unless bringing up the kitchen sink about all that gets left behind is a tent, sleeping bag and a stove. Which should not add more than a few pounds to ones pack. It saves all kinds of hassles. Coming down the In/DC or Emmons one can really blast down. The last couple of times we have been on the summit at noon (we like to sleep in ;-) and back to Paradise by 5-6.

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awesome report, and great photos, and way to give props to other parties!

glad your tent didn't end up taking a scenic tour down the mountain!


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Yeah, we have been considering carry-over, but seeing hundreds of parties heading up to Muir as opposed to just 5 parties on the Kautz called for the obvious choice.


But it is so hard to say "no" to sleeping in :)



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Outstanding climb with a resonable amount of epics!

I like your write-up Nastia. You should publish a book how to scale mountains without losing a sense of humor.

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Nicely done! My brother and I did Adams NWR/NFNWR during the same days.


I recall looking across the sea of clouds wondering who was up on the neighboring mountain, as I often do. It's always fun to find out.




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Closest call to the end happend on dec 31 1999 0200am on this route. Apartment sized ice calved and wiped out the whole turtle snow feild all the way to the wilson glacier.Luckily we moved our tent [1230am] after getting bigger and bigger ice chunks hitting our tent. This was winter at night so I guess it can happen anytime?

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One would never know I guess. We were actually surprised how suspiciously quiet it was (in summer after all) except for one "end of the world" kind of explosion but were lazy to move our asses elsewhere :).


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