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KaskadskyjKozak

[TR] Rainier - Kautz Glacier 9/11/2011

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Trip: Rainier - Kautz Glacier

 

Date: 9/11/2011

 

Trip Report:

Years ago I met a climber on the summit of Granite Mountain at sunset midweek after work, and, as we admired the view of Rainier, I told him about my (then) recent turnaround on Rainier due to AMS. His reply: "Rainier is a Beast". Indeed. Even getting out every weekend the thought of hauling my ass up 9000 feet in 24 hours is intimidating.

 

However, the fortuitous three-way confluence of the snowpack this year, the mild early summer temps, and the recent stretch of great weather sufficiently lowered my resistance to a friend's plea to attempt the Kautz. I called the Climbing Information Center at MRNP to confirm, and, yes, the route was still "in".

 

So, JS, MS, BG and I met at 5:30 am Saturday and drove to Paradise to start an adventure and what would prove to be a long, strenuous outing.

 

Rainier on September 10th!!!

P1000999.JPG

 

We quickly arrived at Glacier Vista and tried a couple possible climber trails left before we found the correct one and headed down to the lower Nisqually. Here we saw no real reason to rope up and headed towards the Fan, which appeared to still be in decent shape. The bottom of the Fan had snow part way up, then there was a section with a stream and rocks, then back on snow. All the snow on the approach was quite firm, but did not require crampons.

 

The Fan:

P10100031.JPG

 

As we topped the ridge above the fan we noticed a team of three climbers on the Wilson glacier, but they appeared to be moving very slowly - perhaps it was a course on glacier travel we surmised. It turned out that they were three guys from Maryland who we'd run into on the route the next morning.

 

Contemplating the South Side of Rainer:

P10100081.JPG

 

Looking up towards the Turtle Snowfield:

P10100112.JPG

 

From this point on the heavy packs and effort started to take its tool. We had to negotiate some rocky choss below the Turtle Snowfield. The Turtle itself consisted of firm snow in deep sun cups.

 

Sun cups on the Turtle:

P10100142.JPG

 

Eventually this proved too much for our tastes and we went back to choss-hell for a few hundred feet before arriving at our bivy site at 10,400 feet. Despite being a bit far from the snow field, we found a nice stream on the other side (towards the setting sun) where there was also some very cool airplane wreckage.

 

We were fed, watered up and in bed by 8:30, and set our alarms for 3:30. The plan was to arrive at the base of the first ice step at dawn - which is what ended up happening. The morning started with headlamps and choss, then a quick rappel down into the mouth of the beast, so to speak. While traversing over to the glacier to rope up, BG grabbed on to a rock which let loose - it was the size of a large suitcase. Fortunately (?) I was below her and stopped her from falling without taking a long ride myself.

 

We then roped up and I headed over to the first ice step. The views were glorious!

 

The route comes into view:

P1010022.JPG

 

View down the lower Kautz:

P10100251.JPG

 

The guys from Maryland were already leading up, so I chose a line to their right and start up with no belay (it looked easy). I placed 4 screws in 200 feet then set up a belay and brought up MS. MS then led up to the "snow" between the two steps. This "snow" was actually more like the Turtle - very hard, dirty snow with huge sun caps. I "led" this out on belay with no pro and we simul-climbed to the 2nd step.

 

Belay above first step:

P10100321.JPG

 

Snow above second pitch of first step:

P10100271.JPG

 

Again we had caught up to the guys from Maryland. They were already headed up, so I set up a belay at a line to their left and brought in MS. He then led a full-length pitch with maybe 3 screws and set up an anchor. I followed and led up the second short pitch, placing 2 screws and continuing up to the full rope length before setting up a top rope and bringing in MS.

 

JS leding the first pitch of the second step:

P1010031.JPG

 

It was now 11:30. Elevation? 11,800 feet. Shit. The guys from Maryland were bailing. MS and I decided to eat and hydrate and wait for JS and BG to make a group decision. I asked: are you willing to summit at dark and headlamp the DC? Yes. Are you willing to drive home at 3 am? Yes. OK, we were not bailing. And besides, we had all our overnight gear, so we could bivy. The guys from Maryland needed a v thread tool, so, not needing ours, we donated it to them.

 

MS then stretched out the rope and I tore down the anchor and we were on the upper Kautz. This part of the route is in mostly good shape now, with some crevasse negotiation - especially as you approach the rock bands on climber's right to attain the upper Nisqually.

 

Crevasse on the upper Kautz:

P10100382.JPG

 

We headed there. Mistake. The place has collapsed totally and is a jumbled mess of blocks and seracs. Time to eat and hydrate, and come up with a plan B.

 

The slopes up towards Point Success looked good, so we headed that way.

 

Onwards and upwards!

P10100401.JPG

 

We did an end run by an obvious crevasse then aimed more to climber's right, away from Point Success. With some more crevasse navigation, we finally crested a ridge and the summit came into view.

 

JS cresting the ridge blocking summit views:

P1010042.JPG

 

The summit at last comes into view!

P10100411.JPG

 

Our work was not over yet, however. In the flat area there were two huge gaping crevasses that we had to end run - in opposite directions, of course! Then we slogged up the final slope, crested, and yanked the rope across choss clockwise around the ridge to the true summit.

 

Since it was colder than a witch's tit here, all we managed to do was put on a coat and take two photos before descending into the crater trough.

 

The crater trough:

P10100471.JPG

 

We then popped out the opposite side for a slightly better rest stop to eat and drink. Camp to summit was 12 hours - and it was now 4:30 pm. Gulp. Good thing I had lots of shot blocks and Gu left.

 

Even here behind a rock it was cold and not out of the wind - in contrast to most of our day which including ascending above 13K in short sleeves - so we headed down tout de suite. The route is currently a well-marked, icy, switch-backing trail, and the snow is very firm - and great for cramponing. We made short work to the top of the cleaver, encountering two ladders en route.

 

First ladder:

P10100492.JPG

 

Second ladder:

P10100523.JPG

 

Sunset approaches:

P10100531.JPG

 

The next section was a bit slower as the long day finally began to wear on us. We put head lamps on about 10 minutes outside of Ingraham Flats at about 8 pm. An hour later we were at Muir.

 

We took a long rest at Muir, then headed down. The snow, regrettably, was very firm, and going was tedious, requiring crampons all the way to Pebble Creek with little plunge-stepping. This made for much more wear-and-tear on our tired bodies, and we did not get to the cars until 1 am. However the moon was full and headlamps were optional (at least on the snowfield), and temps were quite pleasant.

 

Gear Notes:

Ice axe, 2nd tool, 6 screws, 2 pickets (for self-rescue only), v-thread (to bail), helmet.

 

Approach Notes:

Long, hard, with some tedious choss.

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Wow, what an effort! You've gotten out lots this summer. Will part of you be glad when the cozy, rainy, shorter days come around?

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Wow, what an effort! You've gotten out lots this summer. Will part of you be glad when the cozy, rainy, shorter days come around?

 

Uggh, I hate the doldrums of November and early December before skiing starts...

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Uggh, I hate the doldrums of November and early December before skiing starts...

usually a fine time for smith rocks and the like...

 

congrats on resisting the bail-demon :)

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Awesome, Buddies !

 

Who brings stairs up there? :crazy: Rangers? Do you think that without them you can do the route at all? And could you cross the Ingraham, or is out and you have to go down via the DC?

 

Cheers !! :brew:

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Who brings stairs up there? :crazy: Rangers?

I thought it was the guide outfits that maintained the fixed bridges/ropes/pickets.

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Nice TR. I've been thinking about trying this route for some time now. I never thought about going for it in September though. Nicely done!

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Nice TR. I've been thinking about trying this route for some time now. I never thought about going for it in September though. Nicely done!

 

Thanks, Val. If the weather gets good again in the next 2 weeks, you should go for it!

 

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