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lukeh

[TR] Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier 7/12/2014

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Trip: Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier

 

Date: 7/12/2014

 

Trip Report:

Alin-Summit.jpg

Me skinning up the last 20 feet to Rainier's summit. Photo by Alin Flaidar.

KautzSmall-5.jpg

Walking to edge of a cliff on he Wapowetry Cleaver around 11,000ft. A "super moon" lit up the mountain nicely.

 

Alin, Dereck and summited Rainier via the Kautz Glacier route this past Sat/Sun. We carried over and descended the DC route Sunday morning. I skied down where crevasses would allow.

 

Highlights:

  • We made it up to the base of The Turtle (~9600ft) in about 3 hours.
  • No rope was needed until the Ice Cliff (~11,300ft). Crossing the lower Nisqually and ascending The Fan was straightforward.
  • There was a huge party (30 people?) camped at the base of the Turtle from the Utah Climbing Club. We didn't see them for the remainder of the trip. There was a somewhat larger party who ended up camping above us at Camp Hazard. We got up earlier to avoid getting behind either large parties – thank god! We did see four people above Wapowety Cleaver as we came down the DC route. 
  • There was a chance of Thunderstorms in the forecast, so we brought a 4-pound 3-man tent which I would’ve rather left home to save weight. I watched a thunderhead form the entire afternoon until sunset, then dissipate into nothing. No precip. A Chihuahua-sized rat circled our open tent looking for food – I tried to scare him off. I slept 0 hours.
  • There was a small drip/water run-off at 11k, but it dried up in the afternoon! Disappointing. The water below The Turtle won't dry up as far as I can tell.
  • Right before crossing the ice chute area below the Kautz Ice Cliff, large blocks of ice (car sized) came down in front of us. We crossed this section in a hurry 5 minutes later.
  • Both the lower and upper ice cliffs were a lot longer than I was expecting. For the upper cliff we climbed near some large nieves penitentes on the right, which we used for rests periodically. We simul-climbed both sections fairly quickly, Alin leading. He placed the occasional screw. There was hard ice all the way up, most of it good (picks and front points stuck well). It got a little rotten near the top. A fall most places would definitely have been catastrophic.
  • This was Dereck’s first time ice climbing and he did great. His rock skills transferred nicely. I would’ve been shitting my pants simul-climbing those long stretches with two people's lives on my shoulders (or straining calves). He had a screw and a tethered axe just in case he got pumped at an inopportune time. I had the same as I'm certainly no ice-climbing star.
  • Above the Ice Cliff there were several large crevasses, some hidden. I jumped one and my left leg punched through. I planted both tools and pulled myself out. Dereck jumped the same crevasse and both his legs punched through. He did the same, Cliffhanger-style. Neither of us died. We then punched through a couple more random spots. This was a dicey section, especially with the increased temps. Our pace quickened up toward the Nisqually above the Wapowety Cleaver.
  • We saw one other party above the Ice Cliff – a guy named JR who was cruising with his son. He’d done the Fuhrer Finger the weekend before with his girlfriend. We had been looking at the Finger from below The Turtle – it looked gnarly. JR knew the way so we followed him around and down around Wapowety Cleaver. He had cruised past all of the other climbers still on the cliff and caught up with us. I guess some had asked him to wait behind them, which he of course didn’t. That would’ve been a big mistake and probably cost him hours and an even riskier descent down the DC.
  • There’s a huge crevasse system that cuts you off from joining the DC route up high, so you traverse toward Pt. Success then up to Columbia Crest.  It was cool to see this new area near the summit and to see the DC route from a different perspective.
  • I skied across the summit crater and then we boiled a couple liters at the crater rim before heading down.
  • I skied down to around 13,000’ in shitty, uneven snow, where the first major crevasse bridge awaited. It was hot, I wasn’t about to die when that thing collapsed so I waited 15-20 min for Dereck/Alin and we roped up.
  • The DC descent is sketch now—especially in the heat. Dereck and I were up there less than 2 weeks ago and it was the tamest I’ve ever seen it. Things had changed dramatically – stuff opened up everywhere – longer jumps, sketchier bridges. The snow was also super soft and wet by the time we hit the bad sections. I honestly don’t know what was riskier, simul-climbing the Kautz Ice Cliff or descending the DC in that heat.
  • I skied Ingraham Flats, the Cowlitz, then down from Muir to the top of Pan Face then almost to the parking lot. I was dehydrated and overall had a sad time descending due to heat, lack of water, and zero sleep the night before. The snow was heavy/wet – overall the descent gets a thumbs down. I also haven’t skied much this year so my skillz are poor, making it harder. The snowboard descent 2 weeks ago down the DC was much more fun. Still I don’t regret bringing the skis.
  • I met Dereck/Alin in the parking lot maybe 1-2 hours later. Dereck’s heels were badly blistered. I needed to pick my gf up from the airport so we had no time for a celebratory meal, but we all felt really good about getting this one. Alin and I especially, who have had it on the list for years. This was Dereck’s third summit: He’s done the Emmons, then he snowboarded down the DC with me after a single push, now Kautz. Not a bad intro into mountaineering.
  • This was my ninth time summiting Rainier. I still really want to do Liberty Ridge, the Tahoma Glacier, Gib Ledges, and board down Fuhrer Finger. Next year hopefully. This was Alin's first climb this year - his bike fitness paid off as he was in great shape.

 

KautzSmall-2.jpg

Sky in the Paradise parking lot. Iphone pic.

 

KautzSmall-1.jpg

Rainier and the super moon from an Eatonville gas station. Iphone pic.

 

Alin-LukeSki.jpg

Dereck and I headed up "The Turtle" below the Kautz Ice Cliff. Photo by Alin Flaidar.

 

Alin-Tent.jpg

At our 11k camp on the Wapowety Cleaver, watching a thunder cloud form due east. Forecast said chance thunderstorms, we saw none thankfully. Photo by Alin Flaidar.

 

KautzSmall-4.jpg

Drying my sweaty socks out, can't beat the view. Iphone pic.

 

KautzSmall-15.jpg

I couldn't sleep all afternoon due to the heat, light, and some other reason I don't understand. I watched this thundercloud grow large, then dissipate over a 4-hour span. We had clear weather with low wind from here to the summit that night.

 

KautzSmall-3.jpg

The Kautz Ice Cliff from our camp.

 

KautzSmall-6.jpg

Our tent is left, Camp Hazard is to the right. A lot of people camped here. The boulders above Camp Hazard look like they could come loose at any moment, so we stayed away.

 

KautzSmall-7.jpg

Just above Wapowety Cleaver on the Nisqually Glacier.

 

Alin-Shadow.jpg

Alin's self-portrait on the Nisqually Glacier.

 

KautzSmall-9.jpg

On the Nisqually Glacier above 13,000ft. We can see the DC climbers, which is a completely new perspective for me. Large impassable crevasses/icefalls separate us.

 

KautzSmall-10.jpg

Pt. Success - another climber we met named JR and his son. They helped us with route finding above the Ice Cliff.

 

KautzSmall-11.jpg

JR and his son behind a crevasse that seemed to span the entire Nisqually Glacier. End running this to get to the summit caused a detour toward Pt. Success.

 

KautzSmall-12.jpg

I snowboarded down the DC under two weeks ago. The DC route now looked completely different as the warm temps have been peeling open crevasses everywhere. This is on the Ingraham Glacier near the DC entrance.

 

KautzSmall-13.jpg

Really rough sketch of the line we took up to the summit.

 

KautzMap2.jpg

GPS track overlaid on Google Earth map. Red lines indicate paths we should have taken.

 

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The lower Nisqually and The Fan were very straightforward. We didn't rope up until the Ice Cliff above around 11k ft. We should've taken the yellow path here.

 

KautzMap3.jpg

 

KautzMap4.jpg

You can stay closer to the Cleaver as you get toward the top, crevasses permitting. 

 

KautzMap5.jpg

 

Gear Notes:

5 screws, used 1 on the lower and a few on the upper. 2 pickets, 0 used but almost fell into a crevasse several times above the ice cliff. 7.7mm 37m rope for simul-climbing.

 

Approach Notes:

Didn't rope up or use crampons until the ice cliff. Can't ski all the way to the parking lot anymore.

Edited by lukeh

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I saw you guys in the CIC Saturday morning getting permits. And coming down the DC. We were on the cleaver heading down when your team passed us. Still gotta get my DC trip report up. The DC was sketch coming down!

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Very nice report. Good job on the last picture showing the ice cap's bergshrund. Reaching the schrund and walking a halfish mile to the west is a life-sucking activity in my mind. You can see the summit crater but have to go around the big-ass crevasse. Ugh. Nice send...

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Wonderful pictures - makes me consider bringing a camera. What time did you guys head off the crater? Just curious on snow conditions, I know it was HOT during that period.

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I think we left the crater around 10am, which was not good. We spent too much time resting near Pt. Success and too much time in the crater. I guess the plus side was that the snow was more skiable, but below 13,000 the crevasses/bridges were pretty sketchy IMO.

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superb route and a great write-up! We hit it last year july 22nd and I thought descending the DC was far and away the most dangerous aspect. Having not been on it before it seemed crazy to me that it is the dog route--kautz seemed so much safer overall. One part I liked was being able to look over and see the tracks going up to muir and all the action over there from high on the turtle, definitely hear you about seeing things from a diff perspective.

 

great write up, dig the route drawn and such at high res--that is always nice to have, esp helpful for those who are researching/not done it before. cheers

 

 

small clarification: Kautz glacier/chute is the route you did. The Kautz Ice Cliff is actually the ~vertical ice cliff above Hazard (which apparently has been/gets climbed). See Gator's Rainier book for details.

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Ah - thanks Water for the clarification on the ice cliff vs. glacier/chute. Yeah true from the Turtle you can see a continuous line of Muir climbers all the way up the route - nice to be on a different part of the mountain.

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Nice write up and I like the evening photo.

 

FWIW while the traditional route traverses the top of Wapowety Cleaver at 13k then over to the Nisqually one can instead head straight up and stay to the left of the seracs that divide the Kautz from the Nisqually. There are cracks but in the end one comes pretty close to Pt. Success (and not too far were the OP ended up but without all the traversing back and forth). From there it is an easy walk over to Pt. Success which should not be missed. Gator does not show this variation in his book but Fred has it listed as well the as the true Ice Cliff variations that Walter mentions.

 

Another small clarification the true Camp Hazard is actually higher up and above the rappel by maybe another 100 vertical feet. More or less to the right of the word "Lower Ice Cliff" (or as Walter notes should the Lower Ice Chute). Most do not camp there because of the danger of falling ice. Most now seem to camp near the rappel but later in the season it is devoid of snow for water.

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one can instead head straight up and stay to the left of the seracs that divide the Kautz from the Nisqually. There are cracks but in the end one comes pretty close to Pt. Success

 

Alex and I did this variation when we climbed the Kautz and ended up on Pt. Success, which was kind of cool as I have now been on all of the sub summits of Rainier.

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one can instead head straight up and stay to the left of the seracs that divide the Kautz from the Nisqually. There are cracks but in the end one comes pretty close to Pt. Success

 

Alex and I did this variation when we climbed the Kautz and ended up on Pt. Success, which was kind of cool as I have now been on all of the sub summits of Rainier.

 

That is exactly what my partner and I thought. Plus the views over to Sunset Amp and down the Tahoma were great to see. New territory which got us thinking about a west side route which we have yet to do.

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in january 99 at 3am an apartment building sized ice chuck broke off the ice cliff above camp hazard, sweeping up to car sized ice down the turtle and stopping on the nisqauli glacier. luckily we or nobody else was on the turtle at this time or lights out. i wouldnt advise this route to anyone. IMO

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in january 99 at 3am an apartment building sized ice chuck broke off the ice cliff above camp hazard, sweeping up to car sized ice down the turtle and stopping on the nisqauli glacier. luckily we or nobody else was on the turtle at this time or lights out. i wouldnt advise this route to anyone. IMO

 

One can say that about many routes. The DC has similar objective danger. While one should try minimize it, I am not sure I would make such a statement. In fact, I would say the Kautz Glacier Route is perhaps one the finest moderate routes on the hill and would recommend it to climbers wanting something other than the Emmons/DC.

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yes true many routes have such objective dangers that must be dealt with, was just my opinion

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Objective hazard is a part of climbing. "i wouldnt advise this route to anyone. IMO" is such a cop out. The Kautz route is climbed all the time and still one of the greatest routes on the mountain. There's a lot of risks in life - with that attitude, I probably wouldn't even drive to work every day.

 

Be smart, mitigate the risks, but set yourself up for success. Climbing is a sport of "get away with it". You won't do that unless you take a chance. Without taking a chance you'll probably just rack up a lot of time watching climbing videos on your couch (but I won't mention the objective hazard of beer & pizza cutting your life short)

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Definitely get that it is your opinion. But if it is based on logic then if you did liberty ridge 10 times and never saw ice or rockfall you'd say that's a safe route? What route on the mountain would you recommend? Only Emmons? DC has not just observed plenty of ice fall but also had the worst accident in the history of the mountain when 11 people died on the Ingraham due to ice fall.

 

 

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i would recommend you go climb a mountain, not a volcano, but some single rock and icefall is to be expected on most steep alpine routes, but if you read the post it was an apartment sized chunk of ice that wiped out the whole turtle area. climb what you want, doesnt matter to me

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again was just my opinion. i wouldnt recommend that route to anyone.

 

The Kautz is a great moderate alpine ice climb later season. I highly recommend it.

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again was just my opinion. i wouldnt recommend that route to anyone.

 

The Kautz is a great moderate alpine ice climb later season. I highly recommend it.

 

What time are you considering 'later season'? The limited beta I've gotten has been that it's actually worse for late season attempts som I'm opting for the Emmons route.

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