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jstluise

First timer on the Kautz?

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Looking for some advice here. With several Rainier summits under our belt (#6 last week) among other peaks, I've been itching for some more challenging/technical routes. Everything we've climbed has been class 3/low 4. I'd really to get some experience on steep snow/ice that requires a 2nd tool and placing pro.

 

My climbing partner and I threw out the idea of another trip up Rainier at the end of this month, but maybe up the Kautz route this time (of course depending on how the route looks). By that time I'm sure the ice section will be mostly ice though, and from what I understand its a couple pitches 30-60 degree ice.

 

We're both very comfortable in crampons and being on steep, firm snow and being exposed. Never have been on solid ice or had the need to swing a 2nd tool. Very comfortable with setting anchors/belaying, etc. just from doing some sport climbing and general crevasse rescue practice, but haven't set a lot of screws besides a few for practice.

 

So, I'm wondering what advice would you have for us? Is the Kautz a good route for a team with our experience? Or can you recommend another mountain to get some practice on this year and then we tackle the Kautz next year?

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The Kautz is a good route option that is a step above the DC and Emmons. However, IMHO it does not require a second tool as it is 40-45 degrees at best (or yer off route). Depending how comfortable you feel and the conditions you will certainly have the opportunity to place pro. By the end of July there will be ice but also lots of sun cups.

 

One option to consider is to make the climb up to Camp Hazard two day affair. That will put you at Camp Hazard early enough in the day that you could hike up to the first step and play around.

 

Another option if you really want to play around with two tools is to wait until fall and head down to the Elliot Glacier on the north side of Mt. Hood. There are lots of cracks where one can set up top ropes or lead. That said practice using one tool on steeper ice. People tend to immediately start using two tools when one really suffices. That will improve your technique and let you move faster on steeper terrain. After that you can run up Copper's Spur which in the fall can ice up nicely as can the North Side Gullies. The latter is big step up as it can be a couple of thousand feet of ice rather than a couple of pitches.

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for the reply. I guess I was a bit sloppy with my terminology. I said 2nd tool when I shouldn't have. I just meant an actual tool beyond my regular ice axe. But I agree that it doesn't require two tools. Most trip reports I've read people climb it with a single tool, or in some cases have one tool and their ice axe. Though, does a traditional axe even help on steep ice like that? Seems like a PITA to get any solid placements...

 

I like the idea of spending a bit of time at Hazard to play around. We may just do that if the route looks good and we get a decent weather window.

 

And thanks for the recommendations down at Hood. That would be a good trip to get some ice practice in.

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I could be clearer as well. A competent person can climb the ice steps on the Kautz with just a regular ice axe. It is low enough angled ice that two tools or a second tool are not needed. So yes, a regular ice axe works just fine (albeit my comments below). And that is really my point. Folks today do not seem to spend time learning how to use a regular axe on steeper terrain. We climbed the Kautz with a regular axe 60cm and a ski pole. My axe is an old school BD carbon fiber straight shaft axe with a classic interchangeable pick.

 

Some of the fault lies with the mfg. as they sell super lightweight axes that are not worth shit on steeper terrain or crevasse extraction because there is no head weight. Without any head weight there is little pick penetration. So in those cases one is forced to bring a second tool that can be swung. Which sucks cause one then has to carry a couple of extra pounds for 15 minutes of climbing over a two-three day climb.

 

A friend was just given a BD Raven. He traded it in for a Grivel Air Tech Evo G-Bone. For exactly this reason the Raven has no head weight.

 

 

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I love, love, love the new Petzl Summit II axe. So perfect for alpine routes around here.

 

The other thing you can do is bring a capable single axe and a whippet (since you probably will have a ski pole anyways). If you need to front point with your tool in low dagger, the whippet provides a bit of additional purchase (unless it is actual ice).

 

Sometimes on lower angle ice and neve an additional tool is more trouble than it is worth. Good footwork is the real key.

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More ideas for routes that are a step up w/steep snow or ice.....

 

NF of Shuksan

NF of Maude

Adams Gl.

Jeff Park Gl.

NWFNR of Adams

NR of Baker (probably work up to this one)

 

Probably others I'm missing....

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Some of the fault lies with the mfg. as they sell super lightweight axes that are not worth shit on steeper terrain or crevasse extraction because there is no head weight. Without any head weight there is little pick penetration. So in those cases one is forced to bring a second tool that can be swung. Which sucks cause one then has to carry a couple of extra pounds for 15 minutes of climbing over a two-three day climb.

 

I totally agree. That's where my comment came from about it being a PITA using a traditional ice axe. I have a BD Raven Pro, so really lightweight and perfect for simple glacier travel, but not great at all for swinging. Something like the Grivel you mentioned, BD Venom, or Petzl Summit II would be a better option for a more versatile axe.

 

I picked up a pair of BD Cobras (first gen) years ago but haven't used them (I actually have two sets because I ran across a craigslist deal I couldn't pass up :grin:) . Plan was to bring one of those along on routes that needed them. Guess I'll have to start climbing some routes to see what I like. An more versatile axe mentioned above seems like a good option that I'll probably move towards.

 

JasonG, thanks for the recommendations. And I agree, good footwork makes all the difference.

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The first gen BD Cobras are great alpine tools. I have used them on numerous alpine routes. Easy to swing, cane, or plunge. Combining them with trekking poles for the lower angle slopes is my primary MO. Get out there and put them to work.

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Sweet. So heading up the Kautz (or similar) you'd recommend just bringing along a BD Cobra tool and a trekking pole, leaving the traditional axe at home? Just didn't know if you'd bring along a regular axe for the approach and not-so-technical sections of the glacier.

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I climbed the Kautz route over the Memorial Day weekend, 1999. I had an REI/SMC 60 cm axe. We walked up the route and walked down the route.

 

That said, be aware that the Kautz becomes steeper and icier as the season progresses, so much so that one party felt after climbing it that they were unable to descend it, so they descended to Camp Muir. They were last seen offering to pay people to retrieve their camp.

 

I think a 60cm, slightly tech axe (Petzl Summit, Grivel Evo Tech, etc.) is the most important tool to take on this route. As for a second tool, as we head into the middle of the summer, I would recommend a straight shafted 50 cm hammer. The second tool offers a lot of insurance for a justifiable weight increase. Throw in a few ice screws in addition to your pickets. Bring some 6 mm for v-threads in case you decide you need to rappel the route, or just plan to carry all your gear over and down the DC. Don't be that party that ends up at Camp Muir with their camping gear over on the Kautz.

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Thanks for the axe recommendations.

 

Bummer for that party. I didn't think about descending down the Kautz, I just assumed everyone did a carry over. It would certainly keep things interesting coming down the Kautz compared to the normal scenery over on the DC. If we go with Scared's suggestion of spending an extra day at Hazard and practicing on the ice, we can decide if we want to carry over or come back down the ice on summit day.

 

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Sweet. So heading up the Kautz (or similar) you'd recommend just bringing along a BD Cobra tool and a trekking pole, leaving the traditional axe at home? Just didn't know if you'd bring along a regular axe for the approach and not-so-technical sections of the glacier.

 

I would not bring my Cobras for a route like the Kautz as they are too short. For the Kautz I would bring a tech axe (like DPS described) or an old school ice axe that can be swung and my ski poles. I would not bring a second tool just for the steps. But I have climbed a lot of ice and think many are too quick to go with a second tool.

 

When we climbed the Kautz we walked up to Hazard with ski poles. Our 60m axe was handy - either between our shoulder blades or on our harness. Above Hazard one pole was stowed in our pack and we continued on with our axe and the other pole.

 

If conditions were supper icy and long one person could bring a second tool for leading the ice steps while the second person used one axe. But as I say the angle is low enough that learning to climb such bits with a single axe is really key to learning to travel efficiently.

 

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I didn't think about descending down the Kautz, I just assumed everyone did a carry over.

I've heard of very few carry overs, the descent is not bad. We walked straight down, facing out. Late season may require a rappel or two off of bollards or threads, but that saves having to carry the entire kit up and over. But the descent from Camp Muir is easier than from Kautz, so there is that.

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We carried up and over, it was not too bad. As DPS said coming down the DC and through Muir is easier than via the Kautz. But few do it. If one thinks about it the extra weight is around 10 lbs. (tent, stove, and sleeping bag). When we were there a group of four came down and another group of two turned not far above the second step. They rapped the upper step and down climbed the lower step.

 

BITD folks would just rap right the ice fall directly down to Hazard. Which avoids the short hike back up to Hazard which is a hazard.

 

I should also note that we did not cross over Wapowety Cleaver and went up to Point Success then walked to Columbia Crest where I smoked at cigar to celebrate 25 years of playing on Rainier.

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I just climbed the route a few days ago, and there were a few sections that were pretty iced over and brittle. I used a hybrid axe and a shorter more aggressive hybrid tool. I can see a situation where this route would be a one-axe route, but unless you are really really confident in one tool climbing, the route was clearly not in condition for that when I was on it.

 

This wouldn't be my first choice of an ice route if you don't have anybody on the team who is experienced with ice before.

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Thanks Chris for the beta. I think we'll head up there if we get a really good weather window. If we only make it to Hazard and explore the steps a little before having to bail, that's fine with us. It'll be nice just exploring another part of the mountain; never have been up to Hazard.

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