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Dylan Colon

[TR] - Kautz Glacier 8/14/2016

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Trip: - Kautz Glacier


Date: 8/14/2016


Trip Report:

My friend Brian Meyers and I climbed Mount Rainier via the Kautz Glacier route last Monday the 15th through Wednesday the 17th. I thought I'd post some thoughts and pictures to let you all know how things are up there.


TL,DR: The route is in great shape right now, but will require much more complicated crevasse navigation in the near future.


We started from the Comet Falls trailhead, in order to avoid having to cross the Nisqually Glacier, which is a huge mess right now, loose rock, running water, crevasses, the works. This of course means we start at only a little over 3600', but it's cool to see all the life zones on the way up the trail.



Falls low on Van Trump Creek.



Comet Falls, a real gem.



Van Trump Park, like Paradise, but we were literally the only ones there as far as I could tell, as opposed to the hundreds to thousands at Paradise.



Climbing the snowfields leading up the Turtle.



High camp just above the Turtle, but still several hundred feet below Camp Hazard, and the scary ice cliff. Why people camp so close to it is kind of beyond me. I guess it was less obviously dangerous in the pre-global warming era?



Lovely view at dawn of Adams and Hood the second day.


We got a bit of a later start than we should have (my fault), and started climbing up from camp at something like 5:30AM. We made it to the rappel down to the Kautz Glacier proper sometime roughly around 6:00 if memory serves. Another team had passed us earlier and was starting up the first ice pitch at about this time. We found the first ice pitch to be pretty moderate, but we started a little to low to link it with one 60m pitch (though I stopped at a stance rather than stretch the rope to its limit). We then belayed a second pitch, which wasn't really that necessary, but helped since I'm not that experienced of an ice climber, and my partner was totally new to it. We then simulclimbed to the base of the second pitch. This looked really intimidating at first, but I got excited to lead it once I was under it. We also waited a while to let the party ahead of us get off it, as a lot of junk was falling down the route from their climbing.



The Kautz ice chute in all its glory.



View of the second ice step. It looks short here, but was two long pitches.


The second step proved to be about 100m or so of 45-50 degree glacial ice. Because we were running late at this point, and the sun was hitting it, there was a bit of a crumbly veneer that was dinner plating a lot, and there was some water running down the thing, but the ice underneath the top 0.5 inch or so was solid and took screws really well. That said, I only had 3-4 screws to place per pitch after accounting for anchors, which made the leads engaging. On the first pitch of the second step, which was the more sustained one, I traversed past a penitente for pro, which seemed solid, if not something I planned to test.



Brian climbing the first of two pitches on the second step.


After the second step we simulclimbed a few hundred feet more of neve before transitioning to normal glacier travel on the highly sun cupped upper slopes. There were quite a few small-medium cracks to cross, but nothing too dire and the end-runs we had to make were pretty easier.


After some time, we caught up to the party of two above us, who had turned back from the upper slope of the Kautz, and they reported wet and deep snow with post-holing past the knees and scarily soft snow bridges above 13000'. This was nothing like the warm but firm conditions we'd encountered up till then, and wanting nothing of it, we decided to join them at a bivy at the top of the cleaver separating the Nisqually and Kautz glaciers at just over 13000'. We waited there until about midnight trying to sleep and fight off mild headaches from our rapid ascent.



The upper Kautz Glacier and Point Success.


After packing up, we ascended the newly-refrozen Kautz Glacier, now roped together as a party of four for convenience and safety. Big crevasses necessitated going towards Point Success rather than heading over the Nisqually towards the DC. We climbed with good moonlight and barely needed our headlamps, and things went smoothly. We passed quite near, but not straight over, Point Success. I regret this slightly, as I imagine I may not be near that summit for a very long time again. We finally made the top of Columbia Crest at about 3AM. Sorry, no summit pictures, as my flash was not working.


Going down the DC route was a completely different world, with a sidewalk-like bootpack for most of it, wands, and several ladders bridging the crevasses. We also multiplied the number of other human beings we'd seen by about 20 compared to the previous day. We only made one small route finding error, following an old bootpack that had been rerouted over a bridge that was getting much too thin for good sense (of course we realized this just in time to have to go back and cross it again!). The views from the DC sure are purty though.



Emmons Glacier from the DC.



Lower Ingraham Glacier and the Ingraham Flats camp.



Brian's opinion of descending 9500' in heavy mountaineering boots in just a few hours.



Hard to worry about sore feet toooo much though.


Once back I managed to hitch hike back to the car pretty easily for a successful end to the trip.


All in all, its a great route, and it's pretty fun right now, go get it while the bridges on the upper mountain make it still pretty simple!


Gear Notes:

7 ice screws, a few pickets, the ice screws got plenty of use, I think we placed one picket the whole trip.


Approach Notes:

Nisqually Glacier is a big mess down low, lots of dangerous loose rock, so we took the longer approach via Comet Falls and Van Trump Park.

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Nice working up through Comet Falls. Taking trekking poles makes a big difference on long approaches and descents. And yeah, you will probably regret not walking over to Point Success - the least visited summit on Rainier. One comment on being short on screws, set your tools as anchors and not rely on screws.

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