The lower Nisqually Glacier is beginning to break up quite a bit and making travel fairly difficult through the Wilson Gully. We recommend taking the trail up to Comet Falls and up through Van Trump Park. This approach involves no glacier travel, crevasse crossings and the flowers are just starting to poke out. Sounds pretty good right?
|Looking up from Van Trump|
|Upper Kautz step|
Running water can be found at both the Castle as well as Camp Hazard, but expect these flows to be lessened or even frozen in the early mornings or on cooler days.
|Looking down below the second step.|
The step off the cleaver and down onto the Kautz Ice tongue is fairly short currently. Only about 10’ and can be easily down climbed. Just note that there is a sizeable steep snow slope below you, so utilizing a rope for this may be a wise idea.
|Secons step looking towards climbers left and the Kautz Cleaver|
The climbing on the tongue itself involves a fair amount of snow, granted, this snow is highly featured penitents, but snow none the less. Ice can be found far climbers right and easily accepts screws and good purchase with your tools. The lower step involves about 2 pitches of easy climbing, followed by a short section of steep snow walking. The second step involves about 3 pitches. Both these steps can be easily simul-climbed depending on your comfort level and ability.
|Looking down from the top of the Second step|
The climbing above the tongue involves navigating around a couple crevasses, although a couple of them are widening and the plugs, thinning. In time, a few of these may warrant a belay to cross safely.
Once on the Wapowety Cleaver, you will see that the crossing onto the Upper Nisqually Glacier involves maneuvering a hollowing section. Again, this may warrant a belay. Large cracks are beginning to open up on the Nisqually and the plugs are beginning to fall through a couple of them. This said, navigation is still fairly straight forward from Wapowety Cleaver to Columbia Crest.
|Looking up , just below the Wapowety Cleaver.|
|Looking up towards the Upper Nisqually|
Whether you plan on down climbing the Kautz or descending the DC, plan to bring gear to safely get from the top of the ice pitches back to Camp Hazard. Crevasses may impede travel upwards or weather may move in and force you to descend. Either way, plan to bring equipment to rig a V-thread and bring extra cord to leave as tat. The last thing you want is being forced to down climb technical ice because you decided to leave materials back at the car.