Thursday, August 09, 2018

Kautz Glacier 8/8/2018

Approach to Kautz from Alta Vista taken on 8/6/19
Sustained, above average temperatures have been causing glaciers and snowfields to melt out and change rapidly everywhere on the mountain. As chossy rock melts out from the snow and ice, things become even more prone to moving. As you can see from above, crossing the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers expose you for a long period of time to rock and ice fall. On top of that, traveling through that type of terrain is slow.

If you are looking to climb the Kautz in the next month, a route with less objective danger enters from the Comet Falls trailhead. This will minimize your exposure time to rockfall and overall time in hazardous terrain. Not to mention, the wildflowers on Van Trump should be glorious now. Take a moment to stop and enjoy the flowers on your hike up.

That being said, even with an approach via Comet Falls, the Kautz Glacier still presents lots of hazards and risks to assess and manage. A large, natural rockfall occurred last week above the rock-step where the route descends from the bivy sites to the Kautz Glacier. Falling boulders swept through the area at the bottom of the step, crossing an area that had commonly been regarded as a safe location. Scouting this area in the evening before your climb will help you decide how to move though the area faster and reduce your risk. The glacier travel above the ice pitches remains viable, but is becoming more circuitous and time-consuming. Warm temperatures may make these upper mountain crevasse crossings more dubious as time progresses.

Set yourself up for success and plan a head to move quickly through such areas to minimize your exposure time. Keep your head on a swivel and your wits about you.