Thursday, July 12, 2018

Kautz Route Update

Rangers climbed the Kautz Glacier route this week and were pleased to find pleasant climbing conditions. The Kautz route is more technical than both the Emmons and DC, however, it remains a good stepping stone for those contemplating more challenging objectives on Rainier.  The route requires a higher level of technical skills in order to negotiate the rock step, technical ice chute, and glacier route finding. Rangers ascended from Paradise to Glacier Vista, then descended toward the Nisqually Glacier.  This approach was still mostly snow covered. 

The route taken on 7/10 to a bivy site near the Turtle Snowfield.

There are two common ways across the Nisqually; one heads toward the "Fan" and the other traverses a little higher towards the Wilson Glacier "Gully" just above. Rangers opted for the Gully approach as the Fan is quite melted out and the crevasses on the Nisqually Glacier crossing didn't prohibit access to the upper ridge. Remember to rope up for these glacier crossings, and take a GPS track once you leave the trail in case clouds roll in and visibility deteriorates during the climb.

The Wilson Gully approach from the Nisqually Glacier.

Above the Wilson Gully, rangers ascended the lower Wapowety Cleaver to The Castle at 9600 feet.  Many good campsites exist in this area between 9,400 and 9,800 feet, in the vicinity of The Castle. Other bivy sites can be found near the top of the Turtle Snowfield around 10,800 feet. Rangers found running water near both The Castle and the 10,800 bivy site.  

Shortly after departing camp the next morning, rangers arrived at the rock step.  Currently, a 25' rappel is necessary to negotiate the rock step and access the Kautz's ice chute.  Old, tattered fixed ropes mark the top of the rock step.  As with all fixed equipment, the fixed lines should be inspected for core shots or damage before use. Be prepared to back up any gear you encounter and use your own ropes/equipment if you doubt the quality of fixed gear. The ice chute is sun cupped from top to bottom.  The snow pinnacles offer good security, but don't hesitate to utilize running belays or pitch out the terrain. Decent alpine ice can be found near the top of the chute to the left or right of the gut.

Looking down the Kautz ice chute.

From the top of the chute, meandering glacier travel brings you to the Wapowety Cleaver at 13,000 feet. There are a couple small exposed bivy sites on the Wapowety Cleaver, but no running water.  From the Wapowety Cleaver, a few long switchbacks bring climbers across the upper Nisqually Glacier to the crater rim.  The upper glacier is in good condition and smooth. A few large crevasses in this section have thin snow bridges, and it may be a good idea to belay your partners across these crevasses.

The route taken to the top from high high camp on 7/11/18
If you're planning a climb on the Kautz, grab some blue bags from the ranger station at Paradise or Longmire when you get your climbing permit. Wherever you decide to bivy, be sure to keep camp clean and pack out any trash you find.