At least 8 parties of climbers made it up the Kautz this weekend. Most of these teams are camping between 10000' - 11000' on the Turtle. At the 11000' camp there is a shortcut straight over to the base of the chute. This saves you from having to go up to Hazard and then back down around the toe of the ice cliff. That means you don't have to be exposed to the ice fall for quite as long! This week the upper part of the Kautz Chute has become icy. The first steep pitch is still snow but many parties report that the steepest parts of the upper pitch are 60 degree ice. Almost everyone is taking two tools and some screws to protect this pitch.
Jim Couch recently used the Kautz as a descent from the Fuhrer Finger. He had this to say about the route and his team's approach via the Nisqually Glacier and the Wilson Glacier:
~ Andy Anderson
"I have never seen the mountain this time of year with so few crevasses! We climbed to high camp (9200' on Wapowety Cleaver) on Saturday. Camp was approached directly via the Nisqually/Wilson glaciers instead of the fan. the approach was extremely straightforward with no open crevasses to deal with. I highly recommend this approach over the fan right now!
The upper Kautz was also very straightforward all the way to the summit. The route is relatively direct clear to the summit weaving only slightly to avoid a few crevasses and ice falls."
Teams have been successfully ascending the route over the past week. Some have elected to camp near 9,500' (give or take a few hundred feet) and do the entire climb from there. Others climb up to 11,300' at Camp Hazard. For those camping there, be cautious, as this location is exposed to catastrophic icefall potential.
Here is a recent report of conditions in the ice chute:
"The first pitch had/has lots of deep, firm snow, so it was easy going. The second pitch is worthy of a note though... the normal line follows a natural curve/bowl in the slope to the right of center, where it is less steep. [We] followed the older boot path the went far left of center up a much steeper angle. The crux was about 45 - 50 feet up [the slope] where I found about 2 to 4 inches of soft snow covering the hard glacier ice. I had to front point and use a second tool for about 30 - 40 feet... angle was about 60 degrees."
Tony Kahler also wanted to share that,
- The weather can turn from crystal clear summer conditions to whiteout winter blizzard conditions in a matter of a few hours,
- Wands are not the standard on remote routes, but navigation and route finding is,
- The need for some technical knowledge like belaying, rappelling, placing protection, and different climbing techniques may be necessary, and
- Pre climb preparation is crucial. (I had made topos with GPS coords, compass bearings, and aerial photos before the trip.)
This report just in concerning the Kautz Headwall. It has some Fuhrer Finger and Kautz Glacieraccess information:
Crossing the Nisqually to the Fan was very straightforward; no cracks are visible yet. The Fan consisted of sloppy postholing with plenty of wet slide debris.
Tracks were easy to follow to the base of the Turtle, where I began traversing left to drop down onto the Kautz Glacier. An easy snow ramp granted access to the [Kautz] glacier, which is also well filled-in. Snow conditions quickly changed from firm cramponing to boot-top trailbreaking in fairly unconsolidated snow and persisted all the way to Point Success. I took a direct line up through the rockbands, preferring the shorter icy sections (thin coverage) rather than end-running the obstacles. At the last cliffband below PS I climbed a steep section of shattering rime over loose snow over rock with big exposure - what an exit! Some more postholing led to Success and I was finally able to put on the skis.
Glenn Kessler reports that the Kautz route looks very inviting with its fresh coat of recent snow. A closeup look of the ice gully and the pitches above it from the air showed a relatively clean route with few obtacles. The approach up the Turtle is well-covered in unconsolidated snow. With a few melt-freeze cycles and a bit of consolidation of the upper-mountain snowpack, this route is most definitely "in".
May - 12th
Climbers have been avoiding "The Fan" and ascending the west side of the Nisqually Glacier (which was easily crossed.) You can see the route in the center (or center left) of this May 10 image. Crossing the Wilson Glacier was relatively easy for this party, since few crevasses had opened. There are about 10 snow free campsites near Camp Hazard between 9,400 feet and 11,600 feet.
As for the ice sections, there was one steep section of ice, (10 feet) followed by another 200 foot section (though not as steep.) From there to the summit was rather straight forward, but watch out for crevasses. Thanks Francis Tapon for the report and image.