This trip report begins at Paradise. From the Deadhorse Creek Trail (near the Jackson Visitor Center) take the Moraine Trail to Alta Vista. Descend to the lateral moraine of the Nisqually Glacier and onto the Nisqually Glacier. Cross the Nisqually Glacier to the base of the fan. A few small cracks do exist, but the glacier is still mostly covered with snow.
The fan remains in acceptable condition but keep in mind that it's prone to rock fall, so wear your helmet! There is some snow in the gulley, which meant tunning water... a good place to fill up!
Either climb the steep snow slopes to Wapowety Cleaver or stay on the Wilson Glacier. Several rock islands exist on the Wilson Glacier that provide running water and more opportunities to fill up. Either way you choose, both options come together at about 8550 feet below a prominent rock buttress.
If you camp in this vicinity (there are a number of sites) try to camp on snow, or use an established rock wall. "The Turtle" snowfield begins at about 9400 feet. Warm and wet snow conditions exist on the snowfield punctuated with patches of slick, icy snow. Keep in mind that the Turtle is exposed to the Kautz Ice Cliff above. Keep an eye out and stay to the west (climbers' left.)
Camp Hazard (at about 11,150 feet) has several rock-rings here that make good campsites. The traverse ledge onto the Kautz is only 100 feet from these campsites. The traverse onto the Kautz via this ledge is melted out. There were some old fixed ropes that we used for the rappel, but we did belay from above! The rappel is about 30 feet and ends in a steep snow gulley near some softer snow to which you can easily traverse. See image....
Remember to move quickly once you begin the climb into the chute. This section is known for ice fall activity! The first pitch is about 45 degrees, and we protected it with running belays with ice screws; it's about two rope lengths long but gets longer as the snow melts.
The second pitch is steeper, reaching 50 degrees. The ice section was about 60 meters in length on July 22nd, but we're sure that pitch is longer now as the snow over the remaining ice was very thin. There are no fixed lines in the chute.
Above the chute, the angle lessens considerably (12,100 feet.) We crossed a few crevasses on Kautz (all had solid bridges) and ascended to the top of Wapowety Cleaver. We stayed right, skirting the rocks, along the cleaver to 13,150 feet.
A good route out onto the upper Nisqually is not really an option this year because of crevasses and seracs. Therefore we went back out onto the middle of the Kautz Glacier heading more or less directly to Point Success. In the middle of the Kautz, we ascended straight up the slope. We attained the eastern ridge line of Point Success at about 14,040 feet after crossing only a few minor crevasses.
From here a direct line can be made across the divide between the summit crater and Point Success up to the Columbia Crest.
~ Stefan Lofgren, Tom Payne, and Peter Jewell
The Nisqually was in great shape, and we were able to avoid "The Fan" without any problems. We camped around 10,000 feet on "The Turtle" and had great views of Fuhrer Finger (which looks like it's about done for the season). The Kautz Ice chutes were a little messy, but we were able to access the first pitch without any problems. The lower pitch was very straight forward and easy/moderate. The second pitch, however, was quite icy with lots of debris blowing down on us. We had 5 ice screws and a second tool, which allowed us to simul-climb the section without problem. There is fixed line on the pitch, but we didn't trust it (we did throw a jumar on it for backup).
The upper mountain is in great shape with wands and a boot track all the way to the summit. We carried over and came down the DC which RMI has once again done a great job of maintaining (kudos to them). Overall a great climb.
~ Narrative and photos by Martin BenningJuly 14th
Climbing rangers Adrienne Sherred and Paul Charlton made it to 11,500 on the Kautz before being turned around by high winds. They report that the approach remains in good shape, and while most parties are approaching via the Nisqually and Wilson glaciers, the Fan is also in good shape. There is a fixed line in the rock step that descends from Camp Hazard, although it seems solid everyone should use their own judgment before using gear of unknown origin. From visual observation the Kautz Chute appears to have about two pitches of steeper ice. Ice Screws would be recommended for this route and teams may want to think about bringing two tools apiece, especially for the leader.
One problem that we are finding on this route especially, is that people are not packing out their blue bags. This is a major problem in that it is not only unsightly but leads to sanitation problems. Please be considerate of this wilderness area and other climbers and pack out all trash and waste with you. There are deposit barrels for blue bags at Camp Muir, Paradise, and the overnight parking area.
Conditions on the Kautz Glacier remain excellent. Mark Connel and Rob Yang approached via the Nisqually Glacier, avoiding the Fan (due to the large amount of debris). There are a few exposed crevasses, but they are easy to see and negotiate. Early in the day, snow conditions were excellent for cramponing but softened quite a bit by late morning.
The shortcut to the Kautz Chute is easy to find, as were tracks leading up the Wapowety Cleaver. There are also several bivy sites near the top of the rock step. There is a fixed rope at the step, (it appeared safe, but no guarantees.) On the way back reclimbing the rock step required a few feet of steep ice followed by a couple easy rock moves - doable with one tool and crampons. When the ice melts, the climbing will be more difficult. Prussiking the fixed rope is an option (but you'll have to trust or refix the ropes.) Some advice, while waiting for your partner to climb the step, do not stand below them as there is a lot of loose rock.
As for the ice in the Kautz Chute... The first pitch was straightforward (with some glacier snow.) The second pitch, however, was a solid piece of ice. We were able to protect it with screws and a few questionable pickets near the top. Many teams bring two tools per person and will probably use a belay. We rapped this pitch on the descent (using a single 50m rope which meant 3 raps.) We slung an ice horn for one rap, and left a bail screw on another. We didn't trust the ice for a v-thread due to the amount of water running down the face!
The upper part of the route has few crevasses. The route is well wanded and has a well-defined boot track starting at the base of the ice chute.
~ Mark Connell/Rob Yang
Even with mediocre weather over the 4th of July weekend, numerous teams successfully summitted the Kautz Glacier route. The conditions remain excellent and almost all teams are reporting enjoyable climbing.
On the approach, be mindful of human impacts on the vegetation as you leave the Paradise meadows and descend to the Nisqually Glacier. Teams should continue to use the Skyline trail to Glacier Vista then head directly down the snow to the Nisqually Glacier. Keep in mind that the snow is melting out quickly near Glacier Vista; be careful not to destroy fragile plants while descending to the snow. The other option to approach the Nisqually is via the Moraine Trail, which most climbers will probably need to switch to in the next few weeks 1.
Many parties continue to approach the Turtle snowfield directly from the upper Nisqually glacier, bypassing the Fan. Both routes are in good shape with full snow cover and boot tracks. Few crevasses are showing on the Nisqually Glacier, but take precautions.
Most climbers are using the shortcut to the Kautz Chute on the west side of Wapowety Cleaver at about 11,000 ft. This allows for a direct route into the main chute of the Kautz Glacier. On the 4th, there was a boot track there. This variation is recommended as it greatly minimizes your time underneath the Kautz Ice Cliff. Look for large rocks with a rope wrapped around them as you approach 11,000 feet. People are using this to help them get down the 20' rock step; no one guarantees the security of this rope as we did not put it there.
Conditions in the Kautz Chute remain good: 60 degree ice with thin snow cover. Come prepared with a plan for both the ascent and descent in this section.
Above the chute, the glacier conditions are straightforward with few major crevasses en route to the summit. There is a boot path with some wands but be ready to deal with routefinding during whiteout conditions or inclement weather. Due to the lenticular clouds which cloaked the mountain for much of this past week, many encountered whiteouts from 13,000' up.
~ Thomas Payne, Paul Charlton
For archived information on the Kautz Glacier, look here.