Disappointment Cleaver - 2007

Disappointment Cleaver Route Conditions - Oct 18th.

The established route that the guides maintain is gone. :) It's been snowing a lot since mid September, and we're all wondering what the upper mountain is looking like. If you summit, we'd like to get your report. You can send photos and stories to me!

On Sept 20th, a team of four tried to reach Ingraham Flats, but didn't like the terrain. They mentioned numerous crevasses, hard ice, and unfavorable conditions betweeen after Catherdral Gap.

September 16

Parties have reported the "step" portion of the climb has become much easier due to lots of use. Large foot holds kicked into the icy "step" allow for solid footing. Crowds have definitely died down; only two or three independent parties and the guide services climbed this last weekend. The picture to the right shows the toe of the cleaver and the faint switchbacks where the climbing route starts up the Emmons. Lower freezing levels and a high probability of precipitation the next couple of days will mean stronger crevasse lips and bridges. Winter conditions seem to be setting in...

~ Thomas "house of" Payne

September 11

The DC is still climbable via the Emmons shoulder variation, and the teams that have climbed it have noted the late-season conditions that have developed over the past weeks. The route still goes below the Cleaver and onto the Emmons. The most notable change to the route recently has been the water ice as climbers access the Emmons shoulder. This is a large section of hard water ice and will make travel through this section slow on both ascent and descent. Parties have been using pickets and V-threads as running belays through the whole section. Maybe teams should think about ice screws on the DC these days! In other news the weather forecast is excellent through the weekend and crowds are minimal. Autumn on the mountain can be a great time, but just be prepared to maybe spend a little more time on the route than you normally would.

~ Cooper Self, NPS

Sept 3rd

Many teams summitted via the Disappointment Cleaver route on the Labor Day weekend. High winds deterred a few parties, but the overall weather was better than the forecast. The route is still well marked and easily followed. Many international climbers showed up over the weekend as well - teams with climbers from Russia, Poland (thanks for helping clean the Public Shelter), India, and South Africa. There are still poor skiing conditions, but hopefully we'll get some snow soon.

~ Thomas Payne

Aug 17th

This update comes from George Dunn... Mr. Mount Rainier Guiding...

"A brief update on route changes as far as I know them to be at this time:

We (IMG) have been monitoring the existing route and word was that it was not destined to last too much longer. AAI and IMG each sent up one guide to work as a team on the route yesterday. RMI had (earlier) broken off two guides to start a new line. Our guides followed that line and finished it, then were rejoined by the two RMI guides who came up and helped to shovel a track in over to the Emmons shoulder.

The initial report is from our guide, who says the route diverges from the old trail at approximately 11,400 feet at a flat area just above the 25 foot step with fixed line (AKA - Hillary Step). The route contours and zig zags over and up to the Emmons shoulder, then cuts back at around 12,300 feet to eventually rejoin the old route. I understand that about 3 pickets were left as running belays at an exposed section and 3 more up higher at exposed spots. Ice screws may also be useful at a couple of places where the old glacier ice is exposed. All in all, the new changes seem to have made the route a bit easier and safer, but longer.

August 16th

Not much has changed with the route over the past two weeks. Teams are climbing, summitting successfully, and enjoying the novelty of the aesthetic, all-glacier Emmons Variation of the DC. As far as route conditions go, the only practical climbing option remains beneath the DC and through the crevasses on the Emmons Glacier side of the cleaver. Some of the crevasses on the Emmons side are widening, leading to a few suspect snow bridges. There are a number of crevasses that are still passable with a step-across but as these widen the route may change again. Also, a third fixed line has been added near 12,600 feet protecting a questionable section just before you intersect the Emmons shoulder. Above there, the final slopes remain straightforward.

On the whole, teams are averaging 7-8 hours on their ascents and 4-5 hours on their descents.

~ Paul Charlton

August 6th

Many teams summitted during this week's warm, stable weather. August is a busy climbing month that historically has high success rates for climbers. The Emmons variation of the DC currently does not present any significant routefinding hazards but it IS longer. You gain and lose elevation on both your ascent and descent. Expect ascent times to be roughly 1 hour longer, add about 1/2 hour on the descent. Consider bringing extra water or a stove because of the length of this route; many teams are running out of water before they return to camp.

There are two sections with fixed ropes on the route. Both are short and straightforward but it is important that teams be efficient through these sections and communicate well with other teams in the area. In order to avoid clogging the route at key points, before climbing make sure your team knows how to quickly clip in to fixed pickets and/or a fixed rope to provide a running belay. Common courtesy will go a long way if you happen to find yourself stuck at a bottleneck. (See photo at right, of the first fixed section.)

Though there are a few places where passing other parties is difficult, for the most part there are ample opportunities to navigate around other parties. If you are friendly and communicate well with the other teams, they will likely accommodate your wishes.

Crevasses continue to open on this route and parties should be inspecting crevasse crossings themselves. Since the crevasses change daily, it is entirely possible that the sketchy-looking section the boot track crosses did not look that way the day before. Don't hesitate to walk outside of the boot path. Photo near 12,700 feet, by Mike Gauthier.

Enjoy this variation with its great views of big crevasses. Entry photo (with labels) is compliment of the folks at cc.com. Check out this sunrise photo by Phil Edmonds taken on 8/4.

~ Paul Charlton, updated by Phil Edmonds

July 30th

Lots of changes on the DC route... In fact, it's not really fair to call it the Disappointment Cleaver route anymore, as the route now climbs the Emmons Glacier. This Sunday, RMI guides pulled 2 ladders that previously enabled climbers to by-pass some very wide crevasses above the cleaver (12,500 K+/-). For the past few weeks, there has been a growing number of crevasses in this area. Each day, climbers have been reporting larger crossings, until finally, even the anchored ladders couldn't span the icy abysses.

For the most part, things are relatively normal when leaving Camp Muir. The traverse across the Cowlitz Glacier is really straightforward and there are few crevasses to deal with. Climbers, guides and rangers have noticed a number large rocks on the Cowlitz Glacier, which indicate that rockfall is INDEED a serious hazard to consider in this area. Move quickly and wear your helmet.

Once at Ingraham Flats (see sunrise photo above), look for the boot path that leads climbers right towards the base of the cleaver. It cuts right shortly above the camp at 11,100 feet and heads towards the DC, before descending 400 +/- feet towards Little Tahoma and gaining the Emmons Glacier.

From there, it's a glacier climb to the summit. Along the way, there a number of crevasses to cross. Again, most are really straightforward, but some involve a fixed line and deserve attention and possibly belays. Look for those crossings between 11,000 feet and 12,800 feet. Once you're above 13K, it's a long ascending traverse towards the crater rim. It seems that I've experienced a headwind in this section on each trip.

~ Mike Gauthier

For more archived information, see your spring 2007 reports

Emmons Winthrop Glacier w/ Inter Glacier and Glacier Basin Trail - 2007

Emmons/Winthrop Glacier Route Update - August 24th

Not too much has changed on the Emmons since the last posting. Last weekend the mountain received about 3 inches of snow, which didn't do much to the route except cover the old boot pack and make a couple of teams have to think a little harder about where they should climb.

On the approach the Inter glacier is becoming icy and there are a few large crevasses up high. So parties should be prepared to rope up and use crampons for the approach. Also be careful right at Schurman, as there are large crevasses all around camp and the bridges are not getting any stronger. As for the route itself it is still in good shape. There are some large crevasses to negotiate but they can all be done in a safe way. With the cooler temps we had over the past week, parties reported very firm snow conditions up high on the route.

Finally, know your party's ability and be observant of conditions when you climb. I watched a very slow moving group on Saturday morning ascending as the weather was obviously deteriorating. They ended up summitting but had to descend in a whiteout with fresh snow falling over their tracks. They almost made it back to Schurman by 11 p.m. that night, but could not negotiate the last set of crevasses for some reason and ended up bivying at the flats until daylight. That was a long day/cold night that could have been easily avoided if they had been a little more in tune with the events and themselves.

Aug. 17th

The Emmons Glacier is in great condition for this late in the season. But where are the climbers? The weather has not been super stable but we had some warm days this past week... and some new snow. Camp Schurman has been quiet all week long and the climbers that showed up had the mountain all to themselves. Summer is coming to an end but this route will probably hold up nicely, well into September.

The Glacier Basin Trail is in good shape and easy to follow after a summer of hikers. There is flowing water at the base of the Inter Glacier. Its a good place to tank up and get ready for the snow. There is ice at the top of the first steep slope. Crampons are useful here. This is a good spot to rope up on top of the steep slope. The glacier has some cracks that are easy to step over or walk around. The trail is still fairly direct. The Lower Emmons is mellow. When you get to Camp Schurman take the UPPER bridge NOT the lower bridge. See photos below.

The biggest problem area has been between Camp Schurman and Emmons Flats. See right photo. There have been a few crevasse falls in this area. The route to the summit has been changing slowly but still follows the same route it has been. At the top of the corridor the route traverses up and right to about 12,800 feet. The bergschrund is not too bad and is traversed on the right. From there it is easy travel to the summit.

Aug 10th

The route is still in great shape. From Camp Schurman up to the Flats the glacier is a little broken but the bridges are still passable. This might be changing soon if the weather gets hot like it's supposed to be in August. Until then be safe while crossing, especially if you are carrying all your gear to the Flats. From there the corridor is straightforward up to a traverse at 11,700 feet. The route then switchbacks up to 12,400 feet and traverses on the level for a while. From there it is straightforward up to another small traverse at 12,800. Past this traverse the route is great up the the bergschrund which is easy to cross on climber's right and continues with a straight shot to the crater rim.

The Inter Glacier is melting out more and more as the season goes on. We chose the Mt. Ruth way, albeit adding a little more distance and a lot more rock. Otherwise refer to the post below for more specific details about passage on the Inter Glacier.

Have a safe and fun climb, Peter Jewell

Aug. 3rd

Great weather made many teams happy to be out on the mountain this last week. The Emmons Glacier is still in great shape but changing quickly with all of the sunshine. The approach up the Inter Glacier only has one major crevasse crossing right now which most parties are just jumping (it's about 14" wide). The snow on the Inter Glacier is melting quickly, and a large section of hard glacier ice is protruding through. Skiers will find better snow from the top of the Inter to the base of the glacer if they stay to skier's left.

Almost every team is choosing to access the Emmons Glacier from Camp Curtis, which involves a descending traverse from the campsites. So far, the way isn't too rock-ridden, but later in the summer as the glacier melts the path can be subject to lots of loose rock. There are BIG crevasses on the lower Emmons below Schurman, so rope up. Photo by Heather Thorne

Climbers are leaving Camp Schurman early (2:00 a.m.) to try for the summit and return to camp before the hottest part of the day. The full moon on the 29th helped out a lot by lighting up the route. Despite generally good climbing conditions, there are three areas in which parties have been noticing major hazards.

  • The first is right out of Camp Schurman before the Emmons Flats. There is a weakening crevasse bridge and when it goes it will go big.
  • The second is at the top of the corridor at around 11,800 feet. There is a jumble of hard ice, weak snow, and vertical as well as horizontal crevasses. This makes it hard for parties to assess whether or not their entire rope team is over a single crevasse or not. Please be careful here and don't just assume the "beaten path which has turned into a trench" is safe.
  • The third major hazard on the route is the crevasse at 13,500 feet. A climber relayed that he destroyed the bridge/step most teams were using to cross this crevasse. Yesterday (Aug. 2nd) some teams reported using a narrow but deep (thick) bridge 15 yards to the climber's left to cross it. Other teams said they kept traversing to the climber's right and found a wider bridge, but with an unknown thickness, to cross. No teams started traversing all the way toward the Liberty Cap Saddle although this action might happen soon if all the crevasse bridges start to fail at 13,500 feet. Image at left shows climbers crossing the bergschrund (image by Heather Thorne.

Jim Springer, a former Mount Rainier climbing ranger and now a climbing ranger at the Tetons, climbed with his son last Tuesday. They made great time in excellent style (see photo to the right). It was great to hear all of the interesting bits of history he shared.

~ Tom "House of" Payne

Look here for 2007 archived information.

Ptarmigan Ridge - 2007

Ptarmigan Ridge Route Conditions - July 30th

RMI guide Clint Helander sent this thoughts on a recent attempt of Ptarmigan Ridge.

With a few days of high pressure in the air, we decided to go have a fun jaunt on Ptarmigan Ridge. We took care of logistics and arrived at Mowich Lake at about 9:15PM.

We had light packs since, intending to do a single push to the Disappointment Cleaver route. We made quick time to Spray Park and found the climber's trail heading towards the mountain; the mountain, btw, was illuminated by the full moon. We took a good break at ca. 8,400' before dropping down the left side of the ridge to make better time via the snow. We didn't rope up, but we did throw on our harnesses and rescue rack. We stayed close to the ridge and navigated without any difficulties, never feeling uncomfortable despite the sometimes steep and icy slopes. After an hour or so of elevation gain, we made it back to the ridge when the sun came up. The Stuart Range, Mt Baker, Mt Shuksan, and every other visible Cascade north of Rainier greeted us as we neared 10,300'.

We were prepared to take a short break and then begin the descent/traverse to the true start of the route but our hearts sank as we noted out path was through the “gun barrel” of death. To get on the route would be irresponsible and not worth the dire and deathly consequences. While snow still lined most of the route, the route was still covered with immense signs of rockfall and icefall. Most notably was the traverse under the 11,5K buttress (where the two variations begin). Even that left couloir variation was splattered with rockfall and icefall/slides. We explored every option from the Ice Cliff (Beckey) variation to the Mowich, but our time was up. We took a short nap and watched the Willis Wall rip a few times before descending.

It took us less than 8 hours to reach the 10,300' level and we had expected it to take roughly 24 hours in total. Next year, I guess.
For a party still looking to do the route, it could probably be done, but it would be wise to be at the 10,300' level in the afternoon and then hit the shrund at midnight, giving them optimal protection from the inevitable rockfall that is currently present on the stretches of the route under 12,500'.

On the way out, we were startled to see a FRESH slide on the left variation of the route (the ice couloir). Our minds raced as we wondered if it had occurred that morning, but it was clear that it was VERY new. It shined in the sun as we hit Spray Park and it was a clear sign that this route is not only physically and technically challenging, but extremely mentally challenging as well. We met two friends in the parking lot who were going to attempt the route as well. They ended up camping at 8,400' and paralleled our thoughts of the current route conditions.

Disappointing as it was to not even get on the fun parts of the route, it was a great trip with tremendous friends and will surely be attempted under better conditions next year with improved times and even lighter packs. Fresh ski tracks on the Russell and lots of hikers on the trail. Just goes to show that a summit isn't always the only reward of climbing.

July 8th

Another report of Sky Sjue.

Dan and I climbed Ptarmigan Ridge and descended the Edmunds Headwall this weekend. We left Mowich Lake Sunday morning at 1:45 am.

Ptarmigan Ridge was in great shape on Sunday. Lovely snow, big exposure, plus some ice and "snice" made for exhilarating climbing to the upper rock buttress. We took the climber's left variation and braved possible flak from Liberty Cap Glacier. Only one pitch was really exposed to the objective hazard, but it went quickly with wonderful plastic blue ice. It was that one-stick wonder where your pick goes "thunk" and visions of world peace fill your head. We belayed four pitches from the buttress to the mellow upper Liberty Cap Glacier. The fourth pitch featured a few tenuous vertical steps on rotten vertical bulges - unprotectable and heady, but not too difficult. Liberty Cap Glacier was easy to navigate to Liberty Cap, albeit arduous with never-ending rolling slopes toward the top, late in a long day.

We were hoping for good conditions to make a quick ski descent of the Edmunds Headwall. I made turns off the top on perfect corn, but became increasingly wary of blue glacier ice lurking beneath the corn. Sidestepping got old after several hundred feet so I changed into crampons - always fun to hack a platform and exchange gear on a fifty degree slope with blue ice. We donwclimbed the Edmunds Headwall because it wasn't in good condition to ski. It is, however, in excellent condition for an exciting climb. We reached the North Mowich Glacier by scrambling on some rock to get to a good bridge over the bergschrund on climber's left of the left rabbit ear. Photo of ice sections (climbers right variation).

We left our shoes by some rocks above 9,000 ft on the Russell Glacier, so I had the great pleasure of climbing more scree than usual up Ptarmigan Ridge. Dan and I parted ways on the Russell Glacier, where he was going to take a nap and wait for the snow to soften. I wanted to get home in time for an afternoon meeting at the lab, so I skied the Russell and hiked through Spray Park to reach my car by 11:30 am. Spray Park is really beautiful right now - the avalanche lilies are in bloom. This was a very engaging 34-hour push.

July 4th

Yet another fantastic route report with photos, by Joe Sambataro.

Einar Osterhaug and I climbed Ptarmigan Ridge on July 3rd to make up for last year's faded plans. With all the recent trip reports and with a week off, we felt hopeful to climb Ptarmigan. Despite Mowich Lake Road opening up June 28th, we went in via White River to avoid a car shuttle as there were only 2 of us. Leaving late on Sunday, we took a leisurely approach and camped at Glacier Basin the first night. We finished the approach to Point 10310 up St. Elmo's Pass and across the Winthrop, Curtis Ridge, Carbon, and Russell on the second day. Conditions were still good for the traverse.

After a windy (and sandy) evening at our bivy spot, we packed and headed up around 4:45 a.m. We took the standard start across the shrund (still easily crossable) and tended left. At the standard traverse into the gully system, we traversed high directly under the large roof. Einar belayed me out on snice and loose rock while I looked down at the easy snow traverse we could have taken (see photo of route and traverse). We pitched/simuled the right variation with some fine sections of snow and ice (see photo of Einar leading up right side). The short rock step provided some fun hooking on solid rock--I clipped the fixed pin and got a knifeblade higher on the left (see photo below on left).

Once on the lower Liberty Cap Glacier around 2:00 p.m., we unfortunately encountered 1-2 feet of unsettled, windblown softpack, most likely due to the snowfall earlier in the week when Paradise got 4" of new snow. It was slow going trying to plow through so we opted to bivy at 13,000' on the western end of Liberty Cap Glacier out of the wind (see photo lower right). One day short of seeing all the fireworks in the cities below, we finished the climb to Liberty Cap and descent via the Emmons back to the car and home.

Overall, the approach and route conditions were in great shape despite the relatively high freezing levels of 13 k. As for gear, we carried 2 pickets, 2 flukes, 4 screws, 4-5 stoppers, and 2 shorty knifeblades.

June 26th

Here is a close up aerial image taken on June 26th by Stoney Richards of the Ptarmigan Ridge crux, above the North Mowich Icefall. The route is still looking quite good for climbing.

June 21st

Presently the Mowich Lake Road is still closed (FYI, now it's open), adding approximately 4 miles to the approach to Ptarmigan if coming from the northwest side of the mountain. To mitigate this, a number of parties have been approaching the climb from White River, traversing the lower Winthrop and Carbon Glaciers to access lower Ptarmigan Ridge from the east. This approach remains in good shape. There is a solid boot track (made by Liberty Ridge teams) all the way from St. Elmo's pass to the Carbon Glacier. From there, straightforward ramps lead across the glacier and safe snowfields ascend to Ptarmigan Ridge at its 9,000' point. At some stage enough snow will melt that this approach may become more difficult and/or exposed to rockfall, but it should last a few more weeks at the least.

This approach route to Ptarmigan makes sense as it can help avoid a cumbersome car shuttle, assuming you descend the Emmons Glacier back to White River. Parties continue to routinely descend from their Liberty Ridge climb to the DC and Camp Muir by accident, at Columbia Crest mistaking the well-trodden DC for the barely noticeable Emmons route. Try not to do that if your car is at White River.

Photo by Tim Matsui, Dan Aylward leading out from Ptarmigan Ridge high camp towards the rock bands below 11,500 feet.

~Report by Paul Charlton, NPS

For more information on Ptarmigan Ridge, see our spring 2007 achieved conditions

Liberty Ridge - 2007

Liberty Ridge Route Conditions - July 28th

Michael Picard sent me this trip report. His team didn't summit, but they wanted to share their experiences.

My friend Brett and I attempted Liberty Ridge this last weekend. We were making out attempt Friday night to beat the report of yet another cloudy weekend arriving Saturday. We couldn't make it onto the route, but thought others would be interested in this info.

The top of the Carbon looked really broken. After we descended onto the Carbon we crossed the crevasses to the other side and ascended a half icefall, half snow ramp on the Ptarmigan ridge side to access the upper Carbon. We zigzagged through crevasses on a "direct" line to the base of what used to be the snow ramp accessing the base of Liberty ridge in the July 8th shot on your site.

We became marooned on the edge of a 30' wide crevasse that spanned from the rock base of liberty ridge to the rock of Ptarmigan ridge. We went all the way to Ptarmigan ridge and there was no exit on the uphill side without vertical ice climbing. We couldn't get close enough to see because of the piece of glacier we were on were separated; it looks like the only weakness in this wall might be the loose rock against the base of Liberty ridge. If we descended into the crevasse it would have been about 40-50 of vertical ice on the uphill side. If we had made it past that crevasse it looked like there was another just as big beyond.

The snow ramp, mentioned earlier, is gone. There is an 8-10 foot step (visible in photo) where the ramp used to be. It looks like the best access might be the icefall to the right of the step.

The rest of the route looked great, but we didn’t get to really check it out. There were clean snow slopes leading all the way up to the Black Pyramid.

July 8th

It is early July and the temperatures are soaring, but Liberty Ridge is still in good shape. Climbing rangers ascended this route over the weekend and found it quite enjoyable. The route is still very much snowcovered and should continue to offer a rewarding climb to those people willing to put forth the effort.

The approach from White River and over St. Elmo's Pass is very straightforward. The Glacier Basin trail is all snowfree now and the trail re-routes are easy to follow as long as you keep your eye out for the four foot strips of caution flagging placed every 15 feet or so by our dedicated trail crews. The Winthrop crossing is in great shape with very minor crevasse dangers. Access onto the Carbon Glacier from Curtis Ridge is very nice right now with a great entrance point just above 7,000 feet. Heading up the Carbon towards the route became increasingly difficult for us since the warm temps have started to melt our fine snowpack and expose some large crevasses. We ended up finding a route that went along the right side of the glacier and then traversed to the ridge at around 9,000 ft. The access across the Carbon and onto Liberty Ridge itself, although still very passable at the moment, is going to be the determining factor as to how long the route will be climbable.

We got onto the west side of Liberty Ridge around 9,200 and found a great snowslope heading up to Thumb Rock. We had to keep our heads up and dodge a few rocks, but we made it to the bivy area and enjoyed spectacular views of the sun setting while the Puget Sound metropolitan area was lighting up for the night.

The next morning we started climbing as the sun came up and found conditions to be warm and soft but still enjoyable. We climbed around the left side of Thumb Rock and then took a direct line to the east side of the Black Pyramid. There was some significant rockfall hazard in this area but we minimized our exposure and made it through safely. Once we were on the large snowfield on the east side of the Black Pyramid the climbing became much more enjoyable since we were out of the rockfall hazards and onto a nice sustained snowslope that took us the rest of the way up the route. We stayed on the ridge the whole time and found a very nice set of snow ramps leading to a very short ice "pitch" (really just about three moves) that allowed us to gain the gentler snowslopes of Liberty Cap. From there we continued up and then descended the Emmons Glacier to Camp Schurman and finally back to our "Hannah Van" (named in honor of the injured) at White River Campground.

~ Cooper Self, NPS

For more information on Liberty Ridge, see our archieved conditions for spring 2007

Tahoma Glacier 2007

Tahoma Glacier Route Conditions - July 7th

This report with photos was contributed by Scott Kindred.

We climbed the Tahoma Glacier and descended the DC on July 5-7. To do this, Tony dropped Tom and me off at the Tahoma Creek trailhead, then drove back to park the van at Longmire, where he then rode his road bike back to the trailhead. We expected the West Side Road to be paved and didn’t really think about the 800 feet of vertical Tony would have to climb on his bike. That gave Tony a nice pre-climb workout. Photo of Scott on Emerald Ridge with Tahoma Glacier behind.

I had decided to climb with lightweight hiking boots, which worked to my advantage on the trail to Emerald Ridge. The Tahoma Creek trail was is better-than-expected condition with excellent flagging through the washed out areas and almost all the blowdown cut away. Where the trail intersected the top of Emerald Ridge at 5,600 feet we decided to continue up the ridge over some easy rock scrambling rather than drop down on the glacier. Photo: Tahoma Creek approach (note lack of trail).

This option worked out pretty well since it saved us from losing elevation and was a pretty good transition onto the glacier. We followed the obvious ramps on the climber’s right side of the glacier to our camp at about 8,300 feet.

Around 8:30 that evening we were surprised by a team of 5 climbers ascending the route. Turns out they had left their tents at about 9,500 feet and climbed the route several days earlier, expecting to down-climb back to camp. That climb, however, ended up being much more difficult than anticipated and they instead decided to descend to Muir rather than down-climb the Tahoma Glacier. We met them as they were climbing back to retrieve their gear. Talk about a major bummer! When I asked them about the route they told us of challenging crevasse navigation, a 50-foot rappel to get around a big crevasse, and a section of 60 degree ice. Hmmm… that didn’t sound right. We thought, “Maybe they just messed up and got off route. Maybe they’re just not very experienced.” Let’s just say that our respect for their abilities would grow over the next 24 hours.

At our first camp, we also discovered that it’s very important to shelter your stove from the wind. It took us three hours to melt six liters using a gas stove that has always worked well in the past. At this rate we would not have enough fuel to complete the route. After considering our options we decided we ask the other team if we could have their extra fuel, so that our climb would more likely succeed.

The next morning we slept in to 4:30 before breaking camp. Given the navigation challenges that we expected, our plan was to navigate in the daylight rather than dark. Last year we wasted several hours in the dark trying to find the repel point on the Kautz Glacier route and we didn’t want to repeat that experience. Furthermore, we didn’t want to wake up the other team too early since they would be sleeping in and we really wanted their gas.

We arrived at the other team’s camp around 6:00 and begged for fuel. They were very forgiving of the early morning wake up and graciously gave us half a bottle. All I can say to these helpful climbers is thank you very much. May good karma follow you on all your future climbing adventures. In addition to the fuel re-supply, their description of the route allowed us to avoid the aforementioned rappel.

We climbed onto a ridge that headed up the glacier (this ridge is apparent on the topo map). The previous climbers had continued up the ridge because it appeared to offer a crevasse-free route compared to the center of the glacier. Somewhere above 10,000 feet however, their progress was blocked by a huge crevasse that cut across the ridge. This was the point where they had to rappel to continue. Based on their info, we found a place around 9,600 feet to navigate off the ridge and down onto the center of the glacier. It was a bit tricky given the big crevasse that bordered the west side of the ridge, but doable.

We continued up the center of the glacier avoiding many crevasses and snow bridges. The snow ranged from hard to slightly soft and provided excellent cramponing. We stopped at 11,000 feet to make more water. This time the stove worked like a charm and we had another 6 liters in about an hour. We decided that the poor stove performance the previous evening was due to inadequate protection from the wind. The slopes in the 9,000- to 12,000-foot range were variable in steepness and seemed to max out in the 40-45 degree range. Here's a photo of Scott and Tom around 11,500 feet.

At 12,000 feet the slope steepened. We could see old faded steps from the previous party that went straight up the slope. Warm temps over the previous days had actually lowered the snow around the footprints so the footprints stood out in relief. Using two pickets for a running belay we did an upward traverse across an approximate 50 degree slope to a possible crevasse crossing. We encountered a short section of “white ice” on this slope before reaching a flat spot. (“White ice” meaning refrozen snow that you could penetrate about 1-2 inches with your ice axe and crampons.) We then debated whether to continue to our right across a rather shaky looking snow bridge and more 50 degree slopes with a huge gaper below or head left up a short section of 55-60 degree slope and no gaper below. We could see what appeared to be faded ski tracks on the slope to the right, suggesting the snow bridge was possibly more passable when it was skied 10 days previous. We decided to head left. Tony led and placed the two pickets for a running belay. The steep section was probably about one hundred feet of elevation that ranged from soft and stable snow to white ice. Tony wished for a second tool on the ice. With my lightweight hiking boots and aluminum crampons, now it was my turn to wimper. I comforted myself with the hope that the pickets would hold if things went bad. Things didn’t (thankfully) and I reached the top of the crux with no issues except tired calves. At that point, it was clear that the good samaritan climbers had provided us with accurate route information. Here's a photo of Tony and Tom on the steep section.

We continued up a continued steep (40-45 degrees) slope with crevasses on both sides that appeared to join above. Based on the previous trip report, we figured we needed to be further right and eventually found a snow bridge that crossed the crevasse to the right. Here's Tony leading across the snow bridge.

This worked out well and we continued up the 40-45 degree slope. The crevasse navigation continued to be interesting, particularly given the warm afternoon temperatures and soft snow. Although the soft snow provided secure footing, we did have to post-hole in places and some of the snow bridges were fragile. We often employed boot-axe belays across the bridges for security. This turned out to be a wise practice.

Somewhere around 13,000 feet, Tom set up a boot-axe belay so I could test a thin snow bridge. Keeping the rope tight and holding it with my right hand, I moved onto the snow when suddenly the bridge gave way beneath me and I was swinging in the air. My right hand was still holding the rope and my head was above the level of the crevasse. By digging my crampons into the icy sidewall of the crevasse and a helping hand from Tom, I was able to swing my leg up and over the edge of the crevasse. As we stood there panting, Tom reassuringly pointed out that, “Hey, those boot-axe belays really work.” It was the surprise in his voice that bothered me a bit.

The slope eased off around 13,400 feet and we headed for the top. Although there are a few small crevasses in this area of the mountain, we figured the snow bridges were bombproof and just motored along towards the top. Somewhere around 14,200 feet we passed about 100 feet west of an open crevasse. I was in the back with my head down slogging when I heard Tom (middle of rope) yell out only to see him sunk into the snow up to his pack. He had broken through a crevasse and all that he felt was air below his feet. Leaning forward and sinking in his ice axe, he was able to extricate himself quickly. Tony had crossed this area without problem (he’s about 30 pounds lighter) and there was no sagging or other indication that the snow bridge below… This was a good reminder for everyone.

We reached the summit at 7:30 p.m., after a very long day. We encountered really strong winds and figured that the crater would offer some amount of protection from the wind for camp. After exploring the west crater (no shelter there), we headed to the east crater and an abandoned site with snow walls. We enlarged to site to accommodate our tents and discovered that shoveling at 14,400 feet is not like shoveling closer to sea level. Tom melted snow while Tony and I crashed in our sleeping bags. We woke up to the first climbers entering the crater at 6:00 and headed down to Camp Muir. Here's a picture of our own little crater in the crater:

All in all, an excellent climb with just the right amount of challenge for us. The lack of people (except friendly souls with extra fuel) and moderate challenge makes this route special. I think we took the best route but it’s not certain how much longer it will be feasible given the current warm spell. If you approach from the Puyallup Cleaver, follow the skier’s advice and cross onto the Tahoma at 8,000 feet. It doesn’t look real good at 9,800 feet with steep snow and gapers at the bottom.

June 26th

Jordan Lipp contributed this report on the Tahoma Glacier. We've been short on west side-of-the-mountain updates, so this report comes at a great time.

Last week (6/24-26) two of my friends and I skied the Tahoma Glacier. I thought I'd pass along this information and a couple of photographs for the climbing blog.

The route was in great shape. We came in via St. Andrews Park and up the Puyallup Cleaver, which I would not recommend right now. We ascended to about 9,000' on the Cleaver before we decided that it was not passable, and skied down the Cleaver to about 8,000' (near Tokaloo Spire) where there was an easy descent onto Tahoma Glacier. It was an easy skin up the Glacier to 10,000'. We climbed mostly up the center of the glacier. Both the center of the glacier or far climber's right were in great shape. The climb above 10,000' was also straightforward. We climbed on the climber's left side of the glacier on the steeper section. The Sickle also looked good. (photo looking down- glacier)

Skiing from the summit was quite straightforward. We followed our ascent path down to 8,000', and continued skiing on the Tahoma Glacier to almost the toe of the glacier at 5,600' where we were only a couple hundred yards from catching the Wonderland Trail (near Emerald Ridge, opposite of Glacier Island). Photo looking up glacier, note ski tracks of ascent/descent line.

I think that for the next few weeks, the way to climb the Tahoma Glacier is to ascend the center or far climber's right up to 9,500', then ascend the climber's left side between 9,500' and 13,000'.

Another quick note, the snowbridge from the Puyallup Glacier to the Tahoma Glacier below St. Andrews Rock looked passable, but not in good shape. Further, we saw a decent-sized avalanche triggered by icefall on the climber's right section of the glacier on the steep section (photo of avalanche off Tahoma Cleaver).

Thanks Jordan for sharing a great route report and selection of images.

For more information about previous attempts and route conditions on Tahoma Glacier, check out our 2007 archived information on the Tahoma Glacier climbing route.

Gibraltar Ledges - 2007

Gibraltar Ledges Route Conditions - July 6th

This report was contributed by Brent Nixon:

A friend and I climbed the route on Friday July 6th. We ascended the Cowlitz Glacier (5:20 a.m.); the snow was styrofoam so the trip went very fast to the ledges. There was one significant crevasse on the steeper section, but there was a nice bridge on the right hand side. Afterward, we shot to the ledges and arrived around 6:30 a.m.

Once on the ledges (we short roped this section) we didn’t use pro. I found the route pretty straightforward and easy to follow. It was mainly loose dirt and rock, however there were some sections of frozen dirt (from the drips above) and a small section of frozen snow leading into the exit chute. We hugged tight to the wall and did not hear or see any falling rocks except for the few we dislodged. Our crampons worked great, and allowed us to dig into the loose and frozen dirt. We mainly used our hands for balance and kept the axes stashed. That said, if you grab a hold (i.e. a rock) there is a chance you might take it with you.

There were great views from the ledge, and it was a fun traverse. The exit chute had a short technical section over the 'schrund. One axe placement high got me off the bridge and I hauled over the nasty hole to the upper snow slope. My second opted for a 20 foot rock section just right of where I climbed - perhaps a bit safer considering the bridge...

My partner had a headache at the top of Gibraltar so we traversed over the Ingraham headwall to top of the DC. This really wasn’t that straightforward. At one point, we dead-ened on top of a serac with the DC clearing in site yet steeply below (there was a crowd watching our progress). We ended up down-climbing into the crevasse, then uphill to a large snow bridge where we had to scamper across to the DC boot path. BTW, there are some big crevasses opening up on that route. From there, it was just a matter of following the main track to the summit.

We descended the DC about 1 p.m. – the snow was really soupy and gross with the heat, borderline treacherous with our crampons balling up. ALL of the fixed pickets were severely melted out. Also, there was some amount of rockfall under the cleaver (on the traverse) out onto the Ingraham.

INTERESTING NOTE: There is a great little stream pouring down the dirt and rock about 200 yards north of Muir out along the upper edge of the snowfield where we got drinking water instead of melting. Really easy to find.

June 26th

This route, for the most park, has largely melted out. That said, here is a recent aerial image of the ledges and Gib Chute, taken by Stoney Richards on June 26th. If things were to cool off, the Chute may be a nice climb from Camp Muir, if you're a fast moving team, or a great skier looking for a fine line to carve.

~ Mike Gauthier

June 15

This route is starting to melt out, but recent snow and cooler weather are allowing the ledges to stay in shape longer than usual. The approach to the ledges is very straight forward via the Beehive Ridge or the Cowlitz Glacier. On the Beehive ridge there are a few steps of 4th class scrambling. The Cowlitz has some open crevasses and some steep snow sections. The ledges themselves are about 1/3 rock, 1/3 snow/ice, and 1/3 "snirt" (snow - dirt). The rock and snirt sections are fairly easy to navigate, but almost impossible to protect. The snow section of the ledges is the last part of the traverse and extends all the way into Gibralter Chute. There are a few crevasses to navigate through between the end of the ledges and where the chute meets the end of Gibralter Rock. From that point the route is almost a straight line to the summit. The largest crevasse to cross is close to 13000'. Right now there are a few snow bridges that cross this crevasse. At about 13600' this route meets up with the DC and follows that to the top.

May 13

At least one climbing party has summitted via the ledges this spring. They reported the route to be in good condition, although they did have to navigate through some technical rock and ice sections on the traverse (low 5th class). The snow sections were reportedly nice and "styrofoamy".

If you choose to climb this route, be aware that you are very susceptible to rockfall and icefall from above. The best time to climb is in early morning during freezing conditions. This is an early season route. Drop us a note if you climb the route.

For more information on the Gibraltar Ledges route, check out the 2006 reports.

Success Cleaver 2007

Success Cleaver and Success Couloirs - July 9th

This East Success Glacier Couloir report and photo was provided by Tacoma climber Terry McClain. Terry has 15 one day ascents of the mountain, via 10 different routes. His climbing partners were Marek Wencel and Mike Cook.

We departed Paradise at 6:40 p.m, on Monday hoping to get to the base of the route and avoid any route finding issues on the traverse. We crossed the Nisqually and headed up the fan (no slots open yet), moving slowly because it was still so hot out. We took a break from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in a rock band at a point where we thought we could easily traverse onto the Success Glacier.

This was at 8400' by my altimeter. It ended up that we were too high and still on the Kautz. We lost several hours trying to get across some pretty dicey icefall and crevassed terrain (see line in photo). Backing up, we traversed below a rock band (7600'?) and finally traversed onto the Success Glacier. Temps were very warm, snow was still soft, and there was some rock fall coming down. Once we started up the east couloir we saw very little rock fall and the snow firmed up nicely. The bergschrund at approx. 10k was easily bypassed on right. One minor rock step around 12,000', and two more on upper Kautz Cleaver. Upper two rock bands had some ice below and above.

There was running water over rocks in many places along the route. We placed a few screws for running belays near the rock steps and a couple of pickets on the upper 'steep part' of the traverse in rocks below Point Success. There were a few spots where we sank to our hips in soft snow in this stretch, but for the most part it was easy step kicking. Eighteen hours up (including the 3 hour break) - 23 hrs. car to car.

Here are more of Terry's photos from the trip.

July 4th

Despite a 14,000'+ freezing level, my 4th of July NPS patrol of Success Cleaver brought overall fun climbing conditions with minimal rockfall. The route was a mix of scree, rock, and snow, with some sections of soft ice under under a shallow snow layer. Although all of my time on the ridge was during warm daylight hours (so that I could reach the crater in time to watch the fireworks), I only witnessed one section with falling rocks, which I was able to avoid. There is most certainly the potential for dangerous rockfall on the route, but conditions right now are very enjoyable. (Photo at right showing snowcover on Success Cleaver [sun/shade line] and Kautz Cleaver [center]).
The Wonderland Trail from Longmire to Indian Henry's was in good condition. Both of the bridges (over Kautz and Pyramid Creeks) are in. I made it to Indian Henry's wearing tennis shoes, but beyond there switched to boots. During the final two miles on the approach to Indian Henry's there was snow on the trail. The path is a bit difficult to find under the spotty snow cover, at least in the dark. There is now a faint boot track in the snow from Indian Henry's to lower Success Cleaver, but that, too, would be difficult to find in low-light conditions. However, if you are making these approaches during the daylight hours, attentive hiking should deliver you from Longmire to Success Cleaver without too much distress.

Expect that the approach via Kautz Creek to Indian Henry's will be similar in length and snow-cover to that approach from Longmire. If approaching from the Tahoma Creek Trail side, the suspension bridge is again open but the Tahoma Creek Trail is reportedly in bad condition. Call the Longmire WIC for up-to-date conditions on this trail.

The walking from the Pyramid Peak area to 10,000' on Success Cleaver alternated between firm snow slopes and stable scree. (See photo at left of scree at 8,000'.) Though this takes a long time, the terrain is straightforward and the footing steady. Above 10,000' I traversed on relatively steep and exposed snow slopes to the climber's right (east) of the rock crest, when such snow slopes were available. However, the terrain did require a fair amount of scrambling on the crest itself; though easy, this rock was exposed and occasionally loose. In some places the snow had melted away from the rock buttresses on the crest proper. In a number of places I found myself on 35 degree hard gravel or loose rock/sand, just below the rock buttresses. The variety of mediums (rock, scree/sand, snow) in this section of the ridge made the climbing interesting. I did not witness any rockfall in this section, even during the warm daytime temperatures.

As the climb started traversing climber's right (east) towards the Kautz Cleaver there was one snowy gully where rocks started to fall, but this was easily avoided by scrambling through short, 3rd class rock bands onto snowfields well out of harm's way. The snow in this section was hard, with some low-angled (30 degree) areas of glacier ice. After joining upper Kautz Cleaver, straightforward snow fields interspersed with rock bands lead to the upper snow slope that becomes Point Success. (The photo at right shows typical terrain in this section.) There appeared to be numerous options for navigating through the rockbands. The one I chose kept me towards the climber's left; it was less than 20 feet of 3rd/4th class rock, with some 40 degree ice above and below. This upper section was fun, relatively fast, and not stressful.
~ Paul Charlton, NPS
For more information on 2006 route conditions, go here!

Fuhrer Finger (Fuhrer Thumb too) - 2007

Fuhrer Finger Route Condtions - July 1st

A quick updated provided by Pete Fox

Just wanted to send along a quick note on our climb up the FF. My partner Todd Holmes and I did a quick jaunt up the FF, leaving Paradise at 2:40 a.m. We headed across the Wilson and up the Fan approach to the Finger. (photo of Todd working his way through the narrow section of the Finger).

The climb up to the bench on the Wilson Glacier below the FF was on perfect styrofoam snow. The Finger has narrowed to a 10 foot wide icy step. Above the narrow section the Hourglass was good solid snow with some new snow that had blown in. We had an exciting climb dodging rockfall in the Finger. We climbed the Hourglass to 12000 feet where we found a narrow ramp that bridged across a couple of crevasses to the ridge left of the Nisqually Glacier. We climbed steep snow along the right side of this ridge to 13,000' were we danced around crevasses to summit at 9:40 a.m.

The summit was windy and deserted. We were surprised as we expected to run into folks coming up the DC (see DC report; climbing teams found unnerving avalanche conditions). We descended the DC following the track of some folks who climbed the Kautz. There were a handful of other climbers around the summit. The snow was a mix of solid windblown and softer snow. It didn't seem too bad. We arrived at Paradise at 2:10 p.m. for a long half day on Rainier. (photo of the last 1400 to the crater rim).
Thanks for the report, Pete. Find more of his images from climb over in his FLICKR account.
June 28th

The approach to the Fuhrer Finger via the Nisqually is still straightforward. The crevasses that are open remain easy to navigate around. Between 9000' and 9500' flat benches on the glacier provide excellent bivy sites. Be sure to chose a bivy site that is well out of the rock and ice fall zone for both the Fuhrer and the Wilson Headwall.

The entrance to the Fuhrer Finger is still snow. It is melting out fast though and gets more narrow daily. The snow surface in the lower 500' of the Fuhrer couloir is a mix of suncups and fallen rocks. After this section the snow surface becomes more consistently smooth before changing back to suncups with rocks sitting in them at the top of the couloir. This entire gully is subject to copious amounts of rockfall. Use the edges of the gully and move quickly through this couloir to avoid being smacked by these flying boulders. There are several alcoves along the edge of the gully that provide some shelter from the rockfall during rest breaks.

At the top of the couloir the route finding becomes more difficult due to some large and open crevasses. The traditional method has been to stay on climber's left and follow this ridge up to the Kautz then continue up that route to the summit. Unfortunately this variation starts with a huge, gaping crevasse followed by some steep snow. Instead of trying to climb this technical section most parties have been traversing to climber's right on the upper Nisqually. There are several open crevasses that make the route finding interesting between the top of the Fuhrer couloir and 13000 feet, where one nasty crevasse has stymied several parties. There is a thin snowbridge that crosses this crevasse near the middle. This snowbridge is slowly melting and forming a gap on the uphill side of it making it more difficult each day. It is fairly steep terrain and most parties are setting up a belay to cross this hole. Above this the route to the summit is more direct and easier to navigate.

~ Andy Anderson
For more information on the Fuhrer Finger route, check out our archived 2007 reports.

South Tahoma Headwall - 2007

South Tahoma Headwall Route Conditions - June 26th
By, Sky Sjue,

Just shooting you a quick note about South Tahoma Headwall. I saw a big chopper. Were you in there? (No I wasn't, more training)

We got a later start than I wanted. Approach to Success Cleaver is fairly easy with skis by traversing the mountain at 8,300 ft after crossing the Nisqually above Paradise. The South Tahoma Glacier looks like it will become quite the maze, but it's not too bad right now. I wasn't able to spot the high approach off Success Cleaver - wherever it is, it wasn't all snow. We bypassed the bergschrund on the far left, then continued up and right of the main gully.

We called it a day and skied from 11 k. The approach and bypassing the bergschrund took longer than I'd hoped, so we were hard-pressed for time. The route is certainly doable, but conditions could be much better. On the headwall we had unpredictable icy penitentes covered by a blanket of fresh. We also saw lots of rockfall.

Aerial image by Stoney Richards

Kautz Glacier 2007

Kautz Glacier Route - August 10

The Kautz is in great shape! The fan approach is still doable, although the fan itself is completely melted out. There are still several good sources of running water near the camp sites above the turtle. The fixed lines around 11,000' have not changed.

The chute itself is becoming steeper and icier. The lower part can still be climbed easily, but there are a few open cracks and some places with harder and more brittle ice. The upper section is all ice and can be done in two sixty meter pitches. Bring two tools and a few ice screws for this section. There are several larger crevasses open above the ice chute, but they can all be avoided, and the route is for the most part straight forward and direct.

Kautz Glacier Route - July 26

Since the weather has turned good again people are back summiting via the Kautz Glacier. The route is still in good shape and offers an enjoyable climb with few crowds.

It seems that almost all parties are now approaching the climb via the fan, although the Wilson Glacier approach is still in great shape, with just a small section of ice to cross. There are good sources of running water near almost all the campsites along the Turtle. The fixed ropes near 11,000 are still the prefered way to access the chute. There are two ropes there now...one good, one bad...so just be aware of what you are trusting your life with. The chute itself is still a mix of snow and water ice. The first ice section can still be ascended fairly easily by just walking, and the second ice section has now become a full two pitches of steeper climbing. A second tool and some ice screws are definitely recomended for this section. A 60 meter rope would also be recomended just to make things go a little faster. Above the chute the glacier is in good shape. There are some large crevasses starting to open up but there are no major roadblocks on this part of the climb.

The parties we saw on the route were all descending the Kautz and not carrying over, but be prepared for rappels through the steep sections. There is no fixed gear to assist in the descent, so if you are not comfortable with that situation a carry-over might be the way to go.

Picture is of two Canadian skiers we met on the summit, making a late season but probably worthy descent of the Emmons.

~ Cooper Self

July 19

This past week the mountain was plagued with bad weather. We had some thunderstorms, snow, rain, and high winds. No parties summited Kautz since Monday. The approach to the Kautz route is melting out but is still in good shape. Most parties are no longer taking the Fan. It is melted out in the middle but mostly snow. The standard route now goes up the Wilson Glacier. There are crevasses opening and some water ice showing through down low. The rock and ice fall in this area is active and parties should moved quickly through this area. The Fan can still be used if the Wilson is looking dangerous. The Turtle is looking good there are a few spots of water ice showing through on the steeper slopes. We found trash around the bivy sites at 10,700ft. Please pack out your trash and double check your site when you leave. Fixed ropes are looking a little dicey. The ropes hang down about 20ft, the last 10ft are vertical with big fall potential. It traverses loose cobbles 20ft to a large snow ledge. The rope itself looks OK but a belay as well will help safeguard the area. The glacier down low is exposed to rock and serac fall. Move quickly to the chute. There are some huge seracs hanging over this area it won't be long before they topple. The Chute is a mix of snow and water ice. The upper glacier is opening up but straightforward glacier travel. Many parties have been caring over to avoid descending the ice chute and the objective danger down low.

July 1st

Due to the recent storm on Friday (June 29th) the avalanche conditions on the mountain have raised from a lower level to something most parties should consider carefully. Guide agencies have turned around due to dangerous avalanche conditions both Saturday and Sunday (June 30th and July 1st) even with amazingly good weather. Please use caution approaching the ridge that leads to the Turtle Snowfield (around 7500') and on the upper snowy slopes above the ice pitches (above 12,000').

Photo by Stoney Richards, taken on June 26th.

~ Tom "House of" Payne

June 24th

Conditions on the Kautz are still excellent. A climbing ranger patrol recently spent two days on the route and found it to be an enjoyable climb with nothing unexpected getting in our way, minus a few hours of strong winds (60+) during the night and early morning hours.

Most parties these days seem to be crossing the Nisqually and going up the fan to get to the high camps, but we decided to cross higher up the Nisqually and onto the Wilson. The route we took was very straightforward with no major crevasse crossing thanks to lots of snow remaining on the lower parts of the glaciers. Do watch out for point release avalanches on the steeper slopes of the Wilson if you decide to go that way, as some of the debris finds its way across the standard bootpack. On the fan approach be aware of rockfall especially as temperatures increase.

Many of the rock campsites on the route have begun to melt out along the side of the snowfield with the ones between 9'600 and 10'000 having a fairly steady supply of running water. If you do decide to use the rock sites please use your best minimum impact skills.

At 11'200 there is an anchor with a handline going off the ridge and onto the glacier. This is the preferred approach since it greatly minimizes your exposure to the hazards from the Kautz icefall. Be sure to inspect the ropes before you use them since this great amenity is not maintained by any one person. The ice chute is currently climbing very well and remaining a mix of snow and ice. The lower pitch can be climbed fairly easily with a single tool, while the second pitch is a little longer and steeper, requiring more technical climbing. A second tool and some ice screws would be recommended for this section, depending of course on your teams ability and comfort level. There are some slings wrapped around ice pillars on the second pitch and these could be used as protection on the ascent as well as rappel anchors on the decent, just be sure to thoroughly examine these before you use them since they are not maintained.

Above the ice chute the climb takes on a more mellow angle and continues up the glacier to the summit, weaving around a few obvious crevasses. On another note, the Turtle snowfield is becoming very suncupped, so all you skiers might want to think about another line if you had your sights set on that area, unless we get a good storm...and it is snowing at Paradise currently, so maybe there will be some fresh snow to ski in the next couple of days!

~ Cooper Self

June 21st

As a quick addendum to the previous posts, recently a few teams have climbed the Kautz with short (25 meter) ropes and ended up making an unplanned descent of the DC because they weren't comfortable descending the ice chute on the Kautz. Unfortunately for these particular teams, their tents were still waiting for them at the 10,500' high camp on the Kautz route, necessitating a long, undesirable trudge back up the Kautz to retrieve their gear.

If you expect that your party won't be confident downclimbing the ice sections (roughly 50 degrees with the longest section of continuous ice presently being 300' long), then bring a rope that is long enough to facilitate rappelling.

~Paul Charlton

June 16th

During a patrol on June 14-15, we found straightforward and enjoyable conditions for the length of the Kautz Route. Ample snow remains for quick access from Glacier Vista (Paradise Meadows area) down to the the moraine of the Nisqually Glacier. After crossing the Nisqually Glacier, most parties seem to be using the Fan rather than the hiking up-glacier onto the Wilson (see photo at right). Both approaches seem fine; the Fan is snow-filled with rock debris on its surface.

The boot path up the eastern edge of the Wapowety Cleaver to the high camps steps over a few small cracks in the snow, so keep an eye out for these. Some of the campsites in the rocks have melted out, but many remain partially snow-filled. We found mid-day running water up to 10,000', including near the 9,600' camp.

The short-cut bypassing Camp Hazard and the serac-threatened chute is advisable. It is quick and direct, reducing your exposure to the seracs significantly. Look over the fixed rope carefully to be certain you are confident in its strength and in the way you intend to utilize the rope/anchor (belay, rappel, grab it with your hand, etc). The photo to the left shows the current anchor and fixed line situation.

The two ice sections in the next portion of the climb are still mostly snow-covered (see photo below of the upper "snice" pitch). The ice that is showing has features and steps, making for secure, stress-free climbing. There are some large snow fins that could be used as bollards for the descent. Currently most teams seem to be happy bringing about 2-3 ice screws and at least one second-tool. What you bring will depend on your confidence level, of course. As the summer progresses, expect more ice to show.

Above the ice the route takes a direct path through upper Wapowety Cleaver then weaves around some large crevasses between 13,500-14,000 ft. Expect the route on this upper section to change as the snowbridges fall in and other crevasses open.

Enjoy your climb.

~Tom "House of" Payne and Paul Charlton

June 13th

I've been unable to send a climbing patrol up the Kautz Glacier this year, thus the lack of first-hand reports. Thankfully, Alpine Ascents International guide Nick Bratton contributed this nice report. I'm also going to insert a few GREAT photos from Brent McGregor who was snapping images over the past week. Here is Nick's report,

Crossing onto the Wilson and skipping the Fan is a great idea. However, be cautious of the slopes above the Fan as they are prone to point-release avalanches. You are not out of their way until you hit the crest at 8K.

There is a fixed line below Camp Hazard that makes it easy to drop off the Wapowety Cleaver and onto the edge of the Kautz Glacier. This shortcut keeps you out of that terrifying shooting gallery below the ice cliff that pummels the eastern edge of the glacier.

The Kautz ice chutes make for moderate ice climbing and are in good shape. It can be done with a single tool but a second tool would be nice for those less comfortable on steeper, hard glacier ice and snow. A couple screws will also help if you're not comfortable on the terrain; the chutes were pretty textured and offered good footholds. See photo by Nick

Once past 13K (on the upper Nisqually Glacier just after you cross over the top of the Wapowety cleaver) watch for a couple of the snow bridges that are softening up; beware of crevasse falls and pay attention to where you are stepping. Don't assume that the bootpack denotes the best route!

If you don't want to downclimb the ice face, Nick recommends bringing some cord and using a V-thread. Another option is to rap off a bollard which is a much better style than leaving nylon on the glacier.

Campsites on the Wapowety are melting out, and there are a couple great platforms around 10,500'. Entry photo by Brent of climbers on the Kautz Glacier near 11,500 feet.

May 28th

Over the weekend it seemed like most if not all parties were crossing the Nisqually and getting directly onto the Wilson while avoiding the fan and all its rockfall and avalanche danger. There is still lots of snow on the lower part of the glaciers and the route across is very straightforward. Be aware of who and what is above you though, as I saw some skier-triggered and natural avalanches run across the main trail on the Wilson. There are good campsites on the Turtle snowfield between 9,500' and 11,000'. The steep pitches in the Kautz chute are starting to melt out and the lower one is mostly ice, while the upper one still has some snow on it. I expect this will change quickly though unless we get a good snow storm soon. Once you get onto the upper Kautz the route becomes pretty straightforward again to the summit with minimal open crevasses and a good snow surface. There are no fixed ropes on this route so be prepared to use all your own gear up and down.

For more information, check out our Kautz Glacier archives.