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.

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield - 2007

Here is a link to a bearing map provided by the NPS.

Camp Muir and Muir Snowfield Conditions - November 21st

There is consistent snow cover between Paradise and Camp Muir. Here are a number of photos that tell most of the story. If you're a good skier/boarder, you can probably ride from Glacier Vista (6,400 feet) down to Paradise... But you should expect some amount of shallow cover and exposed rock.

This image was taken from Pan-Point looking up towards McClure Rock.

Here is Camp Muir. The buildings are buried by snow, so bring your shovel if you want access to the public shelter.

October 20th

There is some consistent snowcover over much of the trail between Paradise and Camp Muir. That said, there isn't a need for snowshoes though, as much of the snow is well boot-tracked and melted after a consistent week of great weather. What was solid snow last week is now patchy and not so great for skiing.

Most of the skiers and snowboarders have found the best turns between Camp Muir and Pebble Creek. It is entirely possible to link turns below Pebble Creek (7K), but there are numerous areas where you'll have to dismount or wreck your board (this is particularly the case between Pebble Creek and the base of Pan Point). If the warm weather holds up as predicted, the skiing may get really tough from Glacier Vista down to Paradise. As always, bring your 10-E's, emergency shovel and trekking poles for a great hike.

September 16

The Muir snowfield is definitely feeling the effects of the warm temperatures we have been having this summer. The snowfield is now actually mostly rock and ice. The route to Camp Muir now follows the climber's right side of the snowfield and at least half of the trail goes over rock these days due to hazardous conditions on the ice. Above 9,400' hikers will encounter crevasses. Some of these crevasses are rather wide and deep so stay alert when you are traveling in this area. Many of the crevasses can be passed safely by staying to far climber's right above Moon and Anvil Rocks. Crampons and trekking poles or a mountain axe are recommended for all hikers at this time, especially early morning, late evening, and any other time it is cold adn the surface is frozen.

Sept 3rd

More crevasses are opening up on the snowfield. The crevasses that were open are getting larger. Use caution when stepping over the cracks - make sure the lip on either side has some solid snow below it. Snow is still melting so climbers are spending more time on rock islands and bands above Pebble Creek. Please try to stick to the main trail when crossing these rocky sections. People who showed up for Labor Day enjoyed decent weather with a little wind. A skier was spotted Sunday on the Snowfield. The summer slush makes for okay skiing, but it's difficult to avoid the ice patches and big sun cups which currently dominate the snowfield.

August 16th

As the August 13th post mentions, the snowfield has some icy patches that may warrant crampons if you are ascending early in the morning or late in the evening. Most people ascending during the daytime are able to circumvent the icy patches without crampons fairly easily. There is running water at various spots on the snowfield. There is one small crevasse/glide crack on the snowfield near Anvil Rock that is just beginning to open. This is not presently a concern for hikers but it could widen later in the season.

August 13th

What is left of the snowfield is turning to ice and rock. Crampons are starting to be helpful - especially in the early morning and late at night. Running water is available at around 8700' near some of the rock islands in the snowfield. Always treat the water you obtain from the snowfield. Be cautious of crevasses opening up around Camp Muir (see photo to the right). A little skiff of snow on Sunday night helped fill in some of the sun cups, but the skiing conditions aren't all that great - hopefully we'll get some more snow!

August 4th

The effects of global climate change are undeniably being felt here at Camp Muir. The Muir Snowfield is on its way to becoming the Muir Screefield within the next few years. Large sections of snow that you would normally see on the snowfield this time of year have already disappeared. While you still walk on snow for most of the section from Pebble Creek to Camp Muir, the snow patches below 8,500' are getting smaller and smaller. The nature of this snowfield in the late-summer months is definitely changing.

Presently the snowfield remains navigable without crampons. Though the icy sections may be exposed within the next 1-2 weeks, right now you don't pass over any exposed ice. Expect soft snow conditions from midday onwards. If you plan to ascend or descend the upper 2000' of snowfield before 10 am, you will encounter hard snow and crampons might be warranted.

The route remains easy to follow but know that the increasing amounts of exposed rock on the snowfield give the terrain a different layout. If you are on the snowfield in poor visibility, you might find it difficult to recognize some of the common features. Carry one of the NPS bearing sheets if you think the weather might be questionable during your trip.

July 21

The snowfield held up rather well through the wet stormy weather we had earlier this week. Since that time the weather has turned warm and sunny which has started to create some sun cups. If you are looking to ski now is probably your last opportunity for some fun turns. If the weather continues to be warm and sunny, the snowfield will start to get very sun cupped and possible icy in spots.

For more information on previous Muir Snowfield reports, check out our archives.