Kautz Glacier August 25th
Both independent and commercial groups have climbed this route within the last week. Each of these groups mentioned that it is best to camp below Camp Hazard as rockfall has been significant at Hazard and any camps higher up. Teams have reported that there are currently about five pitches of ice climbing on the upper route and that numerous crevasses have opened up on the upper slopes. The route is in late season condition but these recent successful parties benefitted by planning extra time for negotiating crevasses below the summit.
Kautz Glacier ~ July 14
Conditions on the upper Kautz remain in excellent condition .
The approach via the Wilson Glacier is slowly going out of shape and is becoming more and more exposed to rockfall and ice debris with each warm day that goes by. The approach up "the fan" however is a reasonable and straightforward way to gain the upper cleaver.
Currently, there is running water at the 9200 foot camp, but not at Camp Hazard. Climbing through the ice chute, there are a couple of different variations. The most obvious line follows the middle of the chute on melt/freeze water ice that is perfectly clean and seeing relatively little traffic. Another variation ascends through the neve penitentes on climber's left of the ice chute. This route looks to be a little steeper but is possibly more protected and with more rests while climbing.
Once above the ice chute, the glacier traverse remains in great shape all the way to the true summit.
Kautz Glacier - July 7th
Three teams climbed through the Kautz Glacier route and all reported great conditions. The two ice pitches are still straight forward. Above the ice pitches the upper mountain offers an almost direct line to the summit.
Many climbers are using V-threads to rappel the ice pitches instead of downclimbing them. Don't forget your V-threader!
The Kautz is in great condition! The Nisqually and the Wilson are easily passable, and parties are discouraged from approaching via The Fan because of rock fall danger. There are nice bivy sites all along Wapowety Cleaver, some even as high as ~11,300, directly below the fixed lines. The ice chute itself is in good condition; the lower pitch is 50 degree snow and ice while the upper pitch is roughly 60 degrees and mostly ice. Ice penitentes along the right side of the upper pitch provide nice rests as well as good rap anchors. Above the chute, the route is direct, and few large crevasses are open. Have fun!
Kautz Glacier - June 7th
On the approach to the Kautz, we traversed the Nisqually to the Wilson. The Fan is exposed to bad rockfall, so most groups are ascending onto the lowere flanks of the Wilson at about 7200'. We camped at 9400' "Wilson Beach"--the perfect place to take in sunset over the Success and Kautz Cleavers. Remember: treat your water and be sure to camp on snow.
On summit day, we ascended the Turtle and roped up at the 11300' notch (there is a short fixed line here). We moved quickly from the notch to the base of the first pitch. The first technical pitch was firm, dense, 45 degree glacier ice with slight fractures and small penetentes to navigate. The second pitch was exciting 65 degree blue ice and solid glacier ice under a thin layer of melt freeze ice. Brittle ice conditions here were somewhate frustrating, but we usually had a solid stick on the second swing. The left portion of this pitch is exposed to icefall from above. To the right, the climbing is a little sportier through larger penetentes. Overall, the route was steep enough to frontpoint and we used two tools. Four to six srews should be sufficient for most parties. Atop the technical portion of the route, we found the upper Kautz intact to Point Success and took a short walk to the summit crater.
Enjoy the high-quality ice!
High camps at 9,200 feet are beautiful spots to bivy, but please remember to pack out your trash (and your BLUE BAGS). This has been a persistent problem throughout the season; and it spoils the experience for other climbers.
Independent parties report difficult climbing through the two pitches of ice. Expect WI2+ conditions and be prepared to build v-threads or another anchor for descent.
Lastly, if you decide to descend another route, you will need to climb back to your high camp to retrieve your tent and gear within the next day or two. While climbing rangers are patrolling the area more regularly this season, they are not equipped to carry out your belongings.
No trip reports yet, but from scoping the route from the Longmire area, it looks like good snow all the way up the Kautz chute past Camp Hazard. The snow will soon be receding, so I encourage climbers to try the Kautz out before it forms its "ice chute" crux. Crevasse navigation on the upper route looks minimal this early season.