For detailed route information please see the narration from August 15th. As for updated conditions, the ice pitches are a little longer, the approach up from Glacier Vista is a lot more talus and glacial debris and the high crevasses below the crater rim are getting a bit bigger. Otherwise it is an excellent route that will hang tough well into September.
Bear in mind the large 1/2 mile-long crevasse just below the crater may shut you down at 14,000ft. If so try and work climbers' right until either you find a bridge or perhaps intersect the DC. The higher you go the shorter the traverse.
A recent ranger patrol of the Kautz pretty much confirmed what we had been thinking...The Kautz is a beautiful climb! Conditions are still great with a direct approach going via the Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers, and beautiful upper route conditions.
Coming out of Paradise, climbers should take the Deadhorse Creek trail for about a half a mile and then turn left onto the Moraine trail, which will take you down to the Nisqually. Once there climbers can go one of two ways. One way and the one I prefer is to head up the Nisqually and over to the Wilson glacier, which is still in great shape. The other option is to cross the Nisqually around 6,000' and ascend the Fan climbing to the prominent ridge at 7,200' and continuing onto the camps at the Turtle. With both of these approaches, rockfall hazard definitely is an issue in spots, so look around and move quickly if it looks like you are under a looming cliff. A third way to go with more elevation gain but with better wildflower views is to leave from Comet Falls and hike through Van Trump Park and over the Van Trump Glaciers. This route meets up with the main approach around 7,200'.
High camps for the Kautz are along the west side of the Turtle with the ones between 10,400' and 10,600' being the best. Please avoid creating new tent platforms in the rocks and use the really nice ones that are already there! Running water can be found in abundance at 9,400' but there is not as much above.
To get down to the Kautz Glacier from the Turtle find the rappel station at 10,800' and descend. Four days ago we could still walk off the ridge onto the glacier because of abundant snow, but expect that to slowly change over the next few weeks. There are two distinct pitches of ice on the route right now. The first is 50 degrees at its steepest and the second is 55 to 60 near the top. Each pitch is approximately 60-80 meters in length. These sections could be climbed with one standard ice ax, but two ice tools definitely makes them really cruiser. Ice screws are recommended for protection in this area. Above the chute the route climbs over the top of Wapowety Clever and continues on a upward easterly traverse to the crater rim. There are a few big crevasses opening up in this area, but they are easy to navigate through and/or around.
Climbers could descend the Kautz, downclimbing or rappelling the ice pitches, or carry over and descend the DC. Please remember to take and use your blue bags when climbing the Kautz! Carry them down to proper deposit barrels at Camp Muir or Paradise also! No one wants to run into your full blue bag when they are setting up their tents. Please respect our environment and your fellow climbers.
The Kautz Glacier route now has some icy patches showing through. Guided groups and independent parties have both been able to climb, and down climb, with ease. The icy patches are shorter than what a 30 m rope can span. The upper section above the two ice pitches still isn't broken up too much, allowing climbers good, direct, access to the crater rim or Point Success.
Lots of skiers have been making tracks from high camp down to the base of Glacier Vista on their return trip. A couple of parties have also been using the "Fan" to access the West Nisqually Ridge line, but reported almost constant rockfall - remember your helmets!
Recent reports from the Kautz have all been very positive. Climbers have been reporting the Kautz chute is still almost all snow, and the route in general is very direct. Parties have been approaching via the Wilson Glacier, and camping between 9,400' and 10,800' on the Turtle snowfield.
Forecasts this week call for very warm temperatures so expect deep and soft snow conditions on the route, especially in the middle of the day. Travel early to avoid postholing.
The Kautz Glacier along with all the other south side routes are in prime shape at the moment, and what looks to be a solid stint of good weather should provide ample climbing and skiing opportunities for the rest of the week.
As of now the approach to the Kautz is very direct. Access the Turtle by heading up the Nisqually and getting onto the Wilson at around 7000' or staying on the Nisqually navigating fairly gentle terrain until traversing across the Wilson around 8800'. Be wary of steep slopes low on the glaciers that are prone to avalanches in warm weather.
There are many good places to camp depending on the time frame of your group. The most notable of these are found along the prominent rock ridge that separates the Turtle snowfield from the Wilson Glacier, from 7800' to 9400'. Higher camps can be found along the west edge of the Turtle from 10000' to 11000'.
The upper part of the Kautz looks to be in great shape with snow covering the entire route. Access the lower Kautz at the 10800' level to avoid prolonged exposure to icefall hazards. As of now we don't have any specifics on the condition of the ice chute, so climbers would be advised to bring a second tool and a couple of ice screws, but expect conditions to be predominantly snow. From the top of the chute the rest of the route should go very direct along the upper Kautz to the crater rim.
Climber registration is currently available only at the Longmire Museum or the Paradise old station (little gray A-frame in front of the CIC) self-registration box. Please be diligent and make sure you register and purchase 2010 climbing passes. Unregistered climbers run the risk of not being rescued if overdue simply because there would be no record of them on the mountain. The Climbing Information Center will be open on weekends beginning May 7th and will open full time on May 28th. The Climbing Rangers will be in and out of the office over the next several weeks but will be returning calls if messages are left at 360 569 6009.If approaching the Park from the East side to climb the DC or other routes beginning at Paradise be advised that 410/Chinook Pass is scheduled to open May 21st. Stevens Canyon Road is scheduled to open May 28th. It is highly recommended that before heading towards Paradise one calls the Park for updated road conditions as they are highly weather dependent at this time. 360 569 2211.
While there have been multiple attempts on the Kautz already this season the success rate has been quite low. Climbers should be prepared for DEEP snow, avalanche conditions, and full winter expedition-style climbing. In the last week alone the Paradise area has received over 8 ft. of new snow with natural and skier-triggered avalanches running on all aspects. Skis and snowshoes are strongly recommended if one wants to get beyond the parking lot. Avalanche beacons, probe poles, shovels and the knowledge to use them are also strongly encouraged when venturing into avalanche terrain. You can bet that "the Fan", "the Turtle" and other aspects of the upper mountain are poised to avalanche with the right trigger.
With that said, climbing rangers have been enjoying the late winter fluff around the mountain. Just play safe and continually check the latest weather reports before departing on any adventure to the upper mountain.
This post will be updated with more detailed route information as it becomes available.
See you on the mountain!