Kautz Glacier 2011

September 11th

The Kautz Glacier is great late season climb for those looking to get a little ice climbing in, and avoid the crowds. Right now there are several approach options to get to the Kautz. The Fan is still a viable option, however, it is melted out meaning teams would need to walk up through the scree. Option number two is the Wilson Bench approach, which is further north. The chute leading to the bench is still roughly 40-50% snow, leading teams to the broad Wilson Bench. The third option is approaching through the Comit Falls trail, and up through Van Trump Park. This approach adds 1,500 feet of vertical, but also takes climbers through several beautiful ecosystems, from the deep forest, and waterfalls to high alpine meadows and wildflowers. The high camps at both the Castle (9,200 feet) and the top of the Turtle snowfield are melted out and provide excellent bivy sites. Please remember to clean your camp well and use your blue bags while here.

The upper portion of the route and the two ice pitches are melted out, with a small section of snow remaining between ice pitches. Two tools are recommended for the ice, and some ice pro as well. Above the ice pitches there are several large cracks that offer fun glacier navigation. The route trends climbers right across the Wapowety cleaver and out onto the upper Nisqually before switch backing to the crater rim. The Kautz is still a great late season option for a fun, and quiet summit trip!

August 18

Rangers climbed the Kautz glacier route on Aug 15 and 16th. The Fan or Wilson Bench can still be used to approach (keep an eye out for rockfall), or the Comet Falls trail head adds another 1500' of vertical to the climb. The campsites at The Castle (9200') and the top of the Turtle Snowfield (10,800') are melted out and contain established bivy sites. Please continue to use these existing sites and make sure the area is clean when you break camp. The picture below is looking out across the lower Nisqually at the Fan (left) and Wilson Bench (center).

From the start of the climb at the top of the Turtle, the snow has melted enough that the rappel down the cliff band is now 10' to the glacier; two fixed lines exist but use at your own discretion. The lower chute is completely free of snow and a second tool is recommended even though the ice is very featured. Above the first pitch the bowl contains large penitentes which make for easy stairstepping to the base of the second pitch. This pitch still contains a small amount of snow on climber's left, but it will be gone soon. The picture below is from the top of the 1st ice pitch looking up the ramp to the second ice pitch.

Above the ramp the route heads left around a large crevasse and then can go several ways to the summit as described in earlier posts. The picture below is from halfway up the 2nd pitch looking down onto the lower Kautz glacier.

August 11

Approaching the Kautz via the Fan or the Wilson Bench is still in good shape but beware of rockfall. The traverse across the lower Nisqually is also still in good condition. A great place to camp is at 9,400 feet just below the Turtle Snowfield at the High Castle. There is running water here and lots of nice bivy spots.

Getting onto the Kautz ice ramp, you have several options. You can do the standard rappel down the cliff band, or if you climb high just above Camp Hazard there is enough snowpack below the hanging glacier that allows you to easily scramble down to the chute without rappelling. There are fixed rappel lines in place to access the chute but use these at your own discretion.

The ice on the ramp can almost be entirely avoided (except for the first 20 feet) by staying left on the penitentes. If you are looking for the ice, then staying right will give you 1-2 pitches of low angle ice. Either way, bring a second tool.

Above the ice ramp, you have several options. Some parties have continued straight up the Kautz Glacier proper to Point Success. This route is exposed to ice fall from seracs on climber's right but is faster and more direct. Another option and the route proper is to hang a sharp right above Wapowety Cleaver and take the long traverse around several large crevasses and then trend back left towards the crater rim. Below: The Turtle Snowfield and Kautz Glacier looking up the route from High Castle.

August 8

Yikes! Climbing rangers packed out nearly 100lbs of poop, garbage, and abandoned equipment from 9400' camp last weekend! So far this season we've been doing really well with keeping the Kautz/Finger high camps clean, what happened last week? Please make sure you check the area around your campsite before you head down off the mountain. Also, keep your camp nice and tidy so things don’t blow away, especially while you are off climbing. If we all contribute a little bit of effort, like picking up other people's garbage, we should be able to keep these camps in pristine condition!

Conditions on the Kautz Glacier route have been changing rapidly over the last few days due to unusually high temperatures. As of the 7th it was still possible to ascend the ice chute entirely on snow, but only barely. With continuing warm weather in the forecast, the route may become significantly more icy over the next few days. Climbers looking for a more challenging ascent can find great ice climbing along the right side of the route. Bring a second tool; you will have a lot more fun!

As far as the approach routes go, nothing much has changed. Things are still looking good above the Kautz Ice chute as well. There are multiple route options on the upper Kautz and Nisqually glaciers, all generally straight foreword. The more commonly travelled route traverses across the Wapowety Cleaver, out onto the Nisqually Glacier, then switch-backs around a few crevasses and heads straight for the crater rim. An alternative is to climb over the top of the Wapowety Cleaver and traverse directly over to the crater rim. This route involves steeper terrain but fewer crevasse crossings.

Again, it's a great time to climb the Kautz, hope to see you up here!

August 5

Climbing rangers climbed the Kautz Glacier route August 3rd and 4th to find the route in great shape, overall very direct thanks to lots of remaining snow lingering on the mountain.

The approaches from the lower Nisqually (the Fan and the ramp onto the Wilson) are still both being used by climbers, but beware of rockfall hazards on both of these approaches as snow continues to melt. For climbers looking for something a little different, approaching via the Comet Falls trail makes a beautiful alternative. This approach adds another 1,500' of elevation gain to the climb, but provides a real wilderness experience. Forests, mountain goats, meadows and waterfalls are the rule - it might be worth it!

Campsites at the Castle (9,400) and west of the Turtle Snowfield (10,600-11,000) are melted out with running water available near many of the sites while the temps stay warm. Please use only existing tent sites when camping in the rocks, there are many very nice ones available, so there is no need to go through all that extra work. Rangers would also like to thank all the recent climbers and guided groups for keeping the camping areas and the entire route so clean. We were able to climb and pick up very little trash and no left behind blue bags. All future climbers appreciate your efforts.
Above high camps the route takes a step down onto the Kautz glacier around 11,000'. At this time climbers are walking off the rocks using a handline with no rappel needed. Above there the Kautz ice chute is still in great shape, with a little ice starting to show at the bottom of the steeper climbing, but the ice is so featured and sun-cupped that its a veritable flight of stairs (bad news for skiers, though). Higher up the chute remains snowy for its entirety, with the same large sun cups providing solid footing. At this time a single ice ax is all that is needed for this route. Above the ice chute the route continues on a direct line to the top of Wapowety Cleaver and from there navigating around some large crevasses between 13,200 and 13,600 before taking another direct line to the top. Climbers are mostly descending back down the Kautz, since the chute is an easy walk off right now.

These conditions should persist for a while still, making August a great time to climb the Kautz!

July 5

Climbing rangers climbed the Kautz Glacier route over July 4th and 5th and found the route to be in
excellent shape. Crossing the lower Nisqually is presently unaffected by the June 24th rock slide though climbers should move on through and avoid taking breaks in the area. There is still an unseasonably large amount of snow in the area, making scree slopes into a casual bootpack. There were many fresh ski tracks coming out of the Fuhrer Finger and a pair of beautiful tracks coming straight down the Wilson Headwall! The large amount of snow on the mountain is bringing the skiers out in force. Come get some July turns on the descent of your choice!

The Kautz Glacier has been getting a lot of action this year and there is currently a bootpack going straight up the ice pitch between the ice falls. What can be steep frontpointing on blue ice some years is currently a flight of stairs. Doesn't get easier than that - but be sure to start early to beat the mush and possible rock/ice fall.

June 2

Multiple parties have been attempting the Kautz Glacier route this past weekend. While finding soft snow on the approach almost all parties were able to cross the Nisqually and ascend Wapowety Cleaver without too much difficulty; however flotation is advised.

No direct reports from parties summiting but rangers have been in the area recently and report early season conditions with lots of fresh snow. The Kautz route offers a great alternative to the DC or Emmons and will continue to be in great shape for months given the current snowpack. Contact our Climbing Information Center for the most current conditions reports and consider a ski descent of this route or the Fuhrer Finger from the same basecamp.

April 13

Only two parties have been over to the Kautz Glacier area so far. The large amount of snow makes any upper mountain travel slow. Plan for extra time if you choose to attempt routes near the Kautz Glacier (Fuhrer Finger/Thumb, Wilson Headwall, etc.)
. Here's a link to last year's photos and condition reports for the Kautz Glacier.