Kautz Glacier 2012

September 10

The approach to the Kautz Glacier Route is complicated this time of year.  The lower portion of the Nisqually Glacier is heavily crevassed with sharp icy edges making for difficult footing and the Van-Trump approach trail via Comet Falls is closed due to severe trail damage.  

Once past the approach - the upper Turtle Snowfield and Kautz Glacier have many deep sun cups making for slower travel.  The ice pitches have become longer and a touch steeper.  Crevasses above the ice pitches have opened up making for circuitous navigation from 11,800 to 12,900.

These challenging late season conditions can be overcome with the sweet reward of a true wilderness experience and solitude... but be prepared and have your game-face on! 

July 31

Rainier from Van Trump Park
Great weather and few people are making this climbing route a great late season destination. If you have the time and don't mind a little extra effort, the approach to high camp from Van Trump park is an excellent and very rewarding way to go! The climbing route has not changed much except for down low in the the chute. There are two sections of glacier ice that continue to grow as the summer days press on. The ice is low angle approx. 50-60 degrees and a combined length of 180' Make sure to bring ice tools, ice screws, and an early start for this section of the climb. There is room for several parties on the ice at one time but not allot of safe places to stand below if people are chopping away at the ice above.

July 9

Wilson Glacier from the Nisqually
Great conditions currently on the Kautz make for an aesthetic and challenging way to avoid the summer crowds lining up on the D.C. Rockfall is becoming more of an issue for the fan approach as the warm weather exposes and loosens the rocks above the hourglass, but the lower Wilson approach is still in great shape.

Good dry bivy sites are available at the Castle (~9,000`) or the top of the Turtle around 11,000', a hundred feet or so below Camp Hazard and the Kautz Ice Cliff.  Snow conditions are spring melt/freeze up to the old Camp Hazard, and the skiing looks phenomenal on the Turtle and lower Wilson. A short scramble down to the glacier from the bivy sites at 11,000' can take you straight to the bottom of the "chute" and avoid the climb up to the ice cliff and down the bowling alley below it.

the 'chute' from scramble at 11,000'
The chute is still mostly steep (40-45 deg.) consolidated snow with good cramponing and boot penetration varying from 0 to 4 inches kicking steps. There is a short (perhaps 20 vertical feet) section at the top of the second pitch of 45-50 deg. glacial ice that is becoming exposed. Conditions above 12,000' are mostly firm snow making for easy walking to the Columbia Crest.

June 28

Fantastic spring melt below 11,000 ft. The chute had 20-30cm of cold snow on glacier ice.
From 12,000 ft to 14,000 ft conditions were wind worked powder on bullet melt freeze ice. Falling could result in a slide of 1000 ft or more. No unstable slabs indicated.
Conditions were firm until after 12:00 pm.

June 14

The route was a great climb this morning.  Both the fan and Wilson glacier approaches are in good shape.  The fan has some old Avy debris in it but a big group put in a boot pack on 6/13.  Good high camps are the; Castle at about 9000ft, or a camp at 10,500 well below the old Camp Hazard.                                                                
After a short scramble down to the Glacier from 10,500, the steep pitches of the shoot are completely snow covered.  The snow was firm today with little to no foot penetration, but great crampon traction.  We came down at 11:00am and it had not softened on a windy mostly sunny day.
From the top of the shoot to the Nisqually and on to the summit is similar firm snow snow making for speedy travel.  This is also what you will find coming from the top of the Finger or Thumb.

May 24

New snow this last week has covered the Kautz route with about six inches of fresh snow (with much larger wind drift accumulation in spots).  Teams have been 'post-holing' through the new snow to access the route.  Soft slab type slides have been seen on the east aspect of the ridge above the "fan" (the ridge west of the Nisqually Glacier between 6800 and 8000 feet).  Make sure to use local terrain features to mitigate the avalanche risk on the approach to high camp.  High camp at around 10,500 on the Turtle Snow Field is still covered in snow.  Early season route finding on the upper mountain is still very straight forward. 

May 9

The Kautz look to be in great shape. There is some ice showing in the Chute already, but it should be easily negotiable at this time.

Here's a link to last year's posts.