August 30, 2015
It's getting to be that time of year where the non standard routes (routes other than the highly traveled DC and Emmons) are seeing substantially less climbing traffic. Upper mountain terrain is becoming very featured and broken which results in substantially difficult terrain navigation and route finding. As we move into the fall months, these routes are becoming much more dangerous from objective hazard such as rock fall, ice fall, unstable snow bridges, decompensating plugs, and long deep crevasses that are difficult to navigate around. It is highly recommended to wait until next climbing season to attempt these routes and allow the winter months to heal the current upper mountain conditions.
Rangers found excellent conditions, with firm snow, and even some water ice despite the 15,000 foot freezing levels!
The approach for this long route begins at the Comet Falls trail head, approximately 4 miles from Longmire. The hike is a beautiful traverse through all of the eco-zones found in Mount Rainier National Park. Ranging from deep old growth forest, to eventually climbing into the alpine.
Rangers camped at 8,900 feet on the lower Wapowety Cleaver, where a nice bivy site provides dramatic views and running water. From the bivy site rangers found an easy crossing of the lower Kautz Glacier, and an easy, albeit steep, access point to gain the cleaver itself. Once on the broad base of the cleaver, rangers ascended a narrowing, 45 degree snow slope that ends in several large gendarmes. Presently, there is a small snow finger that provides access to the west edge of the cleaver, and access to the East Success Couloir. Rangers chose to follow the Kautz Cleaver as long as possible to avoid the rockfall hazard from the many rock bands on the upper slopes of Point Success, which frequently shed rocks down the Success Couloirs.
At approximately 12,900 feet there are several exit options to gain Point Success. One option traverses east and out onto the upper Kautz Glacier. This option provides a steep 45-50 degree snow traverse under large rock bands, above the Kautz Headwall. Rangers chose to traverse up and west through a small snow ramp to access the final rock band before the gentle slopes leading to the summit of Point Success. The rock band offers many options. Rangers chose a path which led to a small vertical chimney of rock and good ice.
For climbers looking for a moderate route, with sustained 45 degree snow slopes, and a remote feel, this is the route for you! Come on up and check it out before the sun melts it away!