Mount Rainier/Kautz Glacier

Mount Rainier via the Kautz Glacier is a Grade II ice climb.

Getting There

Take I-5 to exit 142. Exit to SR-161 and drive south until exiting at SR-512 West.Travel 2-3 mi and take the Puyallup exit (Mount Rainier sign). Drive via Eatonville and SR-706 to the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Drive 19 miles to Paradise (5,400 ft).


Hike to the Nisqually Moraine Trail and descend to the Nisqually Glacier. Cross the Nisqually and ascend to the west edge of the Wilson Glacier either by taking the gully known as the Fan or by ascending broad benches from higher up on the Nisqually. Ascend the Wilson Glacier to 9,500 ft and continue up to the Turtle Snowfield. Good bivouac sites can be found on the rock islands at the west edge of the Turtle Snowfield between 9,500 ft and 10,500 ft.


From the west edge of the Turtle Snowfield ascend snow or volcanic scree (late season) to a westward facing chimney at approximately 11,000 ft. The chimney may be marked by old fixed lines. Rappel 25 feet to the edge of a south facing gully. Traverse the gully and then continue traversing westward across easy ramps a couple hundred feet to the base of the ice pitches.

The technical part of the climb can be tackled as two long pitches varying from 40° to 50° with a section of less steep ice in between. Ice pinnacles, more prominent to climber's right, make for interesting climbing.

From the flat area at the top of the ice pitches, either ascend toward Point Success and then toward the summit, or ascend to the top of Wapowety Cleaver and follow the upper Nisqually to the summit.

Either alternative may involve serious crevasse "problems" in late season calling for careful routefinding. 


Descend the climbing route or carry over and descend the Disappointment Cleaver route. The nieve penitentes to the climber's right on the ice pitches may be used for chopping ice bollards. With 60-mter ropes, two double-rope rappels plus some down-climbing are enough to reach the base of the ice pitches.


Seattle to Trailhead 2.5
Trailhead to Camp 8-10 5,800
Camp to Summit 5-10 3,200
Summit to Trailhead 4-6


Standard glacier gear, ice screws and pickets.


  • When temperatures are warm there is usually plenty of flowing water at the edges of the Turtle Snowfield. As with some other ice routes, in late season a carryover may be in order to avoid difficult or hazardous travel through the icefall.
  • Previous versions of the Mountaineers Intermediate Climbs Guide describe the approach ascending to just below Camp Hazard near the ice cliff, dropping over a ridge and then descending a gully about 150 feet, then either crossing the icefall into the broad chute or continuing down the gully and around the toe of the icefall to the bottom of the chute. This route has greater potential exposure to icefall, is slightly longer and is no longer recommended.



A climbing permit is required for trips on glaciers and/or above 10,000 ft. Fees apply. Check with Mount Rainier National Park (land manger link below) to be sure you have the required camping and climbing permits.

Course Credit

  • Intermediate Mountaineering credit is granted before August 1st and Intermediate Ice credit after August 1st.
  • Suitable Activities: Climbing
  • Climbing Category: Intermediate Alpine
  • Seasons: July, August, September
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Intermediate Ice Climb
  • Elevation Gain: 9,000 ft
  • 14,411 ft
  • Land Manager: Mount Rainier National Park
    Mount Rainier Wilderness
  • Parking Permit Required: National Park Entrance Fee
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
  • Green Trails Mt Rainier West No. 269
  • USGS Mt Rainier West
  • USGS Mt Rainier East
  • Green Trails Mt Rainier East No. 270
Trip Reports

This is a list of titles that represent the variations of trips you can take at this route/place. This includes side trips, extensions and peak combinations. Not seeing a title that fits your trip? Log in and send us updates, images, or resources.

  • Mount Rainier/Wapowety Cleaver
  • Mount Rainier/Kautz Glacier & Wapowety Cleaver

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