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Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Mount Rainier/Kautz Glacier

Successful 2-day carry over on the Kautz ice route to the DC Cleaver.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • The rock step downclimb was all covered in ice.  We rapped it.

    The first step was easy enough to solo through.

    The 2nd step we found placements for a number of ice screws and pickets.  Took 6 screws and 4 pickets.  Used 4 screws and 4 pickets.

2-day Carryover on the Kautz to the DC Cleaver.

We started out gathering as much beta as possible but still had some gaps such as where exactly to find the fixed lines.  Turns out one blog had it at the wrong elevation and no others described exactly where to find it. Some beta mentioned people retreating the ice steps because they found no viable way to the summit in the week before.

Finally found someone who had a gps track from a guide who did it the week before so as long as weather cooperated we were good to go.

The biggest planning challenge was getting our normal 45lb overnight glacier packs down to 35lbs.  After buying new BD Speed 40 packs and our new hyperlight tarp shell, aluminum ice screws and a new light 60m rope, along with cutting all the creature comforts we got our pack weights where we wanted for a carryover.

Drove to Longmire on Friday to pickup our permit early and stayed in Ashford.

On Sat morning we were on the trail by 7am in overcast light drizzle which soon burned off. Weather showed we had a tight window between then and Sunday evening when a cold front and high winds were to move in.

7 hours later after crossing the Nisqually, going up the Fan arrived at 2pm at the lower Camp Hazard at 10,800 and found ourselves the only ones up there with the nice rock rings to ourselves.  Soon after another pair, dad & daughter, joined us.  Not bad only 5 people and 2 parties for the route the next morning.

The Dad had tried it the same weekend before and recounted not getting any further than this point after having been blown out by 50mph winds.  But at least he knew where to find the fixed lines.  From the 10,800 rock rings just walk about 450ft up the scree where a climbers trail takes you right to them.

He was an ice climber who lived in Ouray so we figured living at altitude and being a hard core ice climber with a party of 2 they would be fast.  We discussed leaving times, we said we would be up at 1:30 and leaving hopefully by 2:30.  They were planning on getting up at 3am, but they wanted to get through the climb first and asked if they could go ahead of us.  No problem we said.  Knowing the route was a wide chute and could accommodate multiple parties at the same time anyway.  But he seemed to be thinking it was a standard ice route with only one way up.

So we get up at 1:30 and are moving at 2:30 with Dad & Daughter not quite ready yet, but they catch up to us a few hundred feet later at the rock step and we let them go first since they (I mean he) wanted to downclimb it.  Dad was making comments to himself and Daughter about how you don’t ice climb in the dark. Well, Dad, nobody made you getup early, you changed your start time to be in front of us. And we had no plans to climb the ice in the dark either.

Figured they would be a bit with him coaching his daughter down we just set up our rope to rap down as we padded our start time to accommodate taking time find and rapping the rock step in the dark.  Which was a good idea since it wasn’t a rock scramble it was a big chuck of ice.  And turns out one of the 2 handlines just drops into a free hanging drop down to a steep ice slope you have to climb back up.

The rock step down, we climbed up and out to find the traverse.  It was still pretty dark, just able to make out features in the distance by a hint of moonlight.   But we could see Dad and Daughter who had charged straight up into a rock band with a seracs above them.  All we could see was Dads headlamp flashing all over the place, as Daughters headlamp looked at him, back at us, back to him, back to us, back to him, back to us.

Well, guess Dad didn’t read the route description or he was looking to put up a new route.

So we continued traversing far left around the seracs to the base of the first ice step.  It was easy enough climbing we wound up just soloing through it. By now we were just getting enough light to turn off headlamps and had timed it just right.

Apparently Dad finally downclimbed from the rock band and followed us around to the ice step. After we soloed the first step I look over and here comes Dad with an ice axe in one hand a ski pole in the other pulling Daughter up behind him. As Daughter passes with her hand wrapped around the base of her ski pole trying to get a good stick in the ice with the tip and her ice axe flopped sideways she yells “Dad – I’m not as comfortable on the technical stuff as you – slow down”.  Dad yells back “This is not technical”.  And off they went.

Now that we had the route to ourselves we set up our plan which was to get Philip credit for an intermediate ice climbing splitting it into a multi-pitch with a lead swap.  So I setup a picket anchor, and with our single 60m rope split it in half. Philip lead up the 30m placing some pro and building an ice screw and picket anchor then belayed us up.  From there we figured it would take at least 2 or maybe 3 more short pitches like that so we opted to switch to simul climbing for the rest of it.  I took off with the rest of the pickets and ice screws and placed a couple pickets, then a few screws and finally topped out at the 12,000ft mark placing the final picket. 

From there we soon were in the sun and it wasn’t too difficult route finding working our way around crevasses.  Up to Wapowety Cleaver at 13,100, then up to the left around the seracs which put us out on the side of the Saddle at 14,000 then to the summit rim at 14,400 about 11:30am.

By now only skiers were hanging out on the crater rim waiting for snow to soften up on the Emmons. All the climbers had long left the summit to get down before things starting softening up and potential rockfall and slides.

So we had the DC Cleaver route all to ourselves as well. Snow was getting soft on the way down and there were some rock fall areas that had a lot of recent slide and rock through them throughout the day that we moved through quickly.   Made it back to Paradise just an hour and a half past our estimate (which was pretty much a wash because we had stopped to relax at Camp Muir for almost an hour).