4-Day Kautz Glacier Climb Day-to-Day Itinerary
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The Day Before the Climb
Climbers are required to arrive at our Alpine Ascents office in Seattle the afternoon before our trip begins. At 2 p.m., a guide and our gear manager will give you an overview of the climb, answer your questions and make sure you have all the equipment or rental gear you’ll need. You’ll also be instructed in Leave No Trace practices and we’ll discuss the National Park Mission Statement.
We’ll meet at the Alpine Ascents office at 6 a.m., where we’ll drive to Mount Rainier. There, we’ll meet three more Alpine Ascents guides.
After breakfast, we’ll drive through Rainier National Park to a destination known as Paradise (5,400 ft.). This beautiful area is the starting point for many nature hikes, and for our climb to Camp Muir (10,080ft). After donning our packs, we will hike park trails to Glacier Vista, where we’ll have excellent views of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. We’ll descend 400 feet to the Nisqually Glacier, rope up and traverse across the glacier to a prominent snow chute known as the “Fan.” After ascending the Fan, we’ll follow a ridge along up the west side of the Wilson Glacier to our first camp, at approximately 8,000 feet. We’ll review climbing techniques along the way.
We’ll pack up our camp and climb towards a steep snow slope known as the Turtle. The Kautz Glacier and our route stands before us during our climb up the Turtle to our High Camp on the Wapowety Cleaver. Our exact site depends on conditions, but will be somewhere between 9,500 feet and 10,500 feet, where we’ll establish a good camp. We’ll have an early dinner, discuss the summit climb in detail, then go to bed early.
We’ll rise before dawn, eat breakfast, and rope up for our ascent. From High Camp, we’ll climb up to a small rock cliff and either lower climbers or rappel to the base. We’ll traverse the base of the Kautz ice cliffs, then descend west for a few hundred feet to an ice gully which will take us to the tongue of the Kautz glacier. We’ll ascend steep snow and sometimes hard ice (35 to 50 degrees) for a couple of pitches on the tongue of this glacier to reach the Kautz Glacier proper. These pitches can prove to be very exciting, and are the crux of the climb. If conditions require, we will place running belays or fix lines through this area for safety and assistance on our descent. From there, we’ll traverse up and right towards the apex of the Wapowety Cleaver. We’ll cross the cleaver and continue through more moderate slopes to Columbia Crest, the true summit of Mt. Rainier. After summiting, we’ll descend on our route back to High Camp for the night.
We’ll descend from High Camp back though the Fan, then cross the Nisqually Glacier, and return to Paradise. We’ll trade climbing boots for tennis shoes and drive back to Seattle for a shower and a night of dining and celebrating.