Mount Rainier Kautz Single-Push Trip Report

On June 16, a group of climbers attempted a summit of Mt. Rainier via Kautz Glacier in a single-push. Due to changing weather conditions and timing, the team was unable to summit. However, three of the climbers reconvened a few weeks later to have a second attempt at the Kautz Glacier, successfully making summit in a single push! Read the story below, as told by one of the climbers!

Story captured by Robert Combs

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Planning

Our original schedule called for a Saturday night start. At the pre-climb meeting, we weighed the less-than-ideal forecast against that schedule. Do we chance it? Reschedule? Cancel altogether? We agreed to sleep on it and make the final decision by Friday 10 am. This gave each of us time to choose between battling potential thunderstorms and 30-40mph wind, or trying to get Monday off of work. We unanimously decided to start Sunday night.

Paradise

At Paradise, we made some quick final adjustments to our packs and changed into the mountaineering boots that we planned to be in for the next 16 hours. Ten up, six down. With the sun just beginning to dip below the horizon, we marched off in high spirits.

Photo Credit: Forrest Barker

Up to Glacier Vista

The only difficulty getting to Glacier Vista was in resisting the temptation to stare at the incredible display of sunset to our backs. Each in our turn would stop for a quick photo, then do the “hey-guys-wait-for-me” shuffle to catch back up. Pace. It was important we maintain our pace.

Photo Credit: Forrest Barker

Nisqually and Wilson Glaciers

From below Glacier Vista, we used the last bit of twilight to assess the route across Nisqually and Wilson glaciers. It looked great. The moon rising now, we roped up and continued onward, pocket snacks at the ready.

With only a few exceptions the crevasses were minor and the going easy. Yet the pace we wanted seemed just out of reach for the team as a whole. On the far side of Wilson, we stopped for a quick breather. The sky was an impressive display of stars and that arm of the Milky Way. This was enough to distract, at least this author, from the wind that was becoming steadily stronger. Okay get moving, we’re already behind schedule!

Turtle Snowfield

Stepping out onto the Turtle Snowfield was much like sticking your head out a window on the freeway. Immediate and strong wind. This stronger than forecasted wind didn’t help with our speed. The pace continued to slow as we were sandblasted (snowblasted?) head-on.

Turnaround

At about 3am, we found ourselves taking shelter behind the rocks a few hundred feet below the ice chute. Behind schedule, wind-beaten, and without a bivy option in worsening weather, the team decided to call it here. We turned around and got ourselves safely back to the parking lot.

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Reboot

Three members of this team planned a second attempt and made it back to the mountain a few weeks later. Leaving at 7pm on 7/21, eating and drinking on the go, limiting breaks (maybe 2 or 3 total), and maintaining a solid pace, we pushed up this route in some of the best weather Mt Rainier has ever given her visitors. A lot had melted since the first attempt, but a few (or dozen…) endarounds just makes it interesting! We topped out of the ice chute as the first twinkles of daylight appeared. From there a bit of zigzagging around fairly open crevasse conditions cost a bit more time than anticipated, but as we sat on the summit at 8am on 7/22, the high-fives and smiles were plentiful.

Photo Credit: Robert Combs

Here's to Climbing for More Than A Summit!


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