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Author Topic: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC  (Read 6283 times)
Amar Andalkar
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July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« on: 07/12/12, 10:45 PM »

July 10-11, 2012, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier via Paradise Glacier & Disappointment Cleaver

Summary: The Kautz Glacier was in unexpectedly fine condition for a ski descent this week, with smooth corn from the edge of the summit dome down to the crux 45-50 chute at 12000 ft, and again below 11200 ft down the Turtle snowfield and Wilson Glacier to about 7000 ft. The chute had several inches of recent snow over bare gray glacial ice, well-bonded but becoming patchy in the ongoing sunny weather -- this crux will be bare ice for 30-50 vertical ft within a few days. Also note that the 20 ft vertical rock chimney at 11200 ft (which must be climbed to exit the route, with a fixed line in place as usual) is totally bare of snow, the most difficult I've seen it in my 4 times there, especially with skis on pack constantly hitting the loose rock overhead while climbing. Easily the worst part of this route right now, but not bad enough to detract from the awesome skiing. About 9500 ft of total ascent and descent, with over 99% of that skiable from the summit back to the car, mostly on smooth corn snow. An outstanding ski descent in a magnificent wild setting on the Mountain, especially so for July.


Normal and zoomed views of the Kautz Glacier from Ricksecker Point on the afternoon of July 10, with several climbers barely visible in the Kautz chute.



Details: I was back in Seattle after yet another week-long ski trip south to Oregon and California to start off July (Shasta via Hotlum-Wintun on July 2nd and 4th with Lassen in between on the 3rd, plus Bachelor on the 1st [last day of lifts] and 5th [skinning], and Adams via White Salmon on Saturday the 7th -- TRs may be posted at some point). I took a couple days off during the forecast thunderstormy period on Sunday and Monday, but the forecast for Tuesday-Wednesday looked perfect, sunny with light winds even above 14000 ft. However, I was unsure of what to ski during the excellent window. Then Tuesday morning, I saw a report posted on Facebook of fine skiing conditions on the Kautz Glacier July 7th (including a single photo of the crux chute), and knew that was the place to go. Kyle Miller was quickly onboard, despite having just returned at 3-4am that morning from a 6-day splitboard traverse
of the Picket Range.



We decided to ascend via the DC after a night at the Camp Muir hut and drop down the Kautz from the summit, a safe plan since we would get an excellent view of the route and crux from Kautz Creek and Ricksecker Point along the road. We would skin up from 4th Crossing trailhead on Paradise Valley Road, in order to skin continuously to Muir via Paradise Glacier and avoid the several bare sections on the standard Pan Point route now. I had previously skied the same exact route solo on July 18-19, 2010 (see TR), and also starting from Paradise in May 2008 (see TR).



We started skinning only a few feet from the road just after 5pm, still way too warm for comfort. The hot day soon faded to a cool evening of long shadows, with literally millions of ice worms out on the surface of the glacier (100s of them per square meter). Reached Muir around 8:30pm, well before sunset, and settled in for a comfy night in the not-very-full hut. The extremely hazy and smoky air made for a mediocre sunset looking south.






Up at 5am the next morning, watching the sunrise at 5:30, and planning to leave at 6am. It was closer to 6:30 when we actually got going, but not a big worry. Cramponing with skis and boards on packs, wearing harnesses and glacier gear, but the rope stayed in Kyle's pack. The snow was fairly well-frozen by radiational cooling overnight despite a freezing level of 15000 ft and temps which never dropped below 47 F at Muir. A few minor cracks to cross in several spots, but nothing open more than a foot wide, excellent conditions for mid-July.



The DC route was actually in quite reasonable shape for a ski descent, with only a single short (100 ft flat) bare section at the bottom of the Cleaver, and about 150 vertical ft of bare ground at Cathedral Gap. The route is almost 99% snow-covered from Paradise to the summit, outstanding for July.



Not too many climbers on the route this day, certainly far less than a weekend, and no other skiers that we saw. I was dragging for unknown reasons, moving way slower than I expected (and compared to my partner), but we still reached the crater rim before 11am and topped out on Columbia Crest shortly afterwards. Just amazingly beautiful weather for my 25th Rainier summit and Kyle's 7th(?), clear and almost calm, winds under 5-10 mph and temps above freezing. Even the smoke and haze had lessened considerably from the day before.



We skied down into the West Crater at 11:45am, with slightly firm conditions still on these flat westerly aspects, but softening to excellent smooth corn as we crossed the rollover east of Point Success onto the 40-degree steep open face of the upper Kautz Glacier.



Numerous cracks are opening on the upper glacier, including many that are a foot or two wide, plus a few that are dozens of feet wide. A combination of sweet wide open turns, plus some cautious skiing to weave around the big cracks and across the thin ones, brought us atop the crux just after noon: the Kautz Ice Chute, which really was bare ice back in April this year, but has refilled with snow during the ongoing spring storms to transform into skiable condition.



However, the recent hot sunny weather has been quickly melting the spring snow in the chute, which was now only several inches deep over bare gray glacial ice, well-bonded but becoming patchy. Cautious side-slipping and a few turns brought us through the crux, then down another short stretch of smoothish corn before angling left under the ice cliff to the relative protection of the rocky cliff.


(photo by KM)



A guided group of climbers had descended the chute earlier, and was now ascending the 20 ft rock step / chimney at 11200 ft. Back in July 2010, this spot was completely filled with snow, and no climbing was necessary, but this time I was glad to have the security of a top-rope belay (we sent one end of our glacier rope up with the last member of the guided group). The rock is hideously loose here, a volcanic conglomerate of fist-to-head-size boulders embedded in a matrix of solidified ash, with frozen drips of water ice atop the rock in spots on this well-shaded west aspect.





Anyway, we were soon up and past the rock, and a short horizontal traverse brought us to a finger of skiable snow at the edge of the Turtle. Even as 1pm neared, ski conditions remained good on the Turtle, smooth slightly-dusty corn if you stayed away from the numerous boot tracks.



Very stable too, with minimal sluffing even on the numerous steep rollovers down the Turtle and the edge of the Wilson Glacier. Looking back up, the Fuhrer Finger looked to be in mediocre shape for skiing (dirty, rocky, runneled) and the Fuhrer Thumb looked very marginal (all that, plus 2 large open bergschrunds at the bottom). The Wilson Glacier is a maze of huge open crevasses now, but these are easily avoidable if one sticks to the proper route along the edge.



The exit bowl from the Wilson onto the Nisqually Glacier is in poor shape, with lots of fallen rock and ice, but still passable on skis. Lots of cracks are opening on the traverse across the Nisqually Glacier too. We reascended back up to Glacer Vista (me on skins, Kyle booting), and then starting with a downward-angling traverse east across Edith Creek Basin, skied all the way back to the road at 4th Crossing just after 2pm.



About 9500 ft of total ascent and descent in just over 21 hours car-to-car, a very fine use of such an excellent weather window. And among the best spur-of-the-moment ski descents I've ever done, one of the few I've undertaken with so little planning on the great Mountain, made much easier by having skied the route twice before. The Kautz Glacier is a excellent ski route when in good condition as it was now, and in my opinion is among the steepest of the reasonable ski descents on Rainier, those which do not require accepting a very high degree of risk of a fatal fall in order to ski.





MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST...UPDATED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA
1116 AM PDT TUE JUL 10 2012

SYNOPSIS...HIGH PRESSURE ALOFT WILL REMAIN OVER THE REGION THROUGH WEDNESDAY. EXPECT A WEAK UPPER LOW TO MOVE OVER THE REGION ON THURSDAY BUT IT WILL HAVE LITTLE IMPACT ON THE AREA.

REST OF TODAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL 14000 FEET.
TONIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL ABOVE 15000 FEET.
WEDNESDAY...SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL 14500 FEET.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT AND THURSDAY...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL ABOVE 15000 FEET.
THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. FREEZING LEVEL 14500 FEET. 
FRIDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL 13500 FEET.
FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A SLIGHT CHANCE OF SHOWERS OR THUNDERSTORMS. SNOW LEVEL 12500 FEET.
SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL 14500 FEET.

TEMPERATURE AND WIND FORECASTS FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS.

                     TODAY  TONIGHT  WED    WED    THU 
                                          NIGHT       
                         
SUMMIT   (14411 FT)     31     31     33     32     34
                      W 15   W 20   W 25  SW 30  SW 40

CAMP MUIR(10188 FT)     54     48     54     50     56
                      W 15   W 10   W 10   W 15   S 20

PARADISE  (5420 FT)     75     49     75     50     76
                      W  5   CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM

LONGMIRE  (2700 FT)     78     50     81     51     81
                      CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM   CALM

++ TEMPERATURES AND WIND FOR THE SUMMIT AND CAMP MUIR ARE AVERAGE
   CONDITIONS EXPECTED IN THE FREE AIR AT THOSE ELEVATIONS.
++ TEMPERATURES FOR PARADISE AND LONGMIRE ARE THE EXPECTED HIGHS AND
   LOWS. WIND IS THE AVERAGE WIND EXPECTED DURING THAT PERIOD.



Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center
Camp Muir, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Wind gages unheated and may rime

  MM/DD   Hour   Temp     RH   Wind   Wind   Wind   Wind  Solar
           PST      F      %    Min    Avg    Max    Dir   W/m2
               10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110' 10110'
---------------------------------------------------------------
   7 10    500     47     49      7     11     15    259     16
   7 10    600     48     35      4      7     11    259    133
   7 10    700     49     33      0      2      4    262    317
   7 10    800     51     32      0      0      2    220    536
   7 10    900     55     20      0      0      1    220    738
   7 10   1000     54     18      0      0      2    206    927
   7 10   1100     55     19      0      2      4    354   1055
   7 10   1200     52     18      0      2      4     31   1132
   7 10   1300     55     11      0      1      4    165   1146
   7 10   1400     54     10      0      2      5    239   1098
   7 10   1500     54      5      0      2      4    240    991
   7 10   1600     49     21      1      3      8    232    836
   7 10   1700     51     14      3      5      9    259    641
   7 10   1800     49     18      2      5      7    260    367
   7 10   1900     48     47      1      4      6    261     20
   7 10   2000     47     54      1      4      7    257     12
   7 10   2100     47     43      2      4      8    262      1
   7 10   2200     48     13      2      7      9    262      0
   7 10   2300     47     12      4      7     10    262      0
   7 11      0     48     11      1      5      8    276      0
   7 11    100     49     11      1      2      4    298      0
   7 11    200     47     12      0      2      6    325      0
   7 11    300     48     14      1      4      6    285      0
   7 11    400     48     15      2      4      7    265      0
---------------------------------------------------------------
   7 11    500     50     16      0      2      6    271     20
   7 11    600     50     19      2      3      5      4    137
   7 11    700     59     11      0      1      3     15    323
   7 11    800     57     11      0      0      0      9    537
   7 11    900     59      9      0      0      2    333    740
   7 11   1000     52     17      0      1      4    347    910
   7 11   1100     55     19      0      1      4     23   1038
   7 11   1200     58     20      0      2      3     63   1111
   7 11   1300     52     23      0      3      6    225   1122
   7 11   1400     57     24      0      3      5    227   1072
   7 11   1500     55     25      0      1      5    191    969
   7 11   1600     54     20      0      2      4    348    815
   7 11   1700     53     22      0      1      4    229    629
   7 11   1800     51     20      0      2      6    246    357
   7 11   1900     51     22      2      5      8    258     20
   7 11   2000     49     49      0      3      7    274     11
   7 11   2100     49     50      3      5      7    262      1
   7 11   2200     49     45      2      6      9    261      0
   7 11   2300     47     61      5     10     13    259      0
   7 12      0     48     39      7     11     16    261      0
   7 12    100     46     54     10     14     18    263      0
   7 12    200     46     44     12     15     17    265      0
   7 12    300     47     40     12     14     16    262      0
   7 12    400     47     30     12     15     17    262      0
---------------------------------------------------------------


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Jon Garrison
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #1 on: 07/13/12, 07:28 AM »

July 10-11, 2012, Mount Rainier, Kautz Glacier via Paradise Glacier & Disappointment Cleaver
I was dragging for unknown reasons, moving way slower than I expected (and compared to my partner)


This was my experience each of the 4 times I skied with Kyle!

Nice report as usual, Amar.
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Kyle Miller
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #2 on: 07/13/12, 10:04 AM »

This was my experience each of the 4 times I skied with Kyle!

Me too what's the deal with that guy.

I had a great trip Amar and I didn't even get a sunburn.
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In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO HAPPEN....no matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............
powdherb
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #3 on: 07/13/12, 03:11 PM »

Conditions look great up there. Skied baker today, conditions were horrible (mank, non-transformed glop above 6500 ft). I need to get down there.
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Amar Andalkar
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #4 on: 07/14/12, 09:32 PM »

As expected, a few more days of warm weather and sunshine have finished off the Kautz Glacier as a worthwhile ski route for this season. As of today July 14, both the main crux in the steepest part of the Kautz ice chute near 11900 ft and the lower ice band near 11400 ft have melted out to bare gray glacial ice. Any ski descents after this point will require sideslipping or rappelling over a few dozen feet of bare ice at each location.

Very glad to have skied this route in the nick of time this year!

Zoomed view of the Kautz Glacier from Ricksecker Point on the afternoon of July 14:


Compare with the previous image from July 10 posted above:


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Oyvind_Henningsen
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #5 on: 07/14/12, 11:16 PM »

nice trip you guys !
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Lytt til erfarne fjellfolk!
Jonn-E
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #6 on: 07/16/12, 11:43 AM »

Any ski descents after this point will require sideslipping or rappelling over a few dozen feet of bare ice at each location.

Or just build a kicker!
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daveb
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #7 on: 07/16/12, 12:24 PM »

Rad you guys!  For some reason I feel like there maybe pictures being withheld...
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jcocci
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Re: July 10-11, 2012, Mt Rainier, Kautz Glacier via DC
« Reply #8 on: 07/16/12, 06:11 PM »

Rad you guys! For some reason I feel like there maybe pictures being withheld...

Funny I was thinking the same thing.
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