Rainier: Kautz Glacier

On Saturday, we started across the Nisqually and up the Turtle. We arrived at high camp at 3:00pm, having gained over 5,000 feet of elevation to spend the night at 11,300 feet. This camp is affectionately known as Camp Hazard, presumably after Hazard Stevens, a member of the party to first ascend Rainier to the summit in 1870. But the overhanging ice cliffs of the Kautz Glacier suggest another reason for the name.

While Chris and Kathy organized their gear and prepared dinner, I scouted out the traverse through a gully of loose rock we would have to negotiate in the dark come the next morning. A very large boulder blocked the way and as I held onto it to make my way around, it came loose and threatened to roll over me. I scrambled up the rolling boulder and managed to get over it and jump into the gully. The boulder rolled for hundreds of feet down the mountain. I continued the scouting and did not mention the incident to Chris or Kathy when I got back to camp. I did not remove my climbing knickers until I got home; when I did remove them, my legs were badly scratched and the insides of the knickers were covered with blood.

Over dinner, I convinced Chris and Kathy that the portion of the glacier I had seen on my scouting expedition was going to be a challenging climb and we should take full packs over the summit then descend the Ingraham route rather than try to descend back to our high camp to collect our gear and then retrace our route across the Nisqually and hike uphill to get back to the car. Carrying full packs would make the climb to the summit more physically challenging, but we were already at one of the highest camps on the mountain and had “only” 3,100 feet to go. If we gave up, there was no alternative escape route other than retracing our steps; on the other hand, if we made the summit the easier descent would more than justify the effort.

Another party arrived at 6:00pm; they planned to leave for the summit at 3:00am and return to Camp Hazard to spend another night on the mountain.