Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb


Mount Rainier offers a full range of glacier routes, but there is a special one that we have chosen to offer.

The Kautz glacier has it all. The route requires fitness, glacier travel skills, fortitutde and even some ice climbing skill. This is an especially cool route because it launches from the highest regularly inhabited camp in Washington State, Camp Hazard at 11,000-feet. From there, you make a midnight rappel down onto the base of a steep glacier, and then climb straight up through sections of technical terrain, through crevasse fields and penetientes, to finally reach the summit of Washington.


While Mount Rainier sees a total of over 8,000 climbers per season, the Kautz Glacier sees but a very small fraction of that number. For those interested in taking "the road less traveled," this route reserves a very special sense of accomplishment and adventure.

The Kautz Glacier, Mt. Rainier.

The Kautz Glacier, Mt. Rainier. Alasdair Turner

Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb


Sunrise on Mt. Rainier.

Sunrise on Mt. Rainier.
Steve Winchester

Day 0 - We meet the night before at 4pm in the lobby of the hotel to go through an Equipment Check and make sure everyone has what they need. At this time, Guides will also hand out any group equipment that needs to be distributed.

Day 1 - We travel to the mountain and begin with a review of alpine skills on the lower Nisqually Glacier. We review knots, self-arrest, foot and axe placements for ascent and descent on both moderate and steeper ground, and Leave No Trace (LNT) travel, camping, and climbing ethics and procedures. We establish a camp on the eastern edge of the lower Nisqually.

Day 2 - We ascend the western edge of the Wilson Glacier and camp beneath Camp Hazard, at around 11,000 feet, to put ourselves in position for our ascent of the Kautz Glacier.

Day 3 - Very early on the third day we begin our summit bid. The Kautz Glacier is considerably circuitous, glaciated, and steep in parts, often requiring the placement of snow and ice protection. Eventually, we reach Columbia Crest and make the short climb to the mountain's true summit at 14,410 feet. Under good conditions, views range south to the volcanoes of Oregon and north to Mt. Baker and the Canadian border peaks.

Day 4 - Our final day is used to descend the Wilson and lower Nisqually Glaciers, and hike out from the mountain. We will return to Seattle by late afternoon or early evening.

Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb



  1. Excellent physical condition
  2. Completion of multiple glaciated routes with sustained difficulties up to fifty degrees or experience equivalent to completion of our six-day, Alpine Ice course; a good understanding of glacier travel procedures including crevasse rescue.
  3. 18 years of age or older 

If you do not have current climbing skills that meet the pre-requisites, you can participate in one of several preparatory courses, see below for list, in order to gain or refresh the needed skills.

If you have questions on your qualifications, please call or email us at anytime and we'll be happy to review your personal experience in relationship to the prerequisites.


Mount Rainier Preparatory Program

If you lack some glacier skills or if you are "rusty" with them (most climbers are if they don't climb glaciated routes regularly), you might consider taking one of our preparatory programs:

  • If you already have glacier and alpine ice climbing experience, but maybe it's been a while or you'd like to brush up on some skills, then the 3-day Glacier Skills and Crevasse Rescue Course would be a great refresher.
  • If you've been ice climbing before, but don't have any glacier travel experience yet, then the Alpinism 1 Course would be a great option to learn the skills to be successful on the Kautz.
  • If you have glacier experince, but you don't have the ice climbing experinece, then the 6-day Alpine Ice Course is the one for you. 


Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions

Tuition for the program includes the guide's fee, transportation to the mountains from Seattle, and all group climbing equipment (ropes and hardware).

Tuition excludes the $50 Mt. Rainier National Park climbing fee (annual pass valid for one year); lodging for the night before the trip and the evening of the final day. Personal equipment is not included in the program cost, but it can be rented from our equipment shop. A complete list of recommended and required equipment is downloadable from the right of this page.


Follow Up

The Mount Rainier Ascent and Skills Seminar is an excellent program for those with intermediate alpine mountaineering skills wishing to test and improve their glacier and alpine skills and ascend one of the great peaks of the Cascades. It can be followed with climbs of other major peaks in the region including Glacier Peak (3-4 days), Mt. Shuksan (2 or 3 days), Forbidden Peak (3 days), Mt. Baker (2 or 3 days), Liberty Bell and South Early Winter Spire (1 day each). We will be happy to set up a custom itinerary for you or match you up with other climbers for these other classic ascents. Call us if you would like to hear more about these climbs or to see Classic Guided Ascents in Washington.

Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb

Dates and Registration

2024: July 08 - 11 - FULL- Waitlist Available.

2025: July 14 - July 17 (Tentative)



  1. Call the Institute (360) 671-1505, Mon-Fri 9am-5:30pm PST to check on space availability and to review your qualifications;
  2. Make a reservation by giving us your name and phone number (maximum of 2 reservations per call);
  3. Send in application form and full payment for receipt within 7 days.

Fee Schedule and Cancellation Policy: The registration fee is due in full once your registration has been processed. Please see our Terms and Conditions page for full details.


The Waiting List

Rainier - Misty

Mt. Rainier is one beautiful mountain that is worth waiting for! Shawn Olson

If you are unable to secure a position on a Rainier climb, you can have your name placed on the waitlist. Each year there are always a number of people on each Rainier trip who have to cancel because of unforeseen needs with job, family, or health, and those openings always move a number of people off the waitlist and onto the climb. In most years we call people on the waitlist for all climbs, so if your schedule is flexible and you can go on short notice, it will be worth your while to join the waiting list.

If you wish to join the waitlist and need to commit vacation time or plan a personal schedule around those dates, we can arrange a climb on another peak in the Cascade range that offers a similar challenge and climbing experience. This option allows you to plan your trip, make travel arrangements, and enjoy a climb during that period. With good luck you will clear the waitlist and be on Rainier but if not, you will climb another American classic. We always schedule Glacier Peak, Mount Shuksan, and Mount Baker climbs on the same dates as Rainier, so if you want to, you can usually join others making these great climbs. Please call us to discuss this option.


Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb


"My guide exceeded our expectations in every way. He explained everything clearly, was extremely patient while we practiced everything, and had a sense of humor that kept me laughing through the weekend!"
Pete Nellist, Kirkland, WA

"Our guide was wonderful: he was competent, experienced, thoughtful, and inspired confidence."
Course Participant, Mt. Rainier Ascent

"I was particularly impressed with the guides' skills during the summit climb in marking the route with flags and compass readings in case of a white out."
Course Participant, Mt. Rainier Ascent

"All guides were very professional, with attention to detail and safety."
Larry Siu, Silverspring, MD


Mt. Rainier - Kautz Glacier Climb

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