With a nice forecast and some recent views of Rainier from Seattle making me feel like the window to climb it again in 2015 was rapidly closing, Kelsey and I switched plans from a WA Pass rock weekend to the Kautz Glacier on Rainier. This was my third time up the route, but felt somewhat different, given our decision to follow the ranger's advice and begin from the Comet Falls trailhead.
We left our car at Paradise and found a random, willing couple to drive us down the few miles (and 2,000 feet of elevation) to the start. From here, at about 10am, a very pleasant trail brought us through the woods and away from the crowds up past two waterfalls and eventually to Van Trump Park. We had a great view up to our destination for the day—the Wapowety Cleaver—and the Kautz Glacier above. The trip went smoothly and didn't require roping up at all. We finished up the Turtle by 5pm, which meant that we had plenty of time to nap before dinner. Huge win. It was pretty mild and we had decided to just do an open bivy so we didn't have to carry a tent over.
We started moving on Sunday at about 4:30am and were quickly at the ice. It went pretty fast as a party of two simul-climbing everything and we got to the top of the second pitch difficulties at about 6:45am. Some thick smoke had blown in from a big forest fire, so visibility wasn't great, unfortunately. We passed the only other party we saw on the route in two days at that point and continued on our way up toward the summit. For a few minutes, the clouds got dark and rained, then snowed on us. Thankfully the weather was short-lived and cleared up quickly. It was pretty uneventful and we focused on keeping a slow and steady pace that got us to the DC route about 1,000 feet below the summit at 10:30am. We dropped our packs here and scampered to the summit unencumbered. It took less than 45 minutes from there.
The DC took a while to descend given how broken up and circuitous it was, but we made it down to Muir in about 4 hours and then had another 2 down to Paradise, which meant that we were done around 5pm. Good times! I'll have to find another go-to route on Rainier for next year.