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Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz

Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz

RMI's Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz is a six-day instructional mountaineering course with a summit attempt on Mt. Rainier via the Kautz Glacier Route.


  • 2 days of foundational skills training and 4 days of extensive practical training while climbing Mt. Rainier's Kautz Route, a beautiful and moderately technical line on the south side of Rainier.
  • An expedition-style climb allows us to establish successive tented camps as we ascend the mountain in preparation for our summit bid.
  • Climb the exciting and challenging Kautz Ice Chute, a 30 to 50 degree snow and ice section of the route.
  • Develop strong technical skills and gain foundational mountaineering experience.


Our Expedition Skills Seminar on the Kautz Route climbs an intermediate route on Mt. Rainier while developing mountaineering skills. After a Technical Training Day and a Mountaineering Day School, we ascend the Kautz Route, using the mountain's terrain to learn mountaineering skills such as snow & ice anchors, crevasse rescue, ice climbing, fixed line travel, belaying and other technical skills, before making a summit attempt from high camp.

Climbing a less traveled route, our Expedition Skills Seminar – Kautz, takes advantage of the beauties of the prime-climbing season on Mt. Rainier while ascending an exciting and more remote route. The Kautz Route is a great adventure for physically fit climbers ready for a slightly more technical adventure on Mt. Rainier.

Our Expedition Skills Seminars are comprehensive training courses designed to educate climbers to the mountaineering skills needed to tackle the world's greatest peaks. Successful completion of the Expedition Skill Seminar - Kautz will make you eligible for many of our expeditions around the world, including Denali, and provides you with a foundation for other major glaciated mountains.


The Mountain Guides at RMI have a reputation as top guides in the United States. RMI Guides participated in some of America's first ventures into the far reaches of the Himalaya. Years of expedition guiding and climbing around the world have built a core of consummate professional guides.

Our guides are celebrated teachers and trainers, known for their leadership as well as their character. They possess the compassion, enthusiasm and ability to empower others and inspire them forward. Such qualities may only be found in people at the top of their profession. Despite their vast experience, RMI Guides still remember their own first steps into the mountains, and enjoy helping other climbers reach new heights.

Our exceptional focus to detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures make our programs truly memorable.


RMI strives to create the safest mountain experience possible. Our experienced team of guides focuses on leading fun and successful climbs without compromising safety. Each climb includes careful pre-trip planning, daily weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts, and diligent attention to detail. All RMI Guides are highly trained in remote medicine and rescue skills and carry comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio communication equipment throughout the program. Regardless of the objective or the destination, safety remains RMI’s top priority.

As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or info@rmiguides.com.

NPS Authorized ConcessionerAuthorized Concessioner

RMI Expeditions is an authorized concessioner of Mount Rainier National Park.

Climber Reviews

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Jake and the other guides created a team environment. While it was very clear who was directing the trip he helped make it feel as it was a team trip. As the slowest and oldest member of the team it was Jake, Chase, Jeb, and Nick who provided encouragement for me to complete the climb.
Scott T.

How convenient everything was from start to finish. Professionalism of guides and staff (Store, Grill, Bunkhouse, Rainier Approach).
John D.

The friendships forged with the guides and other climbers. I would gladly climb with all of them again in the future!
Kevin T.

The learning and guidance provided were what I was looking for. Top notch delivered.
Chris F.

Our group really came together and was a team. I can see how these climbs could end up as a bunch of solo climbers just wanting to get to the top, however, RMI created a atmosphere where we all became friends before heading up the mountain and we motivated each other to keep going even when it seems impossible. I feel like I met some great friends on this climb that I will continue to climb with in the future.
Jeven D.

I enjoyed the group mentality of the trip. You really feel like you are working as a team. I don't meet a lot of people like this in my day-to-day life. It really feels like I'm truly living when I'm out on these trips. Everybody helps everybody else out without hesitation, something that seems to be hard to find nowadays.
Tom M.

In addition to being an exciting and successful climb, the Kautz Expedition Skills Seminar thoroughly covered a variety of mountaineering techniques, technical skills and safety practices. Whether in camp or actively climbing, I felt I was always learning something, always broadening my knowledge base. Having completed this program, I feel more confident in my abilities and am eager to take on future climbing objectives.
Lee D.

I enjoyed meeting the other climbers the most.
Fintan M.

I learned a lot during the clinics on belays and crevasse rescue. I also was impressed with the level of attention the guides paid to safety and explaining the protection they were building, particularly as we climbed the Kautz ice chute.
Scott W.

It was totally what I expected, exciting, fun, great guides, and a great learning experience that will get me ready for other,bigger mountains. Most of all I loved how the guides, Zeb, Elias, Steve, and Nick were always considering our safety. This is very important to me... I trust them 100% and thats why I will go back to RMI and recommend RMI. All of them had a great attitudes the entire time and as a small business owner with 12 full time employees and over 2 dozen freelance employees at any given time, I would love to find employees like them! They could not have been better - all four of them!
Michael W.

Listening to the guides speak about climbing and hearing their passion for what they do.
Charlie M.

Mark B.

Learning ice climbing and crevasse rescue techniques
Mike M.

Enjoyed learning from all the guides. Really good down to earth guys and very professional throughout.
Steven S.

Being outside and climbing with great people. Learning new skills.
David S.

Passing out in the middle of the day after a tough climb.
David G.

The decisions of theguides, the itinerary, the mountain experience
Mike M.

Learning new skills and gaining a respect for the alpine environment.
Andrew W.

Glissading down 1500 ft to camp three after a successful summit!
Josh B.

The continuous instruction before and during the trip up the mountain. Having guides that could answer all of my questions really helped me progress in my development of mountaineering fundamentals.
Patrick M.

Learning mountaineering skills, Seth's enthusiasm/stories and the guides in general.
Philip G.

Seth and Nick were great guides and I really enjoyed getting to know them. Leah and Rob were fantastic as well but Seth and Nick were with us for the 2 days of training before the mountain so we got to know them a little better.
Chris D.

The route and the guides.
Eric Y.

Learning from Eric on summit day . learned a lot about decision making it will take
Andy M.

  • Upcoming Climbs

      • June 5, 2016
      • Full
      • June 17, 2016
      • Full
      • June 26, 2016
      • Full
      • July 8, 2016
      • Full
      • July 17, 2016
      • Full
      • July 29, 2016
      • Full
      • August 7, 2016
      • Full
  • Price
    6 days
    Level 3
Table of Contents
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Day 1


8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.: Meet at 8:00 a.m. at Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford, WA. Please dress casually and bring your climbing equipment and clothing.

We begin our Technical Training Day with a welcome and introduction of team members and guides. Throughout the day, the guides provide a focused introduction to a variety of topics. These include a detailed equipment discussion and gear check; an introduction to safety practices such as use of helmets, harnesses, and avalanche transceivers; route planning and preparation, instruction regarding Leave No Trace practices and environmental considerations; and a discussion/demonstration of knots, anchors and the first steps toward understanding crevasse rescue. These skills prepare us for our adventure on Mt. Rainier and increase the likelihood of a safe, successful ascent of the mountain.

Please make your own arrangements for the day's meals and a place to stay in the Ashford area for this evening.


Day 2


8:15 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.: Meet at 8:15 a.m. at Rainier BaseCamp. Please arrive dressed for hiking, packed with your Mountaineering Day School gear.

The Mountaineering Day School is spent training in the field on the lower slopes of Mt. Rainier. Climbers are introduced to many skills, from the basic techniques of efficient mountain travel (rest-stepping and pressure breathing), to various safety practices including use of helmets, harnesses, and avalanche transceivers, cramponing, roped travel, ice axe arrest practice, anchors and running belays, fixed line travel, and the basics of crevasse rescue.

Please make your own arrangements for the day's meals and a place to stay in the Ashford area for this evening.


Over the next four days we ascend the mountain in an expedition style climb, establishing multiple camps to set ourselves up for our summit bid. During this time the group will learn and practice various mountaineering skills such as crevasse rescue, anchor placement, ice climbing, fixed line travel, and self rescue techniques among many others. Evening lectures in camp include discussion on mountain weather, medicine for mountaineering, altitude wellness, equipment and any requested topics that spark your interest.

Day 3


8:15 a.m.: Meet at Rainier BaseCamp. After a team meeting a shuttle takes our group to the trailhead at Paradise.

From Paradise (5,400'), we cross the Nisqually Glacier to our first camp on the mountain, between 6,000' - 8,000'. As we move towards camp, we review the foundational skills that make us more efficient and capable climbers, including dressing appropriately for the weather and workload, kicking steps and climbing in balance on snow, and efficient pacing that allows us to climb comfortably.


Day 4


We use the western edge of the Wilson Glacier as our classroom before breaking camp and moving to our High Camp at the western edge of the Turtle snowfield between 9,400' - 10,500'. In the afternoon, we focus on the skills and preparation necessary for a successful ascent, and pay specific attention to the techniques required for current conditions on the upper mountain.


Day 5


Today we put it all together and make our attempt on the summit. The spectacular 35-50 degree Kautz ice chute begins the ascent. Pouring through the ring of ice cliffs above 11,000', this is exciting and challenging climbing as the route climbs steeply for several hundred feet to access the glaciers leading to the summit. We may utilize running belays or fixed lines for this part of the ascent, as dictated by the route conditions. The higher slopes of the mountain then take us up the upper Kautz and Nisqually glaciers to the summit of the mountain.

At 14,410 feet, Mt. Rainier is the highest point in Washington. The summit is spectacular with panoramic views from the Pacific to the eastern side of the Cascades when the weather is clear. A large crater dominates the summit, with steam rising out of the cavernous summit vents and the bare ground near the summit is often warm to the touch.

After reaching the summit, we descend back to High Camp. The descent typically requires half the amount of time of the ascent but requires significant effort as we retrace our route down the mountain. The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of the year, the route conditions, the weather, and temperature among others. It is a long and challenging, but rewarding day!


Day 6


On the final day of the program we descend to Paradise and return to Rainier BaseCamp in Ashford. After all the gear is unpacked, we gather as a team to celebrate our adventure.

The duration of the climb depends on many variables including snow conditions, the time of year, the route conditions, the weather during our climb, the temperature, etc. Those variables often affect our arrival time to Ashford, which might vary dramatically from climb to climb. For this reason we do not recommend scheduling an airline flight before midnight on the last day of your program.



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This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition. There are no technical climbing prerequisites to join this program.

  • Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life
    And Then Go
    Climb A Mountain

    Create A Fitness And Training Program

    Go To Fitness Resources

Physical Fitness Training

Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.

  • Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
  • Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
  • Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.

For this 6-day Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz, you are preparing for:

  • Steep hiking, climbing and glacier travel with a 50-60 lb load
  • A 12+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility

Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!

Below are approximate outlines of the program's physical demands that will be helpful in planning your training schedule and goals:

Total Hiking Time
Elevation Gain / Loss
Total Distance
Pack Weight
2 - 2 ½ Hours
Round Trip
Gain = 1000'
Loss = 1000'
4 Miles
Round Trip
20 - 25 lbs
3 hours
Gain = 1,000' - 2,500'
Loss = 500'
1.5 - 2 Miles
50 - 60 lbs
4 - 5 Hours
Gain = 2,500' - 4,500'
1 - 1.5 Miles
50 - 60 lbs
12 +  Hours
Round Trip
Gain = 4,000'
Loss = 4,000'
8 Miles
Round Trip
20 - 25 lbs
3 - 4 Hours
Loss = 5,000'
3 Miles
50 - 60 lbs

Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.


Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.

While the key to climbing high is proper acclimatization, this climb effectively moves up and down the mountain at a rate that exceeds our body’s ability to adjust (acclimate) to the high altitude. This is true whether a program spends 2 days or 5 days on the upper mountain (elevations above 10,000 feet). During our short climb, our bodies simply do not have the time to completely adjust to the altitude, and because of this short stay, our bodies do not typically succumb to altitude’s ill effects. In short, climbers generally experience the mild but uncomfortable, yet normal, symptoms of their bodies beginning the adjustment process. While climbers will feel better rested on the slightly longer programs, fitness remains the key factor in a climber’s performance.

In addition, physical performance at altitude is often related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are usually key factors in an individual’s success on a short-term visit to altitude.

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What You’ll Need

The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.

Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering. This offer excludes sale items.

  • RMI Climbers Get 10% Off
    All New Equipment At
    Whittaker Mountaineering

Shop Your Equipment List // Rent new equipment for your climb

Equipment List

    • ICE AXE

      The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.


      The 12-point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. We highly recommend anti-bot plates to prevent snow from balling up underfoot.


      A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.


      You will need protective sunglasses, either dark-lensed with side shields or full wrap-around frames. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the visible light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.

    • Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.

    • We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.

    • We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.


      Insulated mountaineering boots with completely rigid soles are needed to climb Mt. Rainier. While both leather and plastic boots will work well, each has strengths and weaknesses. Plastic boots will work all season long and are particularly useful for climbers with colder feet.  Appropriate leather boots (stiff-soled, insulated and designed to hold a crampon) are appropriate for warmer weather climbs.
      The freezing level forecasted for the time of your climb will be the best guideline for which boot to wear.  A freezing level below 10,000' will dictate the use of plastic boots.  A freezing level above 10,000' will provide the option for either plastic or leather boots.
      Whether leather or plastic, mountaineering boots are designed to remain stiff for kicking steps and working with crampons. To ensure that your feet do well, mountaineering boots must be comfortable right from the start. If renting boots, consider bringing personal orthotics or foot beds.


      We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.

    • 2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES

      Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required. Plastics made with high post-consumer recycled content and BPA-Free are recommended.


      We recommend lining your backpack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry.


      Please use the Zip-Lock as your personal trash bag.

    • CAMERA
    • Purchase travel insurance.

    • Arrange lodging in Ashford.

    • Reserve rental equipment.

    • Arrange transportation to Ashford.

    • Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!

Provided Equipment

RMI provides the following equipment for your program: tents, group cooking gear, shovels, climbing ropes, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).

Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a cell phone for emergency contact.

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On the Expedition Skills Seminar - Kautz you will need five trail lunches, three dinners and three breakfasts.

Below are some examples and suggestions of the types of food that work well.

Lunch / Snacks

Your "lunches" are taken in the field throughout the day during short 10 to 15 minute breaks. We suggest crackers, pizza, candy bars, jerky, chips, cookies, trail mix, fruits, Gu, energy bars, and hard candies. Drink mixes such as Gatorade and Kool-Aid help flavor your water. Add peanut butter, cream cheese, hard cheese, or pepperoni for additional calories and taste. If you enjoy bread items, bagels work well. Include some salty snacks to replenish lost salts.


Single-serving instant oatmeal or Cream-of-Wheat makes a good main course fare. A variety of granola bars, pastries, fruit and a hot drink mix of coffee, tea, cocoa or cider are suggested.


Freeze-dried entrees are very convenient; it is best to be familiar with their taste (and the effects they may have on your stomach) in advance of your program. Instant soups and Cup-o'-Noodles are popular supplements to your main course. As an alternative, you might consider bringing a cold main dish such as chicken, pizza, sandwiches, pasta salads or stir-fry. In addition, bring coffee, tea, cocoa or cider to warm you up before bedtime.

Don't worry too much about the nutritional aspect of meals; concern yourself more with a high calorie intake. Most importantly, choose a variety of foods that you like to eat. One of the normal, albeit disconcerting, adjustments to altitude is a slight loss of appetite.

Ample cold water is available for drinking and replenishing water bottles. Hot water will also be provided for your meals (freeze-dried dinners, instant soups, instant oatmeal, etc) and hot drinks. When planning your menu, don't bring any items that require extensive preparation, cooking or simmering. We are able to provide you with boiling water, but do not have the ability to actually cook food items.

  • Consider a Whittaker Mountaineering Meal Package For Well Balanced Meals
    Designed By Climbers For Climbers

    Reserve Your Meal Package

    Go To Whittaker Mountaineering


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What is the Guide-to Client Ratio on this program?

We use a 1 guide per 2 climber ratio on the Kautz Glacier route.

What is the maximum group size?

The maximum group size of any program anywhere on Mt. Rainier is 12 individuals, including guides.


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