Cauthorn-Wilson, Cutthroat Peak III WI4
Avg time to climb route: 3-5 hours
Approach time: 2.5-4 hours
Descent time: 2.5-4 hours
Number of pitches: 7
Height of route: 800'
OverviewThe Cauthorn-Wilson route is a classic northwest alpine ice route. It consistently comes into shape year after year and is often climbable the first few weeks that Highway 20 is open. Originally the route was called the Northeast Couloir because of the geographical feature the route ascends, but it is now almost universally referred to as the Cauthorn-Wilson after its two first ascentionists. Depending on how fat the ice is on the crux pitch, the route’s difficulty can range from easy WI4 to WI4+ with a little mixed climbing thrown in. Unfortunately, the route is rarely climbed to the summit and most climbers rap once they gain the ridge crest.
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Route HistoryFirst climbed by Dan Cauthorn and Tim Wilson in April of 1984. During the 1980s, as winter ascents and ice and mixed routes were gaining popularity, Cauthorn along with other local climbers Kit Lewis and Jim Nelson searched the Cascades for alpine ice and mixed climbs like the ones found above Chamonix in the Alps. Unlike the Alps, which have incredible access and where it’s possible to view the conditions from a tram, the Cascades have closed forest service roads and long, snow-covered approaches. Cauthorn said, “I was looking for the type of climbing that Walter Bonatti did in the Alps, one boot front pointing on ice, the other edging on rock, one arm swinging an ice tool, the other hand jammed in a crack. I always felt like the Washington Pass area had potential for these kind of ice and mixed climbs, and once the highway opened it offered easier access.”
In April of 1984, Wilson and Cauthorn drove up to Washington Pass, hoping to climb a new route on the east face of Cutthroat. The pair walked right past the East Face Couloir, figuring it was just an easy snow climb, and attempted a route further to the right, below the North summit of Cutthroat. Wilson led Pitch 1, which proved to be incredibly difficult, and the rest of the route looked even harder. This difficult pitch was climbed in the summer by Steve Risse at 5.10.
They decided to rap. As they were descending, they looked up into the East Face Couloir and saw a long stretch of ice plastered on the right- hand side of a deep corner. Just what they had come looking for. It was getting late so they left their climbing gear at the base of the couloir and skied out to the car.
They returned the next day and were delighted by what they had found. Stemming from rock and ice, slotting in nuts and placing shallow ice screws, it provided exactly the type of climbing they had been searching out. The pair climbed up to the ridge and finished up the ridge to the summit of Cutthroat Peak.
StrategyThe Cauthorn-Wilson is pretty consistent every spring (April... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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