In 1975, he made the first free ascent of the east face of Washington Column with John Long and John Bachar, renaming the route Astroman (5.11c). Astroman held title as the hardest long free route in Yosemite Valley for over 10 years.
Also notable was Separate Reality (5.12a), an intimidating roof crack which Kauk originally climbed in 1978 without camming devices. The same year he put up Midnight Lightning (V8), one of America's best known bouldering problems because of its difficulty and convenient location in the Camp 4 campground.
In the 1980s Kauk spent time in Europe visiting the limestone crags and competing in sport climbing competitions. He saw how European techniques such as red pointing and bolting on rappel could lead to a higher level of climbing difficulty. However, these practices were frowned upon by Yosemite regulars. According to one account, John Bachar chopped the bolts on Punchline (5.12c) which Kauk installed in 1988, causing a fight between the two in the Camp 4 parking lot.
Kauk went on to put up the hardest routes in Yosemite, such as the rap-bolted Crossroads (5.13a) in 1990 and Magic Line (5.14b) which he climbed in 1997 on pre-placed gear. In Tuolumne Meadows he rap-bolted a route that Bachar had started in a ground-up style, provocatively naming the route Peace (5.13c/d).
Many of Kauk's exploits have been caught on film. In 1989 he climbed a five pitch route called Backbone (5.13a) at Smith Rock for NBC Sportsworld, and he repeated his toughest first ascents for Eric Perlman's Masters of Stone videos. In 1992, Kauk trained and doubled Sylvester Stallone along with late climber Wolfgang Güllich for Cliffhanger. He also doubled Michael Rooker, Leon, and actress Janine Turner. In 1999 Kauk trained Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible 2's climbing scenes.
In 2000 Kauk produced Yosemite: Ascending Rhythms, a climbing video highlighting the scenic splendor of his favorite crag.
- 1979 East Face, Uli Biaho, Pakistan. First ascent (FA) of route and mountain with John Roskelley, Kim Schmitz, and Bill Forrest. All four climbers reached the summit on July 3, 1979.
- 1975 Astroman, 5.11c, Yosemite, CA. First free ascent (FFA) of route with John Bachar, John Long.
- Frohlich, Robert (September 1, 2010). "Kauk Loosens His Cape: Ron Kauk, Yosemite's aging superhero, reflects on climbing, preservation, Hollywood and the National Park Service". Adventure Sports Journal.
- Alexander Huber and Heinz Zak, Yosemite: Half a Century of Dynamic Rock Climbing, Menasha Ridge Press, 2003
- Alan Watts, Climber's Guide to Smith Rock, Chockstone Press, 1992
- Roskelley, John (1980). ""The Obvious Line" - Uli Biaho". American Alpine Journal. Golden, CO, USA: American Alpine Club. 22 (53): 405–416. ISBN 978-0-930410-76-6.