Good partner + 1200 feet of steep granite + a sunny, bugless, crowdless Steck & Roper 50 classic = a fun day!!
This classic line climbs the left edge of Liberty Bell’s impressive 1200-foot tall east face and it has been included in Roper & Steck’s Fifty Classic list. The crack becomes continuous only after the first 3 pitches (which for most are mostly aid, A1 to A2). The first 3 pitches are often fixed the day before the climb, and can be fixed with 2 60m ropes.
2 60m ropes (10mm lead line and 8mm) (You can fix the first 3 pitches with 2 60m ropes.)
2 sets of cams to 2" plus one 3" piece, 1 1/2 sets of nuts (including micro)
6 slings, 4 draws
ascenders, etriers (we each had our own)
Drive SR 20 to a few hundred yards E of Washington Pass. There's a little pond next to the road; park near it and unload your stuff. Skirt the left side of the pond and head up the treaded path through the forest, bearing SSW until you break out into the talus field under the east face of Liberty Bell. The start of the route is obvious (look for the white streak through the roof 120 ft above the ground). The last portion of the route has some snow until mid summer. About 1 hour to the base of the route.
Clint had driven up from California to go climbing in the Valhallas with me, and on the way we stopped at Liberty Bell to climb Liberty Crack. We fixed the first three aid pitches on August 2nd, and climbed the entire route on August 3rd.
Despite the sunny and bugless summer weather, we were the only party on this classic line. Another fun climb with Clint! Below are some photos and descriptions of each pitch. We used Clint's topo (link above), so the pitch descriptions are based on this.
Illustrated Trip Report
(Click on images to enlarge)
Approach: Park alongside the road at the pond just past Washington Pass. Hike up the treaded path to the base of the route, about 1 hour.
Photos: Some appropriate highway signs near the start of the trail.
Pitch 1: 5.11 or C1, 130 feet. Look for a light-colored streak marking the route above. From snow or talus at the base, scramble up an exposed but easy broken ramp (class 3 on left, class 4 on right) to a belay spot. Then climb a steep right-facing dihedral and then up the thin splitter crack past a fixed KB and a fixed angle. Belay at a semihanging comfy stance on two fat bolts about 25 feet below the "Lithuanian Lip" roof.
Photo: Steph at anchor at top of Pitch 1 after jugging up it on Day 2.
Pitch 2: C1+, 100 feet. Move up the left facing dihedral (aid) toward the roof (a.k.a. Lithuanian Lip). Clip a bolt and fixed pin and aid the sinle crack rightward over the strenuous roof. Follow a thin crack and bolts above to another semihanging good stance with fat bolts.
Photo: Clint aiding Lithuanian Lip on Day 1. About 5 minutes later he took a 20ft whipper over the edge when a piece in a rather flaring placement pulled. Thankfully it was an airy fall, and Clint made it look almost graceful.
Pitch 3: 5.7 C2, 80 feet. Move up and slightly left from belay following fixed pins and eventually fixed nuts and heads. One hook move (which according to most TR’s is not mandatory) above is followed by a short section of crack and a mandatory single exit free move onto a stance with belay bolts.
Photo 1: Looking up Pitch 3 from near the bolt anchor as we jug up on Day 2. Real Jumars! (Photo by Clint) Photo 2: A2 hook move about halfway up pitch. (Photo by Clint)
Pitch 4: 5.10, 70 feet. Move up the crack which is mostly 5.9 hand but has a 5.10 crux near the top just as rock quality deteriorates. Belay from beefy bolts on a small lede with a bolt anchor and bush.
Photo: Steph freeing the pitch (fun!), just above the 5.10 section.
Pitch 5: 5.8+, 160 feet. Climb a steep left-facing crack/dihedral system with some loose blocks and flakes. The pitch starts as a narrow chimney. The crack is wide at times, but smaller gear can be used much of the time. This is a long pitch and sustained at the grade. Exit right onto a small but good ledge stance and two bolts.
Photo: Steph leading the steep groove.
Pitch 6: 5.8, 160 feet. Climb a right-facing corner with loose blocks and bushes. Lieback right to a roof of the “Rotten Block” which overhangs the dihedral. Either aid the left side of the block on fixed pins or free the right side at (supposedly) 5.10 with a new bolt near the top. There is a good belay seat atop Rotten Block with two (new) bolts.
Photo 1: Looking up the pitch from near the anchor. You can see Clint sitting on top of the "Rotten Block". Photo 2: Clint at the belay on top of the "Rotten Block".
Pitch 7: 5.10 or 5.9 C1, 80 feet. Climb right awkwardly in the flaring chimney (5.10+ or C1) around the rotten block. Traverse into a fine left-facing corner ramp (5.9). Either belay on left edge of slab (one new, one old bolt) or continue ~50 feet higher. We belayed at intermediate belay to make this a short pitch.
Photo: Steph climbing up corner. Nice shadow of Liberty Bell below.
Pitch 8: 5.9, 180'. Above the belay, make an awkward move onto a ramp (seemed hard for 5.9). Then move up and left following an awkward 5.7 ramp system to a ledge with a large tree below a 5.6 chimney. The lower part of pitch can be combined with the previous pitch.
Photo: Clint below the tricky move just above the belay.
Pitch 9: 5.6, 100ft. Climb a short 5.6 chimney. Belay above from large trees at the base of a (initially) low angle, left-facing dihedral.
Photo: Clint at the belay below Pitch 9. The 5.6 chimey is behind him.
Pitch 10: 5.9, 160 feet. Move up the left-facing dihedral (some fixed pins). Eventually a short (15 foot) chimney appears 5 feet to the left. Step into it and belay on sloping ledge in chimney with anchor in corner to right.
Photo: Steph free climbing the 5.9 corner. This is one of the finest pitches of the route.
Pitch 11: 5.8 to 5.0, 165'. Start with a 15ft steep 5.8 chimney. Then move up easy and low angle grooves until the terrain crests (summit will be 60 feet above you on the right). Belay from a tree.
Photo: Steph at the belay at the tree at the top of the pitch.
Pitch 12: 4th class, 200+ feet. Follow mostly flat but gravel-covered terrain west (away from route you came up). Either scramble to summit (see last pitch description of Beckey Route) or continue traversing roughly level until you see a double bolt rap anchor on a steep wall (look down a bit).
Photo: Easy 4th class traverse to anchors or to intersect Beckey route. The summit is above to the right.
To Summit: Intersect Beckey Route and scramble 4th and low 5th to summit.
Photo 1: Twilight from the summit. Photo 2: Clint on the summit. Success! Now, for the descent....
Descent: Do two 80-foot rappels (there are 2 double bolt rap anchors) into the Liberty Bell-Concord Tower notch. Hike down the notch (snow or nasty scree) to the climbers trail running along the base of the west faces of the Liberty Bell formations. Hike it down until the junction with the main Blue Lake Trail is encountered (about 1 hour from notch). Turn right onto Blue Lake Trail and follow it (30-45 minutes) until the highway becomes visible as the trail makes a sharp left turn. Bushwhack 300 feet toward the highway and hike about 1 mile back to your car at the pond.
Photo: Clint rappelling into the darkness.
More on my website
This trip report is copied from my website, which has several other climbing trip reports and photographs from the North Cascades and elsewhere: http://www.stephabegg.com.