Climb to the Summit of Liberty Bell via the Beckey Route (5.6)

Added by Wells Preston

3 Pitches of Moderate Trad Climbing. 7720. Ft Peak. Classic Route (First Ascent by Fred Beckey, 1946). Beautiful Views. Short Approach (5 miles round trip). Moderate Elevation Gain (2000 ft from the parking lot to the notch). Fantastic Rock Quality. Easy to Protect. Easy rappel route off the route.

Liberty Bell is one of the most prominent and well defined features of the Washington Pass formation in the North Cascades. This beautiful and stunning rock formation looks equally at home in Washington as it would in the Dolomites or Patagonia.

The classic route up Liberty Bell, The Beckey Route, is a 5.6 trad-climbing multi pitch with 3 pitches of excellent class 5 climbing and a 4th pitch of class 4 scrambling to the summit.

The route is easy to access via the Blue Lake Trailhead. It can be done as a long day trip from Seattle, or you can camp the night before or after at one of the many campgrounds east of the pass on Highway 20.

The approach starts at the Blue Lake Trailhead on Highway 20, about a mile west of the large hairpin curve in the road. Make sure you have a NW Forest pass to park at the trailhead. If not, you can purchase a day pass in the lot. The cost is $5 as of summer 2015.

Hike the trail up through the forest. At the heather meadow at approximately the 2 mile mark, take the climbers' trail up and to your left (ENE). The trail heads up through the meadow, via a distinct trail. Stay to the right of the large boulder field, but left of the huge slabs. You will start ascending into a talus filled gully. Even if you don't see climbers above you, put your helmet on now. If you do knock anything loose, warn parties below, even if you don't see any. The lack of sand and small scree in the gully makes it a bowling alley for rocks to cascade down for hundreds of feet. The possibility for party induced rock fall is extremely high. Use caution and keep your eyes up.

Your objective is the notch between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower. Once you are at the notch, scramble over the bottom of Liberty Bell to the first belay inside a large slot chimney.

The first pitch climbs up through the chimney with easy jug holds. Solid cracks and chock stones are available to protect the pitch. It is approximately 60 feet long and rated 5.3. It leads directly to a belay ledge with large and small trees to anchor to. (End P1 A)You can also climb the face to the right, before scrambling over to the chimney. Follow an easy finger crack between blocks to the same belay ledge. 5.5 (End P1 B)

The second pitch heads from the tree belay, up through another chimney with huge chock stones that you have to wrestle your way around. The first move can be awkward, but there is a cordlette under the first large chock stone to clip into. This pitch follows the chimney, into a minor off width crack. It is easy to set protection throughout this crack. This pitch is approximately 90 ft long and ends at another tree belay ledge, before the beginning the 3rd pitch. 5.6 (End P2)

The third pitch starts off with class 3 climbing for the first 30 feet. It leads to a large crack in the next set of blocky boulders, up to a finger crack over a slab, leading left to right around a corner. This pitch is one of the most enjoyable of the climb, combining slab and crack work into a single area. It ends at another tree belay ledge. Use long alpine draws or slings to reduce the considerable rope drag created by the zigzag pattern of this pitch. 5.6 (End P3 A)

An alternate pitch is to head directly up the face to the left of the block cracks, climbing above a second tree in the class 3 area. Follow the hand jam crack, to an off width, then across an exposed slab around the corner. This is the 2nd pitch of the route "The Girl Next Door", an alternate ascent route of Liberty Bell. It adds a nice 5.8 pitch to the Beckey Route. This is especially useful if the Beckey is crowded and you'd like to pass a party already on pitch 3. It leads to the same large tree belay ledge. (End P3 B)

You can either unrope here or protect the next pitch with gear. It is a 4th class scramble up several blocks, to an unprotected 12 foot tall slab face. The slab face is distinctly 5.7, but only two or three moves long and is considered a boulder problem. If you are worried about this slab, consider having your climbing partner spot you. From there scramble up the class 4 blocks to the summit. We climbed this section once roped and once unroped. Although the scramble is easy, there are a few areas that have significant exposure. Depending on skill and comfort level, it is your choice whether to unrope or not.

The descent is easy. From the summit, head back down the scramble, down climb the slab face, back to the belay ledge from the end of P3. From there head slightly southeast, through the trees to a large slab ledge facing Concord Tower. There is a set of anchor chains for rappel here. If you are single line rappelling, there is another set of chains, approximately 3/4s of the rappel length down. Keep left on rappel to find them. If you are using a double line, you can rappel to the notch from here.

Descend the gully carefully and retrace your route back to the parking lot.

Pro Tips:

  1. Bring extra layers, even it is warm at the trailhead and on approach, it can be cold and windy at the notch and on route.

  2. This is a popular route. On a Saturday, with nice weather, we had 4 parties in front of us and 4 behind. If possible, consider climbing on Sunday.

  3. Be courteous to other parties, keep your rope at belay ledges neat as possible, and let faster or smaller parties "play through".

  4. Please, please, please yell "ROCK" anytime anything is knocked loose, even if you don't see anyone below you. The gully can be extremely dangerous if we all don't look out for each other.

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Overall rating: 

Spectacular Classic climb!

This is a great beginner's multi-pitch summit of one of the 50 Classics Climbing in NA - I can attest, having just accomplished this as my first trad alpine summit last weekend! The exposure is stomach-turning, the rock in excellent condition, and the views absolutely stunning. This is an incredibly popular & crowded route, so do your best to avoid weekends, start early... and be wary of trail conditions. Early season you'll want mountaineering boots, an axe, or skis on the approach.

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