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Liberty Bell
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NW Face 

YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 500', Grade III
Consensus:  YDS: 5.9 French: 5c Ewbanks: 17 UIAA: VI ZA: 17 British: HVS 5a [details]
FA: Hans Kraus and John Rupley, August 1956. FFA Sandy Bill, Ron Burgner, Ian Martin, Frank Tarver, August 1966
Season: Summer, Fall
Page Views: 1,999
Submitted By: Mike McL on Aug 7, 2011  with updates from Tim Welch

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BETA PHOTO: The 5.9 corner. photo by Brad J.

Description 

This is a fun route to an outstanding summit that is a bit off the beaten path when you consider the other classics on Liberty Bell (Liberty Crack, the Beckey Route). There's some flaky/crispy rock in places, but it's not dangerous. The fourth pitch corner is particularly good and is the highlight of the route.

Pitch 1 heads up a left trending gully/crack system, past a couple of trees, to a good belay ledge. (5.5)

Pitch 2 heads up a crack system to the left of a 2-3 ft. chimney (5.7) with a few pitons near the top. Continue up, over, and off a horn (4-5 feet) as the Beckey guide suggests or just climb around it to the left. Scramble up a 4th class gully to the right towards the start of the 3rd pitch. Consider finding a solid place to below your partner just past the horn and carrying the rope the final 100 ft. up to the 3rd pitch.

Pitch 3 is a left facing corner system made up of large thin flakes that are a little loose in places down low. The crux moves come about 25 feet off the belay and are reasonably protected if you look around. PG13 perhaps given the flakes but not too dangerous. After the flakes, continue up to a small ledge and belay. Approximately 100' long. (5.8/5.9).

Pitch 4 is the money pitch. Climb a dihedral with interesting features that get you moving around. There's plenty of pro to be had in nearby cracks. Be aware that the dihedral crack gets very small near the top and is runout about 20-30 ft. It is also a bit dirty but thankfully the angle of the climb lessens substantially. A fun pitch 5.9.

Pitch 5 heads up and left on easy terrain to the west summit of Liberty Bell. Easy - mid 5th.


From the west summit, scramble down and across the notch then up to the main summit.

The descent follows the standard Liberty Bell descent. Supposedly there's a scramble down to the shoulder beneath the friction pitch on the Beckey route. From here there are some fixed rap anchors down and right. 2 single rope rappels get you to the Liberty-Concord notch.

We didn't find the scramble and ended up doing 2 raps from trees to get to the standard fixed rap anchors. Hopefully you have better luck.

Location 

From the Blue Lakes trailhead, take the trail through the forest. It opens up briefly in an avalanche path then goes back into the forest. After exiting the forest in a meadow, spot a cairn on the left that marks a climbers trail. This cairn comes just after crossing a stream. Take this climbers trail to the left. Follow it up towards the notch between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower.

Just before reaching the true notch (perhaps 300 feet below it), look for a low point in the rock wall on your left (4th class scramble) that leads up and over through some trees, onto a rocky slab beneath the West face of Liberty Bell. If it's Summer, consider putting on your rock shoes and leaving any extra gear back in the gully at this point since you'll descend the Beckey route and back down from the notch. Once you scramble up onto the rock slab, carefully head climbers left around the mountain and downhill a bit for a few hundred feet, navigating any remaining snow and water, until you drop onto a flat bench with trees. Continue along this bench, until you reach a distinct drop off and can go no further. The NW corner is now right above you and the first 5.5 pitch is back climbers right about 60 ft. Look for an easy left trending crack/gully system that leads to a ledge with trees and passes over the NW corner. This is the start. If you go back climbers right another 100 ft. you'll find an obvious chimney in a right facing corner. This is a 5.8 variation to the start, but I have no beta on this start.

Protection 

Standard rack with doubles in the finger sizes for the 4th pitch. Narrow cams (TCUs, C3s, Aliens) are useful. I used a green C3 camalot on the final pitch. Small nuts and/or offsets are useful but probably not mandatory. We didn't use anything larger than a number 3 camalot. 1 60 meter rope works fine.


Photos of NW Face Slideshow Add Photo
The Washington Pass spires from the West.  Liberty...
BETA PHOTO: The Washington Pass spires from the West. Liberty...
The flakes at the start of P3
BETA PHOTO: The flakes at the start of P3
Pitch 2
BETA PHOTO: Pitch 2

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