Oh Fred Beckey…

Climbing the Liberty Bell via the famous 'Beckey Route'.

JUMP TO:  Route Description • Photo Album

I found myself in Washington for a week visiting my sister-in-law, whom happens to be an avid adventurer.  With roots in mountaineering, she was kind enough to accompany me on the Rainier send train and a nice day hike up Mt. St. Helens.  Wildfires were ravaging the state of Washington and complicated nabbing other peaks, so we opted to switch things up a bit and take our alpine rack to the rock.  Having never been on a multi-pitch climb, she was both excited and nervous to take a stab at it but game for the challenge.  We selected an uber classic in the North Cascades of Washington, a feature I have been drooling over for years now – the coveted Liberty Bell.  The Liberty Bell draws its fame from recognition as home to one of the 50 classic climbs of north america (1979 book by Allen Steck and Steve Roper), the Liberty Crack.  Considering it would be slightly irresponsible to teach the art of multi-pitch climbing on a grade V, 5.9 A2, we opted for the more casual moderate, ‘Beckey Route’.

The view from the summit of Liberty Bell. Liberty Bell via 'Beckey Route' - North Cascades, WA.

The view from the summit of Liberty Bell.

The ‘Beckey Route’, takes a circuitous line up the Liberty Bell’s SW face for a meager four pitches, dropping climbers off to an unrivaled scenic summit plateau with jaw dropping panoramic views of the surrounding peaks of the North Cascades.  Combine the moderate 5.6 grade of the route and the mellow 2.5 mile approach, you have the makings of a party line.  Geared up with this knowledge, we had zero expectations of having the route to ourselves, even on a Tuesday.  As we hustled up the approach gully between the Liberty Bell and Concord Tower, the voices of climbers on route confirmed these expectations.  At it’s base we counted a guided group of four, a group of three, and a group of two climbers before us.  And so there we queued for the party line.  Thankfully the climbers directly before us and directly following us were competent and incredibly pleasant to chat with at belays, so it was all in good fun.

Location

Blue Lake Trailhead, Washington Pass (WA-20) – North Cascades, WA.

 

Guidebook

Getting There / Approach

From Washington Pass, park at the Blue Lake trailhead (forest pass required). Follow the Blue Lake trail, a very defined trail for 1.5 miles and then depart up a climber’s trail to the left.  Do not depart up a climber’s trail until you clearly see the notch dividing the Liberty Bell and Concord Tower, there are lots of false climber’s trails.  Follow this climber’s trail up the gully (snow in winter/spring and loose rock in summer – helmet!) for a little less than one mile to the notch.  From the notch proceed to Liberty Bell on climber’s left of gully (Concord Tower is on climber’s right). Scramble left along a rock and down 30′ to the start of the ‘Beckey Route’, an obvious chimney system with a tunnel.

The approach gully culminating with Liberty Bell on climber's left and Concord Tower on climber's right.

The approach gully culminating with Liberty Bell on climber’s left and Concord Tower on climber’s right.

Beckey Route (5.6+, 4 pitches)

Leonie standing at point where you down climb 20' to the start of the first pitch of the 'Beckey Route' on the Liberty Bell.

Leonie standing at the point where you down climb 20′ to the start of the first pitch of the ‘Beckey Route’ on the Liberty Bell.

P1 (5.4, 130′) – climb the obvious chimney with a tunnel.  Easy and quick.  Belay from an obvious tree on a nice ledge.

Looking up P1 at the tunnel section of the chimney. Liberty Bell via 'Beckey Route' - North Cascades, WA.

Looking up P1 at the tunnel section of the chimney.

P2 (5.5, 130′) – climb another obvious chimney (5.6) and step out left as soon as possible to avoid getting suckered in to the chimney where jugs are aplenty. There are jugs everywhere. Enter a groove and exit over a bulge out left to your belay on a tree.

Looking up P2. Liberty Bell via 'Beckey Route' - North Cascades, WA.

Looking up P2.

P3 (5.6+, 120′) – climb class four terrain to the base of the famously delicate six-foot horizontal finger crack traverse left and then up the right of two cracks to the right facing corner. Turn the corner and belay from a tree. This places you at the shoulder of the summit. I found this airy pitch to be the crux of the route.

Looking up P3. IMO this was the crux. Liberty Bell via 'Beckey Route' - North Cascades, WA.

Looking up P3. IMO this was the crux.

P4 (5.6, 200′) – move belay up and beneath the obvious slab (4th class).  Climb the 12′ slab section (Beckey’s defined crux) and then scramble up to the breathtaking summit (5.easy).

The crux of P4, 12' of unprotected 5.6 slab. Liberty Bell via 'Beckey Route' - North Cascades, WA.

The crux of P4, 12′ of unprotected 5.6 slab.

GEAR: 

DESCENT:

This was a bit tricky.  From the summit, down climb the entire fourth pitch returning to the tree at the top of P3. Facing the summit and looking down to your right, you will see a gully.  Travel down this gully, noting that the rappels (two in total) will be dropping you off right back at the notch and follow a fairly straight line.  About 40′ down from the top of P3, you should see a very large and solid rock face on skiers right.  The bolted rappel anchors are hidden on the far skier’s right of this rock outcrop and you literally can not see them until you are down there.  Once these are located, rap down to the next set of bolted rappel anchors on an obvious ledge with a tree. This final rappel drops you off right back at the notch.

Photo Album (pitch-by-pitch beta sponge bath)

Article by

Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 110 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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