Climbing the Liberty Bell via the famous ‘Beckey Route’.
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 ‘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.
Blue Lake Trailhead, Washington Pass (WA-20) – North Cascades, WA.
- ‘Washington Pass Climbing’, by Ian Nicholson and Chis McNamara
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.
Beckey Route (5.6+, 4 pitches)
P1 (5.4, 130′) – climb the obvious chimney with a tunnel. Easy and quick. Belay from an obvious tree on a nice ledge.
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.
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.
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).
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.