4. Liberty Bell

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Jun 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Illustration by Olivier Kugler

* SUMMIT ELEVATION: 7,720 feet
* SNAPSHOT: Technical climbing thrills with backyard access

IN THE NORTH Cascades, rising from the damp deciduous forests south of Washington Pass, is the immense granite dome of Liberty Bell. This classic objective adds multipitch rock climbing and a thrilling 150-foot rappel to your bag of tricks. Clip into pitons originally placed in 1946 by first-ascent artist Fred Beckey himself, the patron saint of Cascade climbing. "It has all the great challenges of an alpine climb: high altitude and elevation in a wilderness environment," says Steve House, a big-wall vet who lives in the Bell's shadow. Even better, the approach is a blessedly short 2.5-mile hike, just off the scenic North Cascades Highway—a far sight better than Beckey's original 16-mile slog. Now you can knock off Liberty Bell and enjoy a beer in Seattle later the same day. If only climbing gyms could be this cool.

** The Route
"Distinctly sporting climbing, consistently interesting, but nothing severe, on quite sound rock," said Fred of his namesake climb, the four-pitch BECKEY ROUTE. Rated 5.7, it's one of the best moderate rock climbs in the country, involving a full quiver of techniques: edging and chimney, crack, and friction-slab climbing. From the Blue Lake Trailhead (5,200 feet), off Highway 20, hike 2.5 miles to the north face of Liberty Bell. It's not quite time to tie in; first you'll zigzag up and into the gully between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower. When you reach a small tree, break out the ropes. The ascent starts easy but gets tougher as you approach a crack leading to a small roof, where the angle steepens. Clip into the fixed piton, take a deep breath, and Tarzan left to work your way around the overhang. You've got one more tester: a 12-foot section of 5.7 slab, greasy as pomade, that will put your footwork on full display. Once you're clear, enjoy the 5.0 granite cakewalk to the summit at 7,720 feet. You're now a card-carrying rock star.

GUIDE North Cascades Mountain Guides leads two-day alpine rock clinics on the Beckey Route. Spend a day going over proper belay technique, rope management, route finding, and crack, face, and chimney climbing before roping up and scaling the route yourself the next day. ($300 per person, or $200 per person with a group; 509-996-3194, www.ncmountainguides.com)

Dance through crux moves in BOREAL's ACES. Sticky soles make short work of friction slabs, while all-day comfort keeps your feet from screaming "Mercy!" on long routes. ($150; 949-493-3464, www.borealusa.com) The BLACK DIAMOND BOD harness is simple, reliable, and easy to enter and exit while wearing crampons. ($50; 801-278-5533, Black Diamond) Protect yourself from rockfall with PETZL's ECRIN ROC polycarbonate helmet. ($74; 801-327-3805, www.petzl.com)

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