“The Beckey Route” (also called South West Face) on Liberty Bell is the most famous climb in the Liberty Bell Group and a alpine classic. It is a well sustained 5.7 climb and, as the name suggests, pioneered by climber Fred Beckey. There ares till some pitons from his ascent on the route! Start early on this climb to avoid crowds or come early season.

Eric and I began the approach from Blue Lake Trailhead along Highway 20 at 4:00am to get ahead of the crowds. We climbed North Early Winters Spire the day before so finding our way through the snowy forest went much quicker. The trail was covered in snow with tracks that zigzagged everywhere. Generally you have to head south until reaching a clearing where the spires become fully visible.

At the clearing one can not simply ascend straight up the slopes to Liberty Bell. There are huge slabs in the way of reaching the gulley (between Liberty Bell and Concord) directly. Instead we had to begin ascending further right bast there slabs and then cut across when we got above them. We wore crampons since the snow was hard in the early morning. Later season when the snow melts out there is a climbers trail through talus and boulders. We think the snow approach is easier.

The final gulley ascent to the notch between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower is very steep, but we did not feel to warranted roping up. Near the top we had to do a bit a light mixed climbing across some exposed rock, but nothing to technical. 50 feet below the notch the snow was melted out. We anchored our mountaineering packs on the rocks here using a picket as a stopper and geared up taking our food with us in summit packs (chipmunks). We contemplated where the route was located for some time. It is not at the top of the notch but below it along a narrow ledge beside a small snag. The area is a wind tunnel and is fully shaded most of the day. Bring layers!

Eric led the first pitch up finger cracks. The way is easy to find and fun. I would have enjoyed following up to the tree belay if my handed were freezing so badly!

Just below the tree belay the sound pitch begin at a chimney. This is the crux of the climb. There is a chockstone wedge in about teen feet up. If you do not get your left foot out on the obvious ledge to climbers left as quickly as possible your head will get wedge beneath the chockstone. There is some fixed sling on the chockstone here, but I wouldn’t trust them. I found this section difficult to do with a backpack and rack. Above this section the chimney continues. The going is easier, but having a rack on my harness made some of the squeezes more difficult for me. After the chimney ended I reached some low angle slabs. I anchored the the second highest snag and belayed Eric up.

Pitch 3 requires the most route finding. Afetr making a few wrong turns Eric made his way left over an easy face and delicate finger traverse. He belayed me from a nice tree ledge. Be sure to study the topo well before doing this pitch. We memorized it and still got confused. the key is to head left over the slabs.

Eric and I short roped a few yards on easy terrain to pitch 4, the former crux (before there were climbing shoes) of the route. Fred Becky did a famous shoulder stand to clear a 5.7 face known as a 12ft unprotected boulder problem. I led this pitch. I didn’t find the face very difficult… but i like friction climbing. After that the way was low fifth class. I anchored to a tree just below the summit and brought Eric up.

The summit is a 20ft scramble away over easy terrain. Again we were graced with some awesome views on this clear day! We were joined by two other parties a few minutes later… a quiet day on Liberty Bell.

The descent can be a bit tricky. We reverse route down-climbing to the top of pitch 3 (we down-climbed the boulder problem, but it would have been wiser to lower the first person and have the second shoulder stand to get down). We them headed left following a clear boot path through tree until we could walk right to a sloping ledge. We rappelled off fixed chains to another small ledge (will fit 4 people snugly) with chains. It is important on the second rappel that you aim more left as you come down or you will miss the notch and end up having to ascend the rope. Knot your ends!

We gathered our gear and headed out. We easily plunge stepped down the gulley did several glissades. Be sure aim left as you descend to avoid running into the slabs below. We reached the clearing and headed into the forest again. This time where were clear tracks to follow back to the car.

This route is rated five stars for a reason. Inspiring, sustained and fun climbing to an awesome summit!

Gear Notes:

1 set of nuts, Cams .5-3 inches (some doubles if you want, but not required), mid sized hexes, lots of slings (long pitches)

 

 

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