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     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)


LIBERTY BELL Route: Liberty Crack (V, 5.9-10d C2, 1200', 10-14p)

Category: Washington      Trip Report #s68 & 269
Partner (2009): Clint Cummins        Partner (2017): John Plotz
Rock Type: Granite
Summit Elev: 7,720 ft

Great partner + 1200 feet of steep granite + a warm, bugless, crowdless Steck & Roper Fifty Classic = Washington climbing at its best!!


Included on Steck & Roper's Fifty Classic list, Liberty Crack climbs the left edge of Liberty Bell's impressive 1200-foot tall east face. The crack becomes continuous only after the first 3 pitches, and after that the route features excellent climbing and surprisingly moderate terrain. Most parties aid Pitches 2 and 3 (which go at 5.13- and 5.11+ free, but C1 or C2 aid) and climb the rest free (the rest of the climbing is 5.10 or easier). Many parties will fix the first 3 pitches the day before the climb to the top; these pitches can be fixed with 2 60m ropes.

I first climbed Liberty Crack in August 2009 with my friend and climbing mentor Clint Cummins. Clint did the climb as a 2-day adventure, fixing the first 3 pitches the day before and climbing the route to the top the following day. I had done little aiding before this route, but Clint had a fair bit of aid experience. Clint aided all of the pitches that were 5.10 or harder; I jugged most of them, at the time not realizing that it would be easier (and more fun!) to just free all of them besides Pitches 2 and 3. I did do a bit of leading, leading all of the easier (5.8 or below) pitches. We arrived on the summit in the dark. I was ecstatic—I had just climbed Liberty Crack! One of the best routes in Washington!

Eight years later, in September 2017, I climbed this route again, with my friend and master of efficiency John Plotz. John had climbed this route six times and was happy to climb it again.  With no fixing, going with a lightweight aid setup for Pitches 2 and 3, and free climbing all pitches except Pitches 2 and 3, John and I climbed the route in just over 7 hours, or car-to-car in 10 hours. This was almost twice as fast as Clint and I had climbed it! This time around, I thoroughly enjoyed my leads and had a greater realization/appreciation of the quality of climbing on the route. It was amazing how much quicker and easier the route seemed this time. Pure fun this time around!

On both occasions, despite warm summer weather, we were the only party on the route.

This page contains both trip reports, side by side. Enjoy!


Aug 2009 Sept 2017
Photo overlay (click image to enlarge):

Clint's topo:

Labeled panorama of Liberty Bell group:
Photo overlay on aerial photo taken in February 2012 (click image to enlarge):


Aug 2009 Sept 2017
  • 2 60m ropes (10mm lead line and 8mm) (You can fix the first 3 pitches with 2 60m ropes.)
  • Doubles tips to #2 plus one #3, 1 1/2 sets of nuts (including micro)
  • 1 skyhook
  • 6 slings, 4 draws
  • We each had: 2 ascenders + 2 etriers + 2 daisy chains
  • 1 70m rope (we did not fix)
  • Doubles tips to #3 plus one #4 (includes a set of BD offsets), 1 set of nuts (including micro)
  • 8 slings, 4 draws
  • Steph (I jugged Pitches 2&3): 1 ascender + 1 easy aider + 1 daisy + 1 gri-gri; John (John led Pitches 2&3): 1.5 etriers + 2 easy daisy chains


Aug 2009 Sept 2017
Car to base ~1 hour 37 minutes
Fix first 3 pitches (afternoon before) 6 hours 45 minutes 0
Climb route 13 hours 15 minutes (jug first 3 pitches + climb to top) 7 hours 15 minutes
Descent (top to car) ? 1 hour 46 minutes
Total car-to-car ~18.5 hours (does not include time spent fixing the day before) 10 hours 2 minutes


Note: Various route topos show the route as anywhere between 10-14 pitches. In August 2009, Clint and I climbed the route in 12 pitches (plus the scramble to summit), as per Clint's topo above. This is similar to the SuperTopo breakdown. In September 2017, John and I climbed the route in 10 pitches, by combining Clint's pitches 7&8 and 11&12. This is similar to the pitch breakdown in Herrington's Cascades Rock.

Photos: Photo descriptions: Photos: Photo descriptions:
Aug 2009 Sept 2017
~45 min. The trail starts at a little pond next to HWY 20 just E of the cresting Washington Pass. Park near it (nice pullout on the north side of highway shortly east of pond). Skirt the left side of the pond and head up a path through the forest, eventually breaking out in talus field under the east face of Liberty Bell. The start of the route is obvious (look for the white streak through the roof 120 ft above the ground). The last portion of the approach has some snow until mid summer.
1-2. Some appropriate highway signs near the start of the trail.
1. Leaving HWY 20 at the entrance to the climbers' path up to the east side of Liberty Bell.
2. Hiking the boulder fields up to the base. The trail has gotten so much easier to find since I climbed the route with Clint in 2009.
4th or low 5th, 100 feet. From snow or talus at the base, scramble up an exposed but easy broken ramp (according to our topo, 4th on left, low 5th on right) to a belay spot below Pitch 1.

3. 3. We accessed the base of Pitch 1 by a broken ramp system on the left.
5.10d or C1+, 30m. Climb a steep right-facing dihedral and then up the thin splitter crack past a fixed pitons. Belay at a semihanging comfy stance on two fat bolts about 25 feet below the "Lithuanian Lip".
3. Steph at anchor at top of Pitch 1 after jugging up it on Day 2.
4. Looking up Pitch 1. John led this pitch and I followed. We mostly freed this pitch (i.e. no direct aid or jugging), with a few French free moves at some cruxy areas near the top.
5. Higher on Pitch 1.
C2 (or 5.13-), 25m. Move up the left facing dihedral (aid) toward the roof (aka Lithuanian Lip). Clip a bolt and fixed pin and aid the single crack over the strenuous roof. Follow a thin crack and bolts above to another semihanging good stance with fat bolts.
4. Clint aiding Lithuanian Lip on Day 1. About 5 minutes later he took a 20ft whipper over the edge when a piece in a rather flaring placement pulled. Thankfully it was an airy fall, and Clint made it look graceful.
6. John leading the Lithuanian Lip.
7. Looking out from under the Lip while following it. I followed this part on belay clipping into the bolt and gear to get through the roof, and then began jugging when I got to the lip.
8. Looking up latter half of the pitch above the Lip.
C2 (or 5.11+), 25m. Move up and slightly left from belay following fixed pins and heads. There is an optional hook placement in a pocket. The pitch finishes with a short section of crack and a mandatory single exit free move onto a stance with belay bolts.
5. Looking up Pitch 3 from near the bolt anchor as we jug up on Day 2. Real Jumars! (Photo by Clint) 
C2 hook move about halfway up pitch. (Photo by Clint)
9. John leading Pitch 3.
10. There are a few fixed heads in Pitch 3.
11. I followed with a 1 aider + gri-gri setup. It's easy to get away with this style for a less-than-vertical 2 pitches of jugging.
12. Offset cams work well in the old pin scars on this route.
5.10c, 20m. Move up the crack which is mostly 5.9 hand but has a 5.10 crux near the top just as rock quality deteriorates. Belay from beefy bolts on a small ledge.
7. Steph freeing the pitch (fun!), just above the 5.10 section.
13. Looking up Pitch 4.
14. John nearing the top of Pitch 4.
5.8+, 45m. Climb a steep crack/dihedral system with some loose blocks and flakes. The pitch starts as a narrow chimney. The crack is wide at times, but smaller gear can be found. This is a long pitch and sustained at the grade. Exit right onto a small ledge stance and two bolts.
8. Steph leading the steep groove. 15. 15. Looking up Pitch 5. This pitch is fairly sustained 5.8.
5.10d, 35m. Climb a right-facing corner with loose blocks and bushes. Lieback right to a top of the "Rotten Block" which overhangs the dihedral. Either climb (aid?) the left side of the block on fixed pins or climb the right side at 5.10d with a new protection bolt. Assuming the Rotten Block stays in place, there is a great belay seat atop the Rotten Block with two bolts.
9. Looking up the pitch from near the anchor. You can see Clint sitting on top of the Rotten Block. 
Clint at the belay on top of the Rotten Block.
16. Looking down from my belay seat on top of the Rotten Block. I really enjoyed leading this pitch.
17. John laybacking the final move around the Rotten Block. There is a nice bolt here to protect the move. I am not sure if this bolt was there in 2009 (Clint had aided around the left side of the block).
(in 2009, did this as 3 pitches
(in 2017, did this as 2 pitches
There are several ways to break up this section of the route, so I have grouped it together. In 2009, we climbed it as 3 pitches (as per Clint's topo), and in 2017 we climbed it as 2 pitches (as per Herrington's Cascades Rock).

5.10d, ~20m. Climb right awkwardly (10d) in the flaring chimney around the rotten block. Continue up an easier (5.9) left-facing corner ramp. Clip a bolt (optional belay), and...

5.10a, ~10m. Continue over an overlap (10a) onto the ramp above to a stance with a piton and crack. Or continue onward...

5.8, ~25m. Move up and left following a cool juggy quartz features to a ledge with a large tree below a chimney. Depending on if you have stopped to belay or not yet, either belay here or continue onward....

5.6, ~30m. Climb the chimney (5.6). Belay above from large trees at the base of a (initially) low angle, left-facing dihedral.
11. Steph jugging up corner on Pitch 7. Nice shadow of Liberty Bell below. 
12. Clint below the tricky move over the overlap. We had set an intermediate belay at the single bolt to make this first pitch very short. 
13. Looking down from the belay ledge above the juggy quartz features and the 5.6 chimney. This was our Pitch 8.
14. Clint at the belay below the 5.6 chimney, which was our Pitch 9.
18. John just past the burly crux moves at the start of Pitch 7.
19. The overlap onto a ramp above. In 2009, we had belayed just below this overlap, but this time we combined it with the previous section.
20. An old piton in the ramp. There are lots of old pitons on this route.
21. Looking up at the 5.6 chimney section. This was on Pitch 8. John had extended Pitch 7 all the way up to the ledge below the chimney.
22. A broken tree at the belay at the top of the chimney (this is not the same tree as in the photo of Clint to the left), but rather at a belay ledge above the chimney.
21. A smoky view out towards the Wine Spires. Summer 2017 was a bad one for fires in Washington and BC.
5.9, 60m. Climb an excellent left-facing corner (some fixed pins). It might be easier to step left shortly before the dead snag and then step right just above it, but maintaining the corner works as well and is great climbing. Continue upwards and belay at a tree. 
15. Steph free climbing the 5.9 corner. This is one of the finest pitches of the route.
24. Looking up the corner from the ledge with the broken tree.
25. John climbing the first half of the corner. (I had linked this part of the pitch in with the previous, but I would suggest just belaying at the nice ledge with the broken tree and leading the corner was one pitch, which is how the pitch is described in most route descritpions/topos).
26. John leading the second half of this pitch. He stayed in the corner the whole way, but it might be easier to step left for a few moves just before the snag and then go back into the corner.
(in 2017, simul-climbed with next)
4th to 5.7. Climb up a low-angle corner which ends in easier terrain on the shoulder of Liberty Bell. 
16. Steph at the belay at the tree at the top of the pitch.

27. Near the start of the pitch.
28. Easy 4th class traverse to the rappel anchors.
(in 2017, simul-climbed with previous)
3rd-4th. Traverse easy gravel ledges left to intersection with Beckey Route. 
17. Easy 4th class traverse to anchors or to intersect Beckey route. The summit is above to the right.
4th-5.6. To Summit: Follow last pitch of Beckey Route to summit (mostly 4th with a short section of 5.6 slab).
To top rap anchor: Continue traversing roughly level until you see a double bolt rap anchor on a steep wall (look down a bit).

18. Twilight from the summit. 
Clint on the summit. Success! Now, for the descent....
Since John and I had both already been to the summit of Liberty Bell a few times, we felt no pressing need to tag it, so instead we headed directly to the rap station.
Downclimb last pitch of Beckey Route to a double bolt rap anchor on a steep wall overlooking the Liberty Bell-Concord Tower notch (look down a bit to spot it). Make two 25m rappels (second is on a bolted rap anchor as well) into the Liberty Bell-Concord Tower notch. Hike down the notch (snow or unpleasant scree) to the climbers trail running along the base of the west faces of the Liberty Bell formations. Hike it down until the junction with the main Blue Lake Trail is encountered (about 1 hour from notch). Turn right onto Blue Lake Trail and follow it (30-45 minutes) until the highway becomes visible as the trail makes a sharp left turn. Leave the trail and hike directly to the highway. Hike along the highway about 1 mile back to your car near the pond (of if you have 2 cars, park a car at a small pullout on the north side of the highway near where you exit the trail).
20. Clint rappelling into the darkness.
29. At the top rap anchor.
30. Scrambling down the Liberty Bell - Concord gully. We ran into another team that had climbed the NW Face of Liberty Bell.
31. Late afternoon sun and smoke from forest fires. It had cleared up a bit as the day had gone on.
32-33. John stopped to pee and the mountain goats came running.
34. Back on the road, 10 hours after we left it.