Beckey Route, Liberty Bell II 5.7-

   
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Washington Pass, Washington, USA

  • Currently 5.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 1-4 hours
Approach time: 1.5-3 hours
Descent time: 1.5-3 hours
Number of pitches: 4
Height of route: 400'
Overview
The Beckey Route is one of the finest moderate routes in the state, and popular as an introduction to alpine or multi-pitch rock climbing. While technically named the South West Race, itís universally referred to as The Beckey Route. It clean, solid and the easiest way up Liberty Bell, one of the Cascades most iconic mountains. Even if youíre the most hardened alpinist, you have to climb The Beckey Route at least once. Or twice?
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Route History
Considered one of the great prizes of the range, the route was first climbed by Fred Beckey, Jerry OíNeal and Charles Walsh on September 27 1946, 26 years before the North Cascades Highway opened. The trio had to hike in 16 miles along Early Winters Creek where the highway would one day sit. Looking up at the massive east faces of the Liberty Bell group was both inspiring and intimidating. After their hike, Beckey, OíNeal and Walsh bivied near Washington Pass. Their original plan was to attempt something on the north side of Liberty Bell but the face proved to be inaccessible with the equipment they had at that time. The next day the group headed around to the west face, hoping to find an easy, or at least short, path to the summit. What they found was a possible passage up the imposing mountain. Beckey led the first two pitches without any problems, then a series of chimneys with good cracks led to a more difficult section. Here Welsh gave Beckey a tight belay as he climbed a narrow overhanging crack with a piton for protection. Fred describes ďA 10-foot finger traverse on a sharp sillĒ that led to continually more slabby and exposed climbing. Fred describes ďAll the holds were sloping the wrong way.Ē Beckey was forced to lay back the section, forcing his boots onto the rock. He claims that looking at a long fall, he climbed crab like, jamming his hands and feet in the crack. Finally reaching a comfortable belay ledge, he was able to breathe easier. On the trioís forth and final pitch, there was a short wall defending the final stretch to the summit. Beckey stood on his partnerís shoulders to maneuver past the step. This became another famous Beckey move. They finished with a scramble to the summit.


Strategy
This route is sustained at 5.6 but well- protected, making it a good choice for those wishing to break into the grade. The exception is the final 5.7 but itís more a like a 10-foot boulder problem and soft for the grade. Big crowds are nearly guaranteed on weekends when itís not uncommon to see four to ten parties converge on a single day. Even mid-week itís not out of the question for two to six parties here. This route is an especially popular choice for larger climbing clubs, which only adds to the crowding. Take this likely wait into consideration when choosing to climb this route, and be patient with the other groups. Pass the time while you wait by climbing one of the three moderate routes on Concord Tower, the North Face, the Patriot Cracks or the Tunnel Route. If there is a lineup and you decide not to wait and want to climb Liberty Bell, consider climbing The Girl Next Door (II 5.9-) Rapple Grapple (II 5.8) or the Over Exposure route (II 5.8).

On the Beckey Route, there are three possible starts and two recommended starts to help pass slower parties on the ground. Once atop the Pitch 1, you can always climb Rapple Grapple or continue up the standard route. There is no good way to pass on Pitch 2 of the Beckey Route. From the top of Pitch 2 you can always pass by climbing Pitch 3 of The Girl Next Door that shares the same belay ledge. All the routes funnel up to the final 5.7- boulder problem on Pitch 4. Above that, the climbing becomes mostly 3rd class.

Pitch 1 has two possible starts: the Tunnel that is easier, but the outside start is a little more fun and makes the route feel more sustained. The ledge at the top of Pitch 1 is large, so be sure to accommodate other parties on it. Because of the Beckey shoulder stand, climbing lore calls the upper boulder problem the crux, but after climbing the route most people believe the crux to be the chimney at the start of Pitch 2. The key is to not get sucked inside so high that your head gets stuck under the chockstone (there are many hug jugs in there that suck you in). To avoid this, put your left leg out on a ledge and move out left as soon as possible onto a small stance. Pitch 3 requires a little bit of route finding, so study the topo well before leading it for the first time. Look for the fixed pitons and make the delicate finger traverse that made Fred Beckey nervous in 1946. The final section is a mix of lay backing and face climbing up a right trending corner up past a couple ledges and the belay. Because of the close proximity of the base of the route to where you rappel down, it is not necessary to carry your approach shoes/boots up and over this route. This route dries out quickly after a storm and is one of the first climbable routes in the spring.

Retreat Storm
You can easily rappel Pitch 1 with one 60m rope from slung trees. After Pitch 2, you need two 60m ropes and can rappel from a stout tree/bush that usually doesnít have a sling on it. After Pitch 3, retreat via the normal descent route, even in the harshest storm, if you take your time. From the top, reverse the climbing route to the gully which begins at the top of Pitch 3 and takes you to the rappels.
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Source: SuperTopo Guidebook Staff
Liberty Bell - Beckey Route II 5.7- - Washington Pass, Washington, USA. Click to Enlarge
Liberty Bell Beckey Route
Photo: Kurt Hicks
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