Freedom Rider, Liberty Bell V 5.10d or 5.11b
Avg time to climb route: 6-10 hours
Approach time: 1-2 hours
Descent time: 1-2 hours
Number of pitches: 14
Height of route: 1,200'
OverviewDescribed by the Steve Swenson, former president of the American Alpine Club as his favorite climb in the Cascades, Freedom Rider was the first entirely free route up the east face of Liberty Bell. It is a burly, all free route on an amazing wall. Freedom Rider is not for climbers looking to break into the grade. Long and tiring with a fair amount of loose rock and short run outs, it is a true adventure climb. Two crux options let the climber slightly tailor the route to his or her strengths. Both the techy, thinly protected corner and the thuggish offwidth are good and Medusa’s Roof is spectacular and shouldn’t be missed by jumping onto Liberty Crack at mid-height. The route is still given a Grade V even though most parties complete the route in a day. Liberty Crack is also a grade V and Freedom Rider takes at least one and a half as much effort to climb as Liberty Crack.
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Route HistorySteve Risse and Bryan Burdo climbed this route in August 1988. The upper portion of the route had been climbed earlier in the summer by Burdo and Risse, starting out originally as a variation of the upper section of Liberty Crack beginning on Pitch 9. Risse was working on Tooth and Claw and Burdo was establishing routes on the now-illegal Overlook Wall. They had looked up at the many of the features on the upper portion of Liberty Bell, including the ominous Medusa’s Roof, wondering if they could be free climbed. Before they started up all the two climbers knew was they had been aided before at A4. The face traverse to the roofs looked blank and they were unsure they could connect to the corner below the roofs. To their surprise, it was easy but runout 5.7 climbing. The massive Madusa’s Roof, which they even had bigger doubts about, was an even bigger surprise. After another moderate 5.10a pitch the climbers were staring up at the roof. A wide chimney split the intimidating feature. Burdo and Risse climbed through the Madusa’s Roof by an incredibly exposed and spectacular horizontal traverse, feet on one side, back on the other, looking down the east face of Liberty bell. There was a 5.8 chimney out and through the roof. They couldn’t believe it and were happy with the quality of their new variation.
Risse and Burdo returned to find an alternate start in hopes of making an entirely separate line. They started up the corner 150 feet to the left of Liberty Crack on the southeast corner of the wall. They climbed upwards as challenging but never extreme climbing unfolded before them. Pitch 3 looked challenging – a thin technical corner on the left or a steep 5-8” crack loomed above them. Burdo wasn’t sure if he would have to aid the crux corner, but he picked the left side because it appeared to suit his strengths. Near the top of the pitch the climbing grew more challenging when Burdo, ”the king of the lateral move,” managed to traverse right under a roof and complete the pitch onsite. Risse and Burdo bivied on a small ledge on the top of Pitch 5. The next day the climbers traversed onto Liberty Crack for a few pitches before repeating their variation through the Medusa’s Roof, making the first ascent of Freedom Rider. After they completed the ascent, Burdo called it probably the best 5.8 he ever led. A few years later Risse put the bolts on the traverse in on Pitch 9
StrategyStart early as this is a long and sustained route, and it’s easy to underestimate the difficulties. The climbing rarely lets up, Hauling the first eight pitches is easy, but hauling on the last four pitches is challenging. The final 300 vertical feet above the last pitch is exposed mostly 3rd and sometimes 4th class climbing. Go light en... [full history for SuperTopo members only!]
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