Northwest Face, Liberty Bell II+ 5.9
Avg time to climb route: 2-4 hours
Approach time: 2-3 hours
Descent time: 2-3 hours
Number of pitches: 7
Height of route: 600'
OverviewAround the corner and away from the crowds of the Becky Route, the Northwest Face is a short but more wild feeling route. Any climber, even those familiar with the Washington Pass region, will be surprised when they first venture over to the uncrowded North Face of Liberty Bell. In fact, itís hard to believe that the most popular route in the area is a few hundred yards away. The crux Pitch 3 offers fantastic climbing on sound rock. The second 5.8 pitch, while easier, can feel more challenging because of the spooky hollow-sounding flakes. This route is best attempted during the warmer part of the summer by climbers solid at the 5.8+ or 5.9 grades.
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Route HistoryHans Kraus and Jon Rupley made the first ascent in 1956. This pair had mostly climbed in the Northeast and Europe, and they couldnít believe they had discovered such an obvious classic with continuous cracks on sound rock. The route challenged them; the crux dihedral alone was a multi- hour effort. Hans Kraus was a famous Shawangunks climber who personally attended to President John F. Kennedy. Sandy Bill, Ron Burgner, Ian Martin, and Frank Tarver climbed the first free ascent in 1966.
StrategyChances are good that youíll have the route to yourself, even on a busy weekend. At most, you might encounter one other group. This route used to be considered stout 5.8+ but is actually closer to 5.9. On Pitch 1, it is strongly recommended that you climb the 5.5 groove and not the dirty 5.8 chimney. Pitch 3, which involves well-protected sustained climbing on solid rock, is the technical crux. However, Pitch 2, which requires lay backing and jamming up a series of fragile flakes, is certainly the mental crux. There is fairly solid if intermittent protection deep behind these flakes. Make sure to put long slings on your cams so you donít loose them. The more confident climber should lead this pitch. Once on top of the Northwest summit, scramble down and look for the not-super- obvious right trending 4th-5th class ramp system on the west face. There are many ways to get to the summit but this is by far the easiest.
The route doesnít get much sun and is very cold early in the season. It is also slow to dry out; wait at least a full day after a storm. During colder periods, the Northwest Face can have a coating of verglass and snow will linger. Most parties stash their extra gear at the junction where the approach leaves the Liberty Bell- Concord gully, as it is easier and quicker to retrieve from there. In addition, most parties donít carry their approach shoes up and over; they simply leave them at this junction and walk and scramble the 5-7 or so minutes to the base of the Northwest Face in their rock shoes.
Retreat StormThere are no fixed anchors and retreat means leaving gear. Having two ropes means losing less gear.
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