Serpentine Crack, Liberty Bell III 5.11b/c

   
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Washington Pass, Washington, USA

  • Currently 4.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 2.5-4 hours
Approach time: 2-3 hours
Descent time: 2-3 hours
Number of pitches: 8
Height of route: 600'
Overview
The Serpentine Crack, though a classic, is not frequently attempted. This has more to do with the grade than the quality of climbing. The Serpentine Crack is best characterized by its two well-protected and stylistically opposite challenging pitches. One pitch is steep and thuggy, the other technical and delicate. The unique, horizontal keyhole chimney on Pitch 5 also contributes to the route’s quality. The route has typically been either over or under graded. Pitch 2 used to be called 5.11d or 5.11a and is more likely to check in at around 5.11b/c. Pitch 3 used to be 5.10a or 5.10+, but it is no harder than 5.10c and probably is 5.10b. Both these pitches are extremely well-protected and are a great place for climbers to push themselves at the grade. The cruxes are on solid rock and the route has fantastic position on the mountain.
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Route History
Serpentine Crack was first climbed by Fred Beckey, Doug Lean and David Wagner in July of 1967. The trio had contemplated climbing what Beckey and Lean would climb together and become the Direct East Buttress on SEWS the Following year. Wagner, Lean and Beckey even went so far as walking up to the base of the soaring buttress on South Early Winters Spire to scope it out. This was Beckey’s second first ascent on the West Face of Liberty Bell after climbing the West Face with John Rupley in June of 1958. The ascent of the Serpentine Crack was very challenging with most of the middle of the route being entirely done on direct aid and the original ascent used over 35 pitons.

Strategy
Crowds are extremely unlikely, even on a busy weekend. Pitch 1 is a little dirty, isn’t super obvious, is long and can have bad rope-drag. The second and crux pitch is short but awesome – steep hands to fist jamming out a steeply bulging corner. Stem to conserve energy and then punch it over lip (5.11b/c) when the climbing gets steeper and the stemming more difficult. Once at the lip, reach up and over for a locker Thank God hand jam. Three 3” and two 4” pieces are advised for people who think they might be hang-dogging this pitch. The difficulty comes more from the p...   [full history for SuperTopo members only!]

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