Liberty Traverse, South Early Winters Spire V 5.8-5.11a
Avg time to climb route: 4-12 hours
Approach time: 1.5-3 hours
Descent time: 1.5-3 hours
Number of pitches: 24
Height of route: 2,000'
OverviewThere are many ways to do the Liberty Bell Traverse. This description is the most popular and has little if any backtracking, so it feels more like a traverse rather than just tagging all the summits. This is one of the most fun and classic outings in the Cascades. It also isnít as committing as many other large traverses in the Cascade Range since if you tire, simply finish the tower you are on, descend, and call it a day.
AKA: The Five Spires and The Bell Traverse
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StrategyThe traditional starts are the Beckey Route, Rapple Grapple, or The Girl Next Door, whichever is less crowded. It is a slightly purer traverse to start on the Northwest Face of Liberty Bell and cut nearly all the back tracking, but because the Northwest Face is one of the coldest routes in the area and is often miserably cold early in the morning, most people start with a south-facing route. Climb one of them to the top and descend the normal way on Liberty Bell, returning to the Liberty Bell-Concord Tower notch. Since youíll be returning to the notch, this is the one time you donít have to carry all your gear with you.
Ascend the North Face of Concord Tower. If itís crowded, consider taking the Cave Route or the Patriot Cracks to the summit. From the summit of Concord Tower, rappel right off the summit to south. Make two 30m raps (one 60m rope required) down the South Face on bolts with chains until you reach the larger ledge from which you can easily walk/scramble down to the Lexington-Concord Col. Walk the short distance across the Concord-Lexington Notch to the start of the North Face Route on Lexington. Ascend the North Face Route to the summit.
From the summit of Lexington, descend 20 feet east until you are can rappel 30m down to the ledge where the East Face and Tooth and Claw top out. Look to the south to a large flat area on the ridge crest: thatís your destination. From the bottom of the rappel, head due west a short distance down a steep scree gully. Until you can cross over a few short 3rd class ribs and traverse down and left aiming for the large flat section in the ridge. Once on the large flat section, head to the far south end and rappel 20m off a tree to a scree-covered slope. Walk along the crest for a short distance until you can drop down a gully that angles toward the northwest edge of North Early Winters Spire and the start of the West Face and the Northwest Corner.
On North Early Winters Spire the traditional ways are to take the Northwest Corner or the West Face because there is no backtracking. The West Face is obviously the most difficult but you donít have to carry extra big cams, but the Northwest Corner is easier. If you just want to bag every tower rather than completing the Bell Traverse, then ascending and descending the Chockstone Route is an option, but less aesthetic because of the complete backtrack.
Regardless of how you get there from the summit of North Early Winters Spire, descend west until you see a notch on your left with a tree with slings at the top. Make three single rope rappels (with 60m rope) off of fixed gear to a loose, sandy gully and descend the gully 150 feet until it cliffs out. Make a spectacular rappel off two bolts over the house-sized chockstone you didnít even realize you where standing on. Scramble down another short, loose sandy section and make one last short rappel to the ground. Two hundred feet around the corner to your right is the base of the route.
From the base, walk over to the base of the Southwest Rib of South Early Winters Spire. Why climb the Southwest Rib instead of the South ArÍte? No backtracking and itís the best 5.8 in the state.
From the summit of South Early Winters Spire, descend the South ArÍte. For this descent most parties take about 40 minutes to an hour. If youíve never climbed or descended the South ArÍte before, it will most likely take you an additional 20 to 60 minutes.
To descend the ArÍte, down climb semi-exposed 4th class due south from the summit to the wide, sandy gully that divides the summit and South ArÍte. Walk and scramble down this for about 70 feet on the left side of the gully until you can climb a ten-foot 4th class step back onto the ArÍte crest. From the crest, descend 2nd and 3rd class for another 100 vertical feet to the White Camel, a 30-foot 5.0 traverse with a bolt hidden on its right side (some might want a belay). Next, continue down more 2nd and 3rd class though a notch until you reach a steep step. Down climb this 5.4 step to a large ledge. Some like to belay the second down while they place gear to protect the leader while they down climb. Walk along this unexposed sandy ledge for 70 horizontal feet with a steep wall on your left until you can scramble down another 3rd class gully. Youíll reach a large ledge with rappel slings around a small tree. From here, make three rappels or down climb. The final rappel to the ground is quite hard for 5.5. One 50m or 60m rope works great. Two ropes generally donít help out for the descent because of the low angle/traversing nature of the South ArÍte.
Retreat StormIf your party is moving slow or getting tired, you can descend from the base of any spire and call it a day.
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