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Barber's Pole TR


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While Mr. Peru and I were scrambling up the eye-opening "Beckey 4th Class" approach to the Barber's Pole route, I reminded myself that leeches are realtively rare on the NE face of Liberty Bell. I was also hopeful that there would be no major bloodletting going on that day.


See, I had this weird bit of historical trivia stuck in my head:


Back in the Middle Ages, barbers not only cut hair, but performed minor surgeries and did bloodletting. Back when bloodletting was seen as the solution to all problems, the barber-surgeons had a tall pole alongside the barber's chair. Patients grasped the pole so the veins in their forearms would stand out clearly, thus allowing the barbers to easily cut into the veins and apply leeches. On top of the pole was a bowl used to hold the leeches and catch blood.


After the bloodlettings, the bandages would be hung on the white pole, which was then displayed outside the shop where the bloody bandages would twirl in the wind and catch the eye of potential customers. Over time, painted poles with balls at both ends symbolizing the blood and leech basins replaced the actual bloody bandage-covered poles. Hence the origin of the modern spiral-striped barber pole:




After some scary scrambling, the route begins with a long (maybe 350 feet?) traverse trending up and left along a narrowing ramp system that ends with an exciting blind lieback that leaves you on M&M ledge. At this point, the route joins Thin Red Line. From M&M ledge, the routes goes up a cool clean lieback ramp with hand and finger pockets, then up a corner crack to some face climbing and a really fun hand traverse and mantle out from under a huge flat block. A great pitch. The next pitch goes up corners, sweet solid hand cracks, and a short chimney to a slab underneath huge roofs.


The crux pitch traverses right across the slab, around an arete, then up a short pillar to a flaring hand crack. I put gear in before going around the arete, which was a mistake that cost me some rope drag later on. But I didn't like the potential for a 30+ foot pendulum directly onto the belay, and I didn't know if there was good gear around the corner (there is). After the flaring hand crack, the angle eases off and there is several hundred feet of easy terrain to the top.


While Burdo puts the Barber Pole route on his "Unrecommended List" as loose with poor protection, this is a fun adventure route. There is a lot of moderate climbing with huge exposure as you wrap around Liberty Bell onto the sheer East Face. While there is plenty of looseness, the harder pitches are quite solid and the position is great. There is a lot of traversing and some serious pendulum potential in places, and for that same reason it's a fairly committing climb for the grade because there is no easy way to retreat in the event of bad weather, injury, etc. If you pitch out all the 5th class, it's 8 pitches. If you simul most of the 5.6-7 you can do it in three leads plus 2 long simulclimbing pitches. Overall, I'd give it thumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gifthumbs_up.gif out of 5.


And no, I'm happy to say we encountered no leeches and there was no bloodletting on the Barber Pole that day.

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Nice! I climbed the route a few weeks ago and enjoyed it as well. On some of the pitches you have to be a little careful routefinding to avoid the granola granite.


I remember there being a lot of loose stuff on the approach up Bong... I wasn't so worried about falling as I was worried about kicking rocks on the people below me (we were a party of four).


The route does give you tremendous position on a steep face:



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