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[TR] Liberty Bell - Liberty Crack 7/9/2011

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Trip: Liberty Bell - Liberty Crack


Date: 7/9/2011


Trip Report:

(Pictures to come, when I figure out how to upload them as I keep getting error messages)

If you want a Liberty Crack trip report, look elsewhere. There is plenty already written about the route, the fixed gear, and on and on. Instead this is a story about how I came to have a climbing shoe wrapped in an old hat while descending off of Liberty Bell. It is a story about failure.

This story begins in 1999, when –having moved from the East Coast—I first learned of Liberty Crack. At twenty, I was strong and still fairly stupid. Sitting in my dorm room in March, my roommate and I decided that we would climb this line. Not having any sense for what that meant while it was still technically winter, we packed a huge duffle bag which we planned to use as a haul bag and drove north from Portland to meet what would have most likely been our deaths if it hadn’t been for the blessed hand of the Washington Department of Transportation. We discovered that those jerks had gated the road at Diablo (What? They close this road in the winter time?), and we turned around befuddled and aggravated. At this point in time, my buddy hit a patch of black ice while driving a bit too fast—perhaps motivated by the plaintive sounds of the Allman Brothers “Sweet Melissa” on the radio, which I still remember—and we were literally launched into the snow bank and came to rest several feet above the roadway. Right side up but a bit banged up, my Subie was more than high centered. Climbing out through the windows as the doors were pinned shut, we quickly realized we were in quite a problematic situation. By the grace of the big G-O-D, a Seattle City Light truck passed by and yanked the car down from the perch it was on, and we limped the six hours home with the car shuddering and vibrating eerily the whole time, all the while wondering how we were going to explain this outcome to our friends.

Three years later, I returned in September with another friend (having learned my lessons about climate in the Northwest) to finally climb this plum. The plan was to fix the first three pitches, rap, and then send the route the next day. Again I got schooled by what I didn’t know. Aiding the first two pitches took nearly forever, and I found that we had run out of daylight by the time we had reached the base of the third pitch. We rapped, retreated to the truck, and slept uneasily thinking about the next day. The following morning the skies had darkened considerably, and we found ourselves watching the clouds moving in as we jugged the lines (using tiblocs to save weight—oy!). Looking up at the fixed heads on pitch three caused a sphincter or two to clench. I was secretly relieved when it started to spit on us, and we bailed having been saved the experience of aiding those tiny, mashed bits of alloy. Back at the truck, the skies over Washington Pass ripped apart, and it was immediately clear that we had made the right choice. Once again the outcome was failure.

This is all by way of prefacing “the choice” that was made this past weekend. I returned again to make good on climbing this line, a journey begun over a decade ago. With more experience and skill, we quickly dispatched the first four pitches. At this point in time, the two fine gentlemen, Zach(?) and Dave, had caught up to us having started two hours after us. At the top of pitch five, after some friendly conversation, one pointed out to me that I had only one boot clipped to the back of my harness. At some point during the previous pitch, the left one have popped off the ‘biner and bounced off the wall and down to the snowfield below. Not sure what to do, my buddy and I continued to the top of the sixth pitch knowing we could still rap the route easily from there. We were just delaying “the choice”: rap to try and find the boot and failing again to climb the route or continuing to the top and facing a descent down the snow fields with one boot and one rock shoe.

From the top of the rotten block, Dave encouragingly suggested that the walk off would not be too bad in rock shoes and even offered to loan a crampon if that would help. After spending the better part of ten years chasing this climb and being foiled by both circumstance and stupidity, we decided to go for it. What is a miserable hobble back to the car compared to having to come back AGAIN to climb the route? Although Zach and Dave topped out and rapped back to the notch far more quickly than us, we eventually caught up to them. Confirming that I was comfortable with descending the softened snow in my mismatched footwear, they left us there to down climb at our own pace (Did I mention that these guys were exceptionally nice and supportive of our rather pathetic situation?).

This brings us to the hat. I apologize if the owner of this hat is reading this report and recognizes it, but circumstances required that it be commandeered. Some poor soul must have lost their hat climbing the Beckey Route because I found it sitting at the notch, apparently discarded as unknowingly as my boot then lying at the base of the Liberty Crack. With a careful fold and several wraps of tape, it was transformed into a sort of ankle high mukluk. Having properly insulated my left foot against the snow, we descended back to the highway uneventfully and then hobbled back to the car nearly a mile further on from where we jumped the guardrail. At this point, my good friend then hiked back up to base to retrieve the boot which he found lying dejectedly in the snowfield. The only casualty of the entire endeavor was the poor hat which by the end of the march back to the car had a series of large holes worn through the knit.





Gear Notes:

One found hat, crucial in the descent.

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Incidentally, the owner of that hat was looking for its return. He might not be interested anymore, though :/

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