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[TR] Liberty Bell - North Face 10/4/2015

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Trip: Liberty Bell - North Face


Date: 10/4/2015


Trip Report:

After so many years of gazing up from Washington Pass at the impressive monolith of Liberty Bell, this summer I finally realized that there was a line on that side of the mountain that I might be up for leading (5.7-5.8). So when early October offered us a couple more clear, dry days, Phil and I decided it was time to find out.


Here's an image of the North Face, taken much closer to solstice (early July) when evening sun still ventures onto the face and better reveals its features:




But in October the North Face remains shaded all day. Once we entered its shadow in the morning, we would not feel the sun again until the summit.




In the talus field below the face Phil found a golfball. I can only imagine how it got there.. time for helmets.




Here's how the same route appears from the foot of the face -- with a lot of foreshortening. The red trace is our line, but we may have followed the red gully higher than necessary. I suspect [and hope other(s) might confirm] that a more direct, roped pitch may lead to the large belay ledge. Note too the large double-roof just right of face center--a key feature to confirm the line of the major traverse.




Scrambling the class 3-4 blocky lower face provides immediate engagement.




Here as well as higher on the face, we periodically passed faded rap slings, and I speculated ominously about their use. The traversing line of this route precludes easily rapping back down, and the conventional plan is for parties to carry over and descend the back side.




Ascending the west-leaning "red gully" toward the west bench.




A chockstone blocks the upper gully, but can be bypassed with a stout undercling and an awkward, footless [and prideless] squirm-across.




Above the chockstone, an easy ramp provides a quick descent around to




the first belay ledge, where roped climbing begins (for us).




View up the lower part of pitch 1, aiming for conspicuous roofs.




The upper part of pitch 1. Initially I attempted a higher line, close beneath the roof, until meeting the two seepy streaks on a blank slab--way past my last cam behind an iffy flake. So I backed off and tried a lower line, below this bulge and near the edge. Again finding some crumbly rock and a seepy wet area--and spotting more seepy streaks further out ahead--this proved to be the psychological crux of the climb for me. Knowing there would be no easy retreat off this route, I debated continuing. But at least I could get some gear in here, and resolved to at least push it a bit further.




Pitch 2. Rock remains comfortably low-angle and drier, if crumbly in areas. Somewhat run-out as advertised--I just got in my second pro placement here.




View back down P2, where Phil belays me from scrub-tree.




Pitch 3. Great terrain, but less pro than it suggests. The huge corner system to right is mostly seepy and/or crumbly inside, while the textured surface to left mostly offers thin, decaying exfoliation. Plenty for hands and feet though. Just beyond where arch tops out, we traversed out and through Beckey's "friable trough", where it was possible to get in a couple of placements before crossing a short down-dipping face below a slimy ledge.




Pitch 4. The great slopey-ledge feature we've been following now pinches off, with a crack system across a face continuing in same direction. The rock gets better, with reasonably-frequent pro now, and the climbing more fun and exposed.




Pitch 5. The route steepens now (angling up to right), with some of the climb's hardest or more committing moves on this pitch. Rock is generally quite solid here, and pro sufficient. This must be the "distinct steep chimney" section, though the crease seems as much gully as chimney.



Top of pitch 6. More fun climbing on solid rock. Under the skyline arch behind me, the next pitch starts with a 15' boulder problem: working a series of holds on face to right until climbing out from beneath the roof. That is the last section of harder moves on the climb.




Continuation of pitch on easy terrain above the skyline arch.




Phil prepares to lead us simul to the top.




Easy blocky terrain nearing summit.




Phil belaying me on the summit -- and again in sunshine!




VERY happy to be on top, and out of shade.




The Bell's distinct shadow over Washington Pass.



Gear Notes:

Standard alpine rack, cams to 3" and selection of smaller nuts is sufficient. Single 60m rope for 3 raps to notch.


Approach Notes:

Park just over Washington Pass, 1.3 miles east of Blue Lake TH. Pick up climber's tread at end of guardrail / by pond, and follow up through timber to talus field at base of Liberty Bell's huge east face. Angle right and skirt below the huge rock buttress toeing down between the Bell's east & north faces. Ascend blocky talus, then a looser dirt ridgecrest to the head of the second and further bay at the base of the north face; the scramble starts here. This time of year (October) face & route are in shade entire day, so puffy jacket/warm layers warranted. At this date, no snow anywhere on approach/descent, so light running shoes worked well for carryover. From summit descend per Beckey Route, rapping to notch, then scramble down to Blue Lake trail/TH, then hike highway back.

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If this ends up being the finale for 2015, it will have been a grand one! Thanks for the TR and convincing me I could follow you up this thing. I look forward to getting a good look at the route from a distance next time I make it over the pass during daylight hours.

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Is this related in any way to what you describe? Hard to tell if you overlapped with this route at all.

The North face is left of the NW route the entire way, Steve. Red Fred has a good photo that shows both.

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