Liberty Crack
August 29-31, 2003

Climbers Ryan Allen and Andrew Kelleher


Just a few weeks before we were hiking up the same location, with twice the gear and a slightly different plan. There were people everywhere including on our route. A man was hiking up retrieving his gear after taking 5 days to solo the route. We watched as the French couple cursed at each other when the women could not jumar past the Lithuanian lip.

"The route looks mighty crowded this weekend Andrew"
"Yeah, I don't know how easy it's will be to get onto that and finish in time" quot;Lets bail"

That turned out to be a really good idea.

This time we took Friday off work, and drove up Thursday evening with hopes of having the route to ourselves. The weather report looked flawless. Sure enough, when we got to the base of the wall, we were the only ones there.

The plan was this:
Day one, aid climb the first three pitches past the Lithuanian Lip and leave two sixty meter ropes fixed. Head back to camp and get a lot of rest. Day two, hike back in and jumar to the top of pitch three. Then climb as much of the route free as we can, using aid only when necessary. Top out and hike back out to the cars that night.

What really happened was a little different.

Andrew started leading up the first pitch, well really up the "3rd" class approach to the start of the "real" climbing. I'm convinced this used to be third class approach, when there was 30 feet of snow on the ground. Today it has a few 5th class moves right off the scree. We roped up and did a static belay for pitch .5 finally arriving at the "start" of the climbing.

From here, things went smoothly, but pretty slow. At this point we had time on out hands. Andrew lead the first C1/2 pitch without a hitch. I cleaned on jumars. I lead pitch two, wich had the supposedly C2 Lithuanian Lip pitch. It was pretty simple for the grade, with a bolt to two fixed pieces. The climbing was exciting, swinging way out from the wall, getting through the large roof. I was pleased to find a solid bolt ladder past the roof, with about 5 or 6 reasonably spaced, brand new bolts that must of been replaced within the last few years. Andrew had a little difficulty jugging past the roof, but there were no threats of divorce in French, so it couldn't of been that bad.


Ryan leads past the lip, which was much easier to lead than follow. 

The third pitch was supposed to be the crux aid at A3. Andrew had the honors. Very lucky for us, the entire seam was fixed with some pretty old looking smashies. A few of the wires were blown out and Andrew sounded pretty excited when he had to tie two half hitches directly into a thin frayed wire to hold his hero loop. Gulp! The scary part was dispatched rather quickly and was followed up with a bomber 3" cam placement and into a solid looking C1 crack.

We fixed the two sixty meter ropes and rapped off. The first rope went from the top of three, tied into the top of two, and then, like clock work ended at the top of one. The second rope touched the scree right at 59.5 meters.

That night, in the comfort of my warm sleeping bag, I was psyching my self up for freeing the next pitch, supposedly 5.10b. I was a little disappointed in my self for not jugging and taking a look at it that day. Regardless of how difficult Andrew said it looked, I was really motivated to try to climb it free.

The next day, by the time we started jugging out fixed lines there was a party of two starting up the "3rd class", and another party just getting to the base of the route. Taking Friday off was a good thing. There is nothing like jugging 400 feet in the morning to get the aerobic capacity stretched. I was sweating like mad by the time I got to the first station. Getting through the roof was a bear for sure, thank the heavens for adjustable daises. Finally, about an hour after I started jugging, I was on the small, sloping ledge that defines the start of the 4th pitch.


Ryan jugging into better aerobic fitness.

"Looks difficult" I thought to myself. Regardless, I started planning my attack on the difficult free climbing above. I even placed my first piece. Andrew was about 15 minutes behind me. As soon as he got to me I tried to get him to put me on belay as soon as possible.

I think I did about 2 moves, and all that motivation, all that planning and scheming, visualizing the moves and mediating was thrown out the window. I immediately sank a cam in and grabbed it with no shame. "Hea Andrew, pass me up those aiders would you? This is an aid pitch man." I did all but about three more moves in the middle free, and the last 15 feet of 5.7 free to a nice ledge with solid bolts, and one of the few comfortable places to sit on the whole route.


Ryan standing in aiders, on the hard free pitch?

Andrew jugged and I hauled the little pack.


Andrew jugging the 4th pitch

The next pitch started out really moderate and turned into a 5.8 bomber system. Andrew ran out of larger gear fast, and decided to break up the pitch to re-collect the larger cams to continue. This would not be the first time we had to break up pitches due to lack of appropriate gear.

I found the climbing really enjoyable, around 5.8 in difficulty. It was a fun corner system, with a cool crack that had another crack inside, so you could almost layback the dihedral. There were also tons of feet on the right side, and some other cracks over there to work with. Very fun pitch that ended on a larger sloping ledge with 2 out of the three bolts quite solid. Andrew Jugged and I hauled.

The next pitch was a loose gully/chimney thing that must of been about 5.7+ or so. This is where all our topos started looking different. Andrew hauled and I
freed the pitch. Mostly easy.

Andrew stopped the pitch in a awkward hanging spot by a lone bolt and some gear placements. It was one of those really messy and claustrophobic type gear exchanges. I had him put me on belay and I did two aid moves before we sorted the rest of the gear out. It helped make things a lot more clear. I grabbed the extra set of aiders for this pitch for there was supposed to be some A2 up ahead. The pitch started out with a very enjoyable layback block, about 5.7, but was a little exciting because it was difficult to protect. On top of the block I was under the most crumbly and huge block I've ever seen. A really scary move off a small cam next to a rusty 1/4" bolt that was half hanging out and bent down and really needs to be replaced. I didn't want to use that bolt, and the cam placement was in some really crumbly rock. Should that cam blow, I would of fallen straight onto Andrew's hanging belay, about 30 feet below because there was no other gear. As quickly as I could I climbed up the overhanging hanging aiders to a bomber fixed pin. Few! Three more fixed pins and a whole lot of swearing later, I climbed on top of a the block: A nice flat spot to sit down with three pretty solid looking bolts for the anchor. "Should of belayed here, Andrew". I watched him try to shake some feeling back into his feet from the hanging belay.


Jay catching up to us on the 7th belay

Jay and James were climbing amazingly fast! Jay caught up to Andrew at the top of 7.

I kept going. My topo showed some more A1/2 stuff to a nice looking 5.9 dihedral ramp system. I aided through an awkward second roof, and pulled onto the ramp realizing I had some pretty serious rope drag going into the 5.9 section. At this point, there was no turning back. I sucked it up and pulled the heavy rope up the dihedral. I ended up doing most of it free, but it was real scary. The crack in the corner was surprisingly filled up with dirt and vegetation, allowing only a few sparse tiny wires along the way. I finally got to a fixed pin, which lead to a dicey friction traverse across the ramp to the bolt anchors. Taking an uncomfortable swallow with my dry throat, I gingerly pulled up as much slack as I could and started across the face, no gear, and only tiny footholds. In hind sight, it wasn't so bad, maybe even a little fun! The anchor consisted of one loose rusty 1/4" button head from the early 70's no doubt, and one bomber 2003 edition of a petzl 3/8" stainless. Better than two rusty buttonheads, I suppose.

Andrew jugged and I hauled.

Sometime while belaying Andrew on the next pitch was when the party behind us caught up to us and wanted to pass. I shared a belay with James, who was belaying Jay up.

The next pitches were fun. Andrew did a few easy A1 moves around a large block, into a totally cool and exposed 5.6 face traverse that took tons of gear. I second aided wearing the backpack and followed the 5.6 with a smile. I think this when I noticed it was getting dark. We pretty much climbed right on top of Jay and James's system, and they finally got ahead at the end of the next pitch.

I led the second 5.6 pitch, which was a cool chimney to a comfortable dirt platform with a nice tree. I belayed Andrew up, watching the sky get darker. We all had two pitches to go, a sustained 150' 5.9 and a shorter 50 feet of 5.8. Jay was leading the next pitch, the 5.9. He was doing a lot of French free, and I think he was in a hurry and getting a little tired. I heard him start to swear real loud, and as I looked over my shoulder I saw a screaming airborne climber taking a good 20 foot fall! WOAH! Luckily he was okay, and focused his adrenalin rush to help get him up the rest in record time!

By this time, it was getting pretty dark, and although I hadn't mentioned this before, I had a sore throat and some funny colored lugies. I clearly had a cold building, and I was mostly in denial all day until now. I really wasn't up for leading the next pitch. Watching Jay take those falls was not motivating me either.

"Andrew how many clothes did you bring??"

Jay was towards the top of the pitch by the next large tree. We watched him try to pull the lip, swear, scream and take another good 20 footer, right on the last move!

"Oh my gosh DUDE!! What are you doing up there?" Luckily, he was alright. This was no time or place to get hurt.

"Andrew, we are bivvying."

James offered us his summit treats of smoked oysters and small handful of peanuts. We both tried to refuse, I wasn't sure if they were going to get off this mountain that night either. He left only the peanuts and took off up the crack in the dark.

Of course we had no bivvy gear. Of course it would of been so easy to put bivvy gear and extra water in the haul bag, with hardly any more hauling effort. However, that wasn't part of the plan. We weren't supposed to bivvy!

I put on every piece of clothing I had, stuck my feet in the pack, and pulled one of the ropes over my torso as a crummy blanket. I think I fell asleep in about 2 minutes. I awoke about an hour later from the shivering. That was the last sleep I got all night. I watched the stars cross the sky. I listened to my stomach's relentless and empty grumbles. I listened to Andrew and I shiver in synchronous patterns. I chanted my mantra "the sun always rises", "the sun always rises", "the sun....", and yes, nine long hours later, it finally did.

I got up and started moving. I was shaky, thirsty, stiff and hungry, and had one of the most intimidating pitches of the route to climb next. Visions of Jay's two whippers wouldn't leave my head! The good news, I wasn't cold any more. I tried to psyche myself up: "I LOVE this!!! I can't wait to lead this pitch! This is what we came here for!" I was lying to my self.

I wanted to do it all free, but due to my condition, now complimented with runny nose, wasn't afraid to use direct aid and take my time to do it right. Now we had plenty of time on our side. I ended up aiding about 80 percent of the pitch. At one point I set two bomber stoppers and had Andrew lower me down 30 feet to back clean everything I could. We were running out of gear again. I stopped 30 feet from the tree to set another intermediate anchor in a small cove.


Andrew jugging off the bivvy platform, in the warm morning sun.

Andrew jugged, I hauled.

Andrew lead the rest of pitch, using all aid. I jugged. Andrew hauled.

The next pitch was the short 5.8 pitch. It was fun, after sucking Andrew's camel back dry of it's last drops of Gatorade. For the first time in an uncountable number ofhours, my tongue un-stuck itself from the roof of my mouth.

That final 5th class pitch turned out to be pretty fun. It was a few minorly overhanging 5.8 hand crack moves with good feet on both sides. One move involved getting my feet high and launching for a bomber jug up left. It felt like a climbing gym move.

"Andrew! It's 4th class from here!!"

I think we did another static belay, around the corner where we found a trail. I dropped all my gear, removing my harness for the first time in three days. It felt like escaping from jail. I started deliberately and swiftly scrambling to the summit. Fully solo and completely in the zone, it still took another 15 minutes of constant climbing to make it. Andrew wasn't far behind. Life was good.

On the summit, we met some cute girls who climbed the 2 pitch 5.6 Becky route that day. They gave us water!!!!! I knew there was a reason why we climbed that thing!

The descent was fairly uneventful. As it does every time I've descended Liberty Bell, we got our rope stuck. Luckily, a party was right behind us and dropped our rope. We descended the scariest part of the entire mountain, the loose gully from the notch and quickly gained the trail. The only thing on my mind was getting something to drink.

"Andrew, when we get to the store, I'm going to get some ice tea, Gatorade, chilled water, lemonade, apple juice, diet sprite and some more ice tea. What are you getting?"

Life was good.

Category: Adventure Rock
Sunday, December 17, 2017
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