The Beckey Route is quite possibly the most famous alpine rock climb in all of the North Cascades. Offering the most moderate route up this iconic peak, the Beckey route follows the Southwest face up a clever series of cracks, chimneys and slabs for four pitches to the summit of Liberty Bell.
First climbed in 1946, long before the North Cascades Highway existed, by the prolific first ascensionist, Fred Beckey via a 16 mile approach from the end of Twisp River. Climbers nowadays enjoy the convenience of Highway 20 and the Blue Lake trail to make this approach short, scenic and the route easily doable in a day.
This climb varies considerably with the time of year. Early season, the Beckey route feels like a full-on alpine endeavor, with snow on much or all of the approach. A steep snow couloir guards the base of the climb, and often ice hides in the back of the second pitch chimney. Later in the season, its possible to walk to the base in a pair of lightweight hiking boots and on some days, you can even climb the route in shorts!
Depending on the conditions and fitness, the approach will take between an hour and a half to two and a half hours. The first half of this is on a comfortable and popular hiking trail that goes to Blue Lake. Close to the lake we veer off and head up a steep climbers trail. Climbers tend not to worry about switchbacks and trail aesthetics and prefer to head straight up toward their objective. This section of trail is steep in places and has a few short sections of scrambling on 3rd class rock. Trekking poles are highly recommended for this approach! Early in the season, the approach will require an ice axe and crampons to ascend the steep approach gully.
Once on the rock, climbers will encounter 5th class climbing up to 5.7 in difficulty. While much of the climb is graded in the low fifth class range, many climbers find the “5.4” chimney on pitch 2 to be the crux of the route. There is several hundred feet of 4th class scrambling to reach the actual summit.
The descent is completed by downclimbing the 4th class sections and then making several rappels back into the approach couloir where we have cached our gear.
- Climbers should know how to belay and be comfortable following mid-fifth class rock. We generally leave packs at the base of the climb.
Fast parties that make good time on the Beckey route might be interested in trying to climb one of the other nearby routes. When its not busy with people descending the peak, the rappel route, “Overexposure” offers a couple of great 5.8 pitches right near the start of the climb. Rapple Grapple is also a guides favorite with 3 pitches of 5.7 finger and hand cracks. More ambitious might want to try one of the routes on the North face of Concord Tower. Just across the gully, there are several worthy routes in the 5.7 range.