After “cleaning” Aubrey’s gear on rock climbs for over a year now, I was finally inspired to take a traditional lead climbing course myself. In traditional (aka “trad”) climbing the lead climber places removable protection in cracks in the rock to minimize the extent of a potential fall. Once the leader has climbed one rope length (aka “a pitch”), they set up an anchor and the follower removes (aka “cleans”) all the gear so that it is available for the next pitch, leaving the rock undamaged in the process.

Aubrey places a cam in Poison Ivy Crack near Leavenworth, WA.

With my new knowledge, Aubrey and I went out to Washington Pass to climb the famous Beckey Route on Liberty Bell, which Aubrey had led (and I followed) last fall. This time it was my turn to lead, and given the incredible forecast (sunny, hot, and not too windy) we came prepared to bivy on the summit. Since the leader typically takes a very small pack to make the climbing easier, and in particular since this was my first trad lead, Aubrey carried most of the weight. So I owe the existence of these pictures to Aubrey, who kindly agreed to carry my camera (just one lens) for me. We did leave all other unnecessary things behind, such as a second sleeping bag.

Aubrey hiding from the rising sun in our sleeping bag.

Liberty Bell was first ascended in 1946 by the climbing legend Fred Beckey. At the time, the North Cascades highway had not yet been built, requiring a 17 mile long approach, instead of today’s 2 miles. Furthermore, removable aluminum protection, climbing harnesses, and climbing shoes, had not yet been invented – that didn’t happen until the 1960’s and 70’s. Instead, alpinists such as Fred and his team relied on steel spikes that had to be hammered into the rock (pitons), ropes tied around the waist in lieu of harnesses, and bulky mountaineering boots. Even with all the technological advancements that make climbing easier and safer in modern times, it still feels like an accomplishment to get to the top! Nothing can match the revitalizing feeling of relaxing on the top of a mountain in the warmth of the setting sun (even if it’s not actually all that warm).

Click image for larger view!

Alpine Climbing, Liberty Bell, Washington Cascades

Alpine Bliss
Aubrey enjoys the summit views at sunset after climbing to the summit of Liberty Bell via the Beckey Route, near Washington Pass in Washington’s North Cascades. This is what alpine climbing is all about!

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/15th sec

Traditional climbing opens up the world for exploration, as it makes it possible to climb many mountains safely (if done correctly, of course). It is a truly liberating experience to be able to leave the media obsessed world behind like that. Although it is pure coincidence, we couldn’t have picked a more appropriately named mountain – Liberty Bell – to celebrate this freedom. Nor could I have chosen a more appropriate day to share these images with you all – I hope all my American readers have a wonderful 4th of July! Go out and celebrate your freedoms – I recommend doing so outside!

Click image for larger view!

Liberty Bell, Cascades, Washington

Liberty in Wildness : Prints Available
The immense cascade range at sunset, as seen from the summit of Liberty Bell, in Washington’s North Cascades.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 0.3 and 1/15th sec
Notes: 2 exposures blended for dynamic range, and one more to remove some of the lens flare. Small section of highway 20 cloned out.

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5 Comments to “Liberty – Alpine Bliss in the North Cascades”

  1. Mike Pillows says:

    Floris… love your post and big thanks on our 4th. I learn so much from your adventures in both words and pics. I feel your firefly set was very creative and telling of our natural world… small wonder big impact.


  2. Congrats, Floris, on your first lead in what looks like a gorgeous place. But how’d you and Aubrey get back down?!!

  3. Thanks Mike and Colleen!

    Colleen – after some scrambling and two easy rappels and we were back on relatively solid ground!

  4. Kathleen says:

    Nice job, Floris (and Aubrey)!! Love your adventures and blogs!

  5. Absolutely stunning images! I need to make it to the cascades at some point. My favorite part would have to be the mountains in the right-hand background in #2… So dramatic!