Washington's Liberty Bell Needs Climbers’ Support

01/16/2018

The Liberty Bell Group, a cluster of five granite spires at Washington Pass outside Mazama, is home to some of the most popular and iconic alpine climbing in Washington State, including classic Fred Beckey first ascents like the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell and the West Face of North Early Winter Spire. Over the last decade, the area has become increasingly popular among alpine climbers. This rapidly expanding use has led to deteriorating trail conditions, severe erosion, and unsafe approaches to and from the climbs.


Photo courtesy of © Matt Perkins

Local climbers first brought attention to this issue in 2015 and reached out to Access Fund for help. “Thousands of climbers come to Mazama and Washington Pass each year to climb, hike, ski, and enjoy this beautiful landscape,” says CB Thomas, Manager of Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies in Mazama. “We realized the US Forest Service would need additional support to steward this popular area.”

The Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team’s professional trail crew worked alongside local climbers and North Cascades Mountain Guides in 2016 to complete an extensive assessment of the trail conditions at the Liberty Bell Group, providing the USFS Methow Valley Ranger District with a proposal for necessary trail restoration, reconstruction, and trail rerouting to revitalize the area. This assessment helped the USFS complete the necessary environmental review process and approve the project.

“Support at the planning stage helped our staff complete the necessary steps to approve this project,” says USFS Methow Valley District Ranger Michael Liu. “I look forward to working together to resolve resource and safety concerns associated with climber access at Liberty Bell.”

The Liberty Bell Conservation Initiative is now shovel-ready. But the project needs $100,000 to cover two seasons of professional trail crews and supplies to address critical stewardship and conservation needs.

Photo Courtesy of:
© Joe Sambataro

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“We are fortunate to have such passionate local climbers and dedicated recreation, conservation, and public land agency partners in the Northwest,” says Access Fund Northwest Regional Director Joe Sambataro. “If fundraising is successful, this will be a project we can all celebrate.”

To kickstart the project, The Mountaineers have donated $10,000, the Washington Climbers Coalition shared $4,000 (awarded from the AAC Cornerstone Grant Program), and the Petzl Foundation has kicked in $6,000 to bring us closer to our goal.

In memory of legendary local Fred Beckey, we need your help to raise an additional $80,000 by June 2018. “Fred returned here again and again over a period of seven decades,” says his close companion, Megan Bond. “He recognized the need to take care of this place, and he’d be proud to support this project.”

“Our mission is to make Washington a better place to climb,” says WCC President Dave Haavik. “We are fortunate to have easy-to-access alpine climbing at Washington Pass. Now it’s time for climbers to build a foundation for future generations of climbers.”

Once fundraising is complete, the Access Fund-Jeep Conservation Team will lead this initiative to restore the western slopes of the Liberty Bell Group. They will work closely with the US Forest Service and draw on the extensive volunteer network of The Mountaineers, Washington Climbers Coalition, the local chapter of the American Alpine Club, and the local Mazama community.

Plans include hardening and stabilizing existing sections of trail and rerouting unsustainable sections to safer, less impactful, and more stable paths. Way-finding signage and a wag bag dispenser are also planned to improve the experience of visiting climbers by keeping climbers on preferred paths and reducing human waste in this fragile sub-alpine environment.

“This is a critical project for Northwest climbers,” says Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl. “We look forward to calling upon our community of members to donate and volunteer to make this happen.”

Please donate to the Liberty Bell Conservation Initiative today at accessfund.org/libertybell.