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East Face

5.9+, Trad, Alpine, 800 ft (242 m), 10 pitches, Grade III,  Avg: 3.4 from 97 votes
FA: Steve Marts and Don McPherson
Washington > Northwest Region > Hwy 20 & N Casc… > N Cascades > Washington Pass > Liberty Bell Group > Lexington Tower
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Description

Multiple belay options are available and linking of some pitches are possible, but here's the general break down.

Pitch 1 - Climb up a crack system and traverse left into slopey climbing with difficult protection. Belay where convenient.

Pitch 2 - Continue up and slightly right to the base of the obvious left facing corner. Belay from a small tree.

Pitch 3 - Climb the left facing corner to a nice ledge with a tree belay.

Pitch 4 - Climb up and left through cracks ranging from hands to fingers and belaying at a stance below the roof with a deadend chimney. This is not the chimney you'll be climbing.

Pitch 5 - Once at the deadend chimney, traverse right on a small ledge with no hands for 30'(exposed). At the end of the traverse, pull a difficult lieback (one could jam this) and continue up the hand and finger crack. Crux

Pitch 6 - Climb the offwidth above, clipping the a jambed 2x4 for pro and passing two bolts to an alcove above.

Pitch 7 - Continue up the short chimney, which leads to blockier terrain and another offwidth.

Pitches 8-10 - Easier ground leads up and left to a tree belay. Continue up to the top of the formation. A 4th class traverse pitch across a catwalk takes you to the unroping notch.

Location

Park at the pond (south side of highway) that is located approximately 1.2 miles east of the pass. Hike up the trail for 30-45 minutes to the base. There are a couple of options depending on the condition of the snowfield at the base. Option 1 is to go up gully to the left of the east face and get on the rock. Option 2 is get on the rock from the right hand side.

Descent - from the notch below the summit (you don't actually go to the summit), head west and take the gully to the skiers left. There are rap slings down there, but it's 20' of 3rd class, so it's not worth the effort. Once down the gully continue to traverse right(north)until you hit the cattle trail that goes up to Liberty Bell, which will take you to the Blue Lake trail. Once you're able to see the highway and the trail turns left, locate a faint climbers trail that will take you straight to the highway (probably saves a mile or so of hiking). Hike the road back to your car. Alternatively, one could hitchhike or do a shuttle to save on the walk.

Protection

Standard rack with gear to 6". We brought and used a #4 quite a bit as well. You could probably get by with out the 6" cam if you feel solid in the wide stuff. It was much easier than I had expected, especially with 2 new bolts.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Bryan 'Battling' his way up the 5.8+ offwidth on Pitch 7
[Hide Photo] Bryan 'Battling' his way up the 5.8+ offwidth on Pitch 7
View of approaching wildfire smoke from around pitch 8.
[Hide Photo] View of approaching wildfire smoke from around pitch 8.
Hannah Kepner exiting chimney
[Hide Photo] Hannah Kepner exiting chimney
Standing on the "bivvy platform", and the traverse climbers right from there to where the descent begins (Didn't see a pic of this part in the site). Credit: Eric Whittaker.
[Hide Photo] Standing on the "bivvy platform", and the traverse climbers right from there to where the descent begins (Didn't see a pic of this part in the site). Credit: Eric Whittaker.
Erica Engle at the end of the traverse of the "Ominous" Roof pitch - Pitch 5 in Ian's guidebook. Erica has chosen to climb it as a handrail. You can also walk the ledge she has her hands on. The harder part of this pitch is actually right above Erica - pulling into a layback on a slopey flake. Good pro.
[Hide Photo] Erica Engle at the end of the traverse of the "Ominous" Roof pitch - Pitch 5 in Ian's guidebook. Erica has chosen to climb it as a handrail. You can also walk the ledge she has her hands on. The ha…
Your "summit" ledge. Descent is to the gully on the left, not the farther right one. We used a short handrail off the tree to get into it.
[Hide Photo] Your "summit" ledge. Descent is to the gully on the left, not the farther right one. We used a short handrail off the tree to get into it.
Exiting the belay chimney to the traverse and crux lieback
[Hide Photo] Exiting the belay chimney to the traverse and crux lieback
Looking up pitch 1 of the route. Just above the climber is where you traverse left onto the difficult to protect section.
[Hide Photo] Looking up pitch 1 of the route. Just above the climber is where you traverse left onto the difficult to protect section.
Erica Engle getting ready to step right onto a hidden (from belayer's sight) ledge that traverses right. This ledge can be climb as a handrail, or walked along like a Thank God Ledge, or both - making a transition from one climbing style to the other mid way through the traverse.
[Hide Photo] Erica Engle getting ready to step right onto a hidden (from belayer's sight) ledge that traverses right. This ledge can be climb as a handrail, or walked along like a Thank God Ledge, or both - mak…
East Face.
[Hide Photo] East Face.
Looking down at the 2x4 in the offwidth.
[Hide Photo] Looking down at the 2x4 in the offwidth.
Using the bivy ledge/tower as your visual guide, cross over this short ridge and you'll find a nice gully waiting for you (climbers right of the bivy spot).
[Hide Photo] Using the bivy ledge/tower as your visual guide, cross over this short ridge and you'll find a nice gully waiting for you (climbers right of the bivy spot).

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

sqwirll
Las Vegas
  5.9+
[Hide Comment] The rock quality on the upper couple of pitches isn't nearly as good (grainy), but it certainly doesn't detract from the rest of the route.

Also, a huge avalanche wiped out a section of trail up there on the Blue Lake side, but enough people have been making there way through that it should be fairly obvious. Jul 7, 2009
Bryan G
June Lake, CA
[Hide Comment] This climb is longer than the 800ft the Supertopo gives it. I wouldn't recommend a #6. The "crux OW" is sport bolted, easy, and has lots of face holds so you don't even need to get in it.

We rappelled the route with two 60m ropes which allowed us to bring ice axes for the snow slope at the base without having to carry them up the climb. But late in the season when the base is melted out it's probably better to go up and over. Aug 1, 2013
Rafe
  5.9+
[Hide Comment] The moats were kind of gnarly in approach shoes and we were forced to do a variation off to the far right of the first ledge to start the route.

The "9+" offwidth didn't strike me as the crux of the route. If there was one bit of climbing that I thought was hard and funky and runout it was the 6" offwidth that gets 8+ in the new guidebook after the "crux" pitch. If I'd had a #6 I would have placed it I think. #6 isn't terribly necessary, but if someone had one, and they asked my opinion I'd say bring it.

Really nice route though. Aug 10, 2014
[Hide Comment] This is a great route, but definitely spicy. The second pitch, is especially heady. Never really difficult, but requires commitment well above small gear. I'd recommend bringing the #6 too. The off width is not that fierce, but it is really runnout without the big cam. The guide book recommended descent is really loose. You can avoid it by following the beta for the Liberty Traverse: Scramble toward NEWS on the ridge, aiming for the little tree covered knoll between the spires. There's a rap station on a tree at the far side of the knoll. From the bottom of that rap, scramble toward NEWS and pick up the main descent trail there. Jul 6, 2015
Dirk Rogstad
seattle
 
[Hide Comment] Awesome route!

Did this route on 9/12/15 and found the left side gully to be completely snow free and full of rotten rock. Would not recommend. Instead, scramble up the slabs on the far right. Then climb up left through a corner to gain a ledge with some small trees on it, continue to climb up and left until meeting back up with the original route (midway through pitch 1?). Much safer and probably about the same speed, imho. Sep 14, 2015
Mike Lewis
Broomfield, CO
 
[Hide Comment] This route is worthwhile if you are in the area, but nothing to travel for, in my opinion. I gave it 2 stars. I'm not a hardened, jaded, old climber dude who likes to down-rate things, etc. But, compared to other popular national alpine rock climbing areas such as RMNP, the Hulk, Mt. Evans, The Winds, Tetons, etc., I found the climbing on the East Face to be of moderate to low quality. The rock was grainier than I expected with a 4.5 star rating on MP and 5 stars in Ian's book. The OW sections were short-lived, and much easier than the grade, and the overall climbing was less than classic, in my opinion, minus a few sections of nice climbing here and there. The position and the feature itself is obviously awesome - so, that makes it a "good" route in my mind. Sep 28, 2015
Mike Lewis
Broomfield, CO
 
[Hide Comment] The OW pitches. These are nothing to worry about. From the details given, and the abundant use of the word "burly," I expected a long, continuous, vertical section of sustained offwidthing. The OW on Pitch 6 in Ian's book, was a a 20' section of overhanging OW in a dihedral. This is where the wood block is (which was loose and floating - I didn't use it). Using basic 5.7+ chimney and stemming techniques gets you to a bolt. The #6 Camelot fits perfectly and makes you feel comfy. Without it, you are a little exposed above your belay, and maybe you clipped the wood block, but the climbing is really not very hard, unless you have absolutely no chimneying/stemming experience. Then with another bolt clipped and using some 5.8 face climbing technique, layback or stem around short OW bulge, and you are done. For the Pitch 7 OW, just grovel your way up some low angle rock, using your feet well on the sticky granite - this pitch would be 5.7 or maybe 5.8 in Yosemite or Lumpy Ridge. Sep 28, 2015
Mike Lewis
Broomfield, CO
 
[Hide Comment] Descent. From the col between the top of the E Face route and the summit block, look SW and you will see the "Island in the Sky" bivy ledge. It is an obvious flat ledge with some small trees - looks like a very cool place to camp. Traverse some 3rd class gullies to get over toward this bivy, and before getting up onto the bivy platform, take the 2nd class gully down to the right (W). OR, if there is snow/ice, you can get up on the bivy ledge and look for rap slings off the SW side of the ledge. Short rap into 2nd class or snow terrain. Enjoy. Sep 28, 2015
Rafe
  5.9+
[Hide Comment] Mike Lewis. I'm curious why you would rate Blues Buttress at 3 stars and East face of Lexington at 2. By any measure I am familiar with, Lexington is by far a superior route. In what ways did you think Blues Buttress was a better route?

If your traveling through WA on a climbing trip there probably aren't many people who would suggest the East Face of Lex as a "must do" route. But using the rest of the climbing at WA pass as a gauge, it's pretty darn good. Not much at WA pass is world class. I'd say you probably picked the wrong climbs if you were looking for rivals to national classics. Next time, if you are on HWY 20, go crag at Newhalem instead of Fun Rock and then climb something on the East Face of Liberty Bell. Oct 25, 2015
[Hide Comment] This is a nice route that's a bit adventurous given its moderate grade. It's grainier and more 'blue collar' than some of the other routes at the Pass, for instance routes on the east face of Liberty Bell or, say, the west face of South Early Winters Spire. On the first pitch, I failed to traverse left at the proper time and ended up on some difficult, loose and fairly runout climbing. I managed to join the 'correct' ending to the pitch later on. This pitch has the potential to be dangerous if done incorrectly but perhaps this mistake is easy to avoid. We found that the best approach to the route involved starting the climb at the lowest point that the snow typically meets Lexington, roughly centered between the two gullies. The rock is good, protectable and produces an enjoyable if short pitch of ~5.6 climbing to what is considered the actual 'starting' ledge. If the snow has melted excessively or there is more of a bergschrund this may not be a great option, but it avoids exposure to rockfall that issues regularly from the gullies. Jul 6, 2016
Billy Barghahn
Salt, UT
 
[Hide Comment] Very fun varied climbing!

The first rappel anchor for the descent (at top of Tooth and Claw) is no longer a tree. The tree is dying and any slings were removed by a previous party. The anchor is now a horn that is slung with cordelette and stopper, located a few feet back from the ledge near the former tree anchor. Bring some extra webbing/cord as there is currently only a single cordelette. Rappel is straightforward once you locate the anchor. Sep 27, 2016
[Hide Comment] There are no longer tree or slung horn/chock anchors present at the top of the East Shoulder. If rappelling, one can scramble down part of the final pitch of Tooth and Claw (4th class or very easy 5th) to a bolted anchor and rappel from there with two ropes. T&C tops out about 20ft to the climbers right from the East Face route. Two 70m ropes will allow one to rappel directly to the top of P5 of T&C. With two 60m ropes, an intermediate fixed nut anchor must be used, verified in place as of date of this comment. After that, the rappels down T&C are relatively straightforward, but certainly DO NOT attempt them with a single rope. Also, don't start rappelling any further to climbers left; there may be (dark green) webbing present on a tree near the East Face topout but the rappels are from less than ideal stances and potentially questionable tree anchors and are best avoided. Jul 11, 2017
Kevin Holte
Chumstick, WA
[Hide Comment] 1. Definitely worth doing
2. Whatever you do, don't bring a #6 (We used a 5 a few times but you could definitely get away without it)
3. Guidebook is misleading, the 2 bolts protect the wide crack way lower than the topo makes it look like. I clipped the first bolt before I was pulling through the crux. The guidebook really hypes up the difficulty on this one. 5.8 with a few short wide bits. This would be 5.7 at Index.... Aug 26, 2017
Jplotz
Cashmere, WA
[Hide Comment] I really enjoyed this route, in a blue collar sort of way. Heady but safe offwidth climbing. The bolts take the sting out of the crux. And that stance before the foot traverse is wildly exposed! Being in the cold, dark shade all day adds to this climb!
But don't misled by previous comments about it being soft (5.7 Index, blah, blah. Yes, we get it. Everything's sooo much harder at Index). If you're a 5.8, or even 5.9 onsight leader thinking that this is below your onsight limit, then you may be rudely awakened.
Sep 11, 2017
[Hide Comment] We climbed this 5/26/18, with firm snow (4:30 AM) all the way from the road up to the ledge traverse midway up P1; we didn't rope up until setting up shop at the base of P2. No snow at all on the route until we topped out above P8 (Nicholson topo). Runouts on P2 didn't seem too bad, and the climbing was fun and solid up through both 5.9 pitches (the flake is an awesome lie-back, but then I've always loved that maneuver).

I'm with Rafe on this one; for me, the crux was Nicholson's P7, the "5.8+" OW. I didn't necessarily feel like the #6 was all that critical, but the climbing was darned awkward, with nothing useful for feet in a couple particularly rough spots. We linked this pitch with the preceding 5.9+ section with no issue on a 70m.

Our plan was to rap Tooth & Claw to the right of our line (due to the snow approach, we had axes/boots/crampons at the base). Turns out our beta on getting to these anchors was distinctly sub-optimal, especially early season; if rapping the route, DO NOT traverse to the notch next to the true summit spire. The top rap anchors for T&C are on the main face, about 20' below the wide platform to the right of the East Face top-out (just down and right from the top of Nicholson's P8); however, the "4th or very easy 5th" scramble down to them was entirely obscured by the four feet of snow atop the platform, so it took us a while to find the rings. All subsequent rap anchors are obvious, see the T&C route page for that info.

Oh, and a friend recommended doubles in fingers/hands; it was very occasionally nice to have these pieces at belays, but I had basically a full rack on my hip after each lead. Stick with a single. Jun 2, 2018
Cqh
  5.9+
[Hide Comment] I climbed the route on 6/2/18 and we rapped tooth and claw with two 70m ropes and made it in 4 rappels. We were able to go to the p5 anchor from the top, then the p4 anchor after that we went to the p2 anchor and then to the base. That way you skip the tree anchor rappel and can do the whole descent off of bolt anchors. We stretched our 70m ropes however so don’t attempt it this way with two 60s and remember to tie knots in the end of you’re ropes! Jun 3, 2018
Nick Lenn
Bellingham, WA
  5.9+
[Hide Comment] A great route, but I'd be weary of basing it strictly just off of the rating. I should preface this with I went into this route with a much more experienced friend to lead the tougher pitches and knew I would be pushing grade for myself so take my comments in stride. If you're a new crack climber, or haven't climbed off-width then I would not recommend this being your first shot at it as it was for me, lol. I lead P#2 wasn't as bad as some made it out to be. Yes, it gets run-out, but the climbing wasn't bad. Route is definitely a bit blue collar coming up to the dead end chimney, but I still felt comfortable. We took a double rack, but also strung a couple pitches together. I think if you held true to the route you could easily do it with a single. The crux pitch was tough as a follower with a pack (had to hang it), but the off-width pitch after was much harder for me personally. We brought a 70m to climb on and a 70m static and rappelled Tooth and Claw so we didn't have to carry over boots, ice axe, etc. Personally, I'd just wait later in the year until the approach was dry and carryover. The route is overall great, and I'm super pumped we did it, but it's very sustained in my opinion. Rating seems right in line, just keep in mind that the tougher pitches are high on the route so if you're pushing your personal grade then they'll seem a lot harder. Jul 5, 2018
[Hide Comment] Brought a #5 and #6 and was definitely happy to have brought them. Left behind the #4. There are places to use it but it is not necessary. Jun 8, 2019
Sandy Dash
Beaverton, OR
[Hide Comment] We climbed this route without a #6. First 3 pitches are fairly long with marginal pro. The 5.9 chimney goes very well with proper chimney technique. However it was quite strenuous for me to follow with a bagpack hanging from my belay loop. The 5.8+ chimney deceptively look simple. Here's a trip report from July 28th, 2019 : dashertonclimbs.com/2019/07… Aug 6, 2019
J Roatch
Leavenworth, WA
 
[Hide Comment] No more 2x4

As someone who feels solid in moderate wide stuff, I felt comfortable without a 6 and would say if you're not going to bring a 6 not to bring a 5 either, and if you're debating between a 5 or 6 just go with the 6.

I agree with Plotz, if at your limit you'll find the runouts and offwidth challenging, and the sustained parts - though short - are excellent and sustained for the grade. The "no one falls out of a chimney" mantra is spot on.

No more 2x4, didn't see any sign of it. Blake's descent description in Cascade Rock is spot on, easy hike down. Pleasant and enjoyable route, felt fast compared to the approaches and decent's I'm used to. I found the rock quality to be generally great. Fun but safe exposed traverse. Jul 14, 2020
Max Ismailov
Holtsville, NY
 
[Hide Comment] Climbed this route on 6/10/20, thought it was a very enjoyable outing with lots of quality crack climbing, and definitely longer than 800ft. There was a short snowfield at the base, but not big enough to warrant bringing an ice axe or crampons. Just kicked steps (with approach shoes, would be harder in tennis shoes) and had a sharp rock in hand in case I took a tumble.

The climbing was quality (apart from the last pitch), and the pitch descriptions are more or less spot on. However I don't agree with the hushed tones talking about the big runouts. The second pitch definitely has sparse gear, about 20-30 feet between pieces, but the climbing is not terrible and felt like consistent WA Pass 5.6. However other than that pitch, everything felt well protected. We brought the #6, and with it were able to protect the wide sections really nicely. Now that the 2x4 is gone, without a 6 you risk taking a high factor fall onto the belay when starting up the 6th pitch, but a #6 protects the opening moves to the first bolt well. I was also able to bump the 6 up with me in the chimney (which is something like 15-20 feet if I recall correctly). While the chimneying was quite secure and I would have been okay without it, it was definitely comforting to have. It was also very handy on the following chimney-OW pitch, which felt surprisingly stiff, and harder than the previous wide pitch (of which there are only 2). So at the end of the day if you have a 6 and feel questionable about the wide sections, bring it and you will be fine. Wide crack studs can definitely get away without one, but I don't exactly see myself as a wide crack stud. We brought a #4 as well that was pretty unnecessary in hindsight, so I wouldn't recommend the 4.

Also got pretty jammed up with rope drag climbing the crux foot traverse to lieback flake pitch. Would strongly suggest not placing gear in the transition from the chimney to the foot traverse. Belaying in the chimney would probably condemn you to heinous rope drag either way, so you probably shouldn't do that. Ultimately my partner and I had a blast climbing this route, and it felt much more well-protected than some of the other trip reports suggest. If you're concerned about the wide stuff, just bring a 6 and you will be totally fine! Aug 24, 2020
dhiebs
Bend, OR
 
[Hide Comment] Did this route last weekend, and found the rock to be good for he most part, and the exposure and climbing quite enjoyable. We found the 2x4 at the base of the route and placed it on the second wide pitch (pitch 7 in the description above). I don't know how much I would trust the 2x4 as an actual piece, but if you are going to clip it I would recommend girth hitching it. The hole drilled through it for the sling, seems to be weakening the lower part of the board. Sep 2, 2020
[Hide Comment] Wouldn’t recommend the option 2 approach from the base. It got us on some really loose rock (5.7ish) which also protect poorly. Sep 12, 2020
John Leatherman
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Also strongly recommend against approach on climber's left from the base -- got us onto moderate class 5 very loose rock with nonexistent protection. May 13, 2021
Alexander Gorobets
Redmond, WA
 
[Hide Comment] Approached from climbers left on June 19 2021. No problem at all. From the snow you step up right on the belay ledge.
Used #4, #5, #6 in offwidths, chimneys.
Descended through the gully as per guidebook. A bit loose, but not terrible. Jun 22, 2021
John Leatherman
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] I think the distinction is that early season the climber's left approach to base of the route can be fine as you can get right onto the ledge from the snow. In later season with the snow melted, you're left with a death gulley of atrocious unprotectable loose rock with no apparent way to get to the ledge.

Definitely go right if there's no easy step from the snow straight to the ledge on the left Sep 15, 2021
Daniel Heins
Seattle
[Hide Comment] Approach - the steep snow in the gully climbers left worked well for stepping over and doing a very short scramble in trail runners to the belay ledge, the step wasn't bad/not much gap for now at least. With the sun on it especially I was able to cut steps into the steep snow, and I carried the #6 in hand as a reasonably effective ice axe!

General note for carry over - the wide pitches make bags hard, so if doing it again I'd try to have as slimmed down of a bag as possible for the second, probably trailing with a sling. If you have a tag line for raps you can try hauling but it will probably get stuck in the chimneys. I'd recommend against bringing an axe or poles or anything that can't fit inside of a bag.

Wide pitches (6 & 7 here) link together fine with a 60, bringing you to a good tree belay to the left of the top of the chimney. Very easy to walk the 5/6 to other gear on P1 and yoink it to use again on the second wide stretch. Broadly would say that we got use out of the 4/5/6 and that I was content to have brought them.

Finishing pitch(es) - after the second wide pitch, the Herrington book says 25m of 5.4 to gain the shoulder. Definitely longer than 25m so don't worry if you hit your middle mark, also I would put the corner to the shoulder at harder than 5.4 (but still completely fine) - honestly just follow what feels right/most obvious to the top and it should go. Catwalk was fine, easy to do a quick rope up if you want - can sorta protect it with tricam or a ballnut or small wire if you are worried about the slab.

Descent - see Mike's comment. Generally the nicest looking stuff is what was good. Snow was clear enough to walk around in early June this year. Jun 5, 2023
[Hide Comment] Did this in June 2023 (with Daniel Heins, see comments above) with plenty of snow on the approach making for a spicy moat crossing onto a nice ledge that could fit a single bivi. The final crack system on [Mountain Project] P4 before the belay was a full-on garden. Easy climbing but seems to indicate that it hadn't been climbed in a while. The twin cracks on P3 were super fun to lead. P1 felt quite runout but perhaps we were off-route and also climbing it with a carryover pack perhaps made it feel scarier (followed).

Note that the Herrington guidebook describes the last pitch as short-ish 5.4. This confused us because after the tree belay at the top of the OW pitches, we climbed up into a small gulley below a corner system and unless you wanted to skirt around onto some insecure and exposed face climbing, the obvious route looked like climbing up a 5.7ish crack system (also not hard, but at that level of vert/angle did not feel remotely 5.4). We wandered around for a while looking for anything that resembled 5.4 climbing, a cool skinny ledge, or a 5.2 slab and finally just decided to go up the crack system and see what awaited us. Only there did we find a solid ledge (you could unrope there and set up a new belay wherever sensical) and looked across a spire/notch/airy step onto what looked like a cool 5.2 slab.

So I'd say, after the OW pitches, just continue up from the tree anchor to whatever seems like the easiest, most protectable, and straightforward route UP and you'll eventually come to a ledge where you can see the 5.2 slab.

As for the overall grading, if you're solid on wide stuff the grading will feel on point. If you're not, it feels much burlier. A good reminder about the variance in climbing styles and not to take grades at face value if you haven't climbed a wide variety of rock.

Descent was rather straightforward after reading the other comments. Jun 23, 2023
Caroline Yearwood
Washington
[Hide Comment] The OW was truly nothing to worry about if you've got some wide climbing under your belt (not to be 'that guy' but it honestly would be rated 5.7 elsewhere)! Brought the 6 and was happy to have it (other than that we brought doubles to 3). We approached from climber's right- the snow was melted enough that we were able to completely avoid it. Did a sparsely protected, left trending, P0 to get to the tree'd ledge where we figured P1 starts. Descended using the liberty traverse beta and it was straightforward. Overall a fun climb, cool position, definitely worth doing! Jul 17, 2023