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Routes in Minerva's Temple

North Face / East Ridge T 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
West Ridge T 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Type: Trad, 1000 ft, 12 pitches, Grade IV
FA: Sept. 9-10, 2000 by John Hymer, Jason Spier & Dave Head.
Page Views: 668 total · 31/month
Shared By: Stefan Griebel on Apr 14, 2016
Admins: Aaron Hobson, Jason Halladay, Anthony Stout, LeeAB Brinckerhoff, Marta Reece, Drew Chojnowski

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Placement of bolts/fixed anchors is prohibited in Wilderness Study Areas Details


This was the first route to ascend the quixotic north face of Minerva’s Temple, Queen of the Organ Mountains, and stands alone as THE visionary hard-man’s route in the Organs. If you are looking for a big serving of adventure with a side of hard work, you will find it here.

Approach: 3 miles, 2500’. Allow 3 hours to hike in and 2.5 to hike out. The gate into Aguirre (Uh-geer-ee) Springs doesn’t open until ~7am, so if you want an alpine start, you’ll need to camp out the night prior.

Park at the group site and head up the Indian Hollow trail towards Sugarloaf. After an hour or so, stay right at the fork with a miniature sign indicating the approach to Sugarloaf goes left. The trail remains easy to follow until it crosses 2 more drainages, then you’ll have to start cairn hunting as it gets consistently steeper, looser, bushier, and harder to follow. Keep your eyes peeled for many artistic cairns, including one in a small tree. If you’ve bushwacked elsewhere in the Organ Mountains, you’ll find this approach quite tame, but if you haven’t, you may find some choice words escaping your mouth on occasion. A very prominent black streak high on the face is directly above the start of the route.

Unless you are hiking in with John Hymer himself, I’d recommend overcoming your Luddite tendencies and downloading the approach/deproach GPX file (link at bottom) into your phone.

Once you’ve located a camouflaged bolt about 15’ off the ground marking the start of the 1st pitch below a long, right-angling ramp system, drop your pack, dump the dirt and rocks out of your shoes and take a well deserved break. If you forgot your headlamp, better make it a short break.

Climb: Although the climb is well protected with many bolts, it feels like adventure climbing at its finest. Crazy lichen abounds on all but the 3rd pitch, and some of the bolts are difficult to find amidst similar-colored lichen. Fortunately, all of the belays are bolted, marking the end of each pitch. Once you are accustomed to climbing on the lichen, you’ll find the movement up this steep route absolutely stellar! If you find yourself fiddling in marginal gear, or placing gear in questionable rock, look around for a bolt.

P1: 5.10, 110’ - The odyssey begins! Clip the first bolt, then move up and right into a small corner. Arrange some gear and mantle (crux) onto the ramp. Follow the ramp past a couple more bolts to a 2-bolt anchor.

P2: 5.11-, 180’ - Continue up the ramp finding gear in the corner and some bolts. As it gets steeper, keep an eye out for hidden bolts on the left face. Work up into a roofy/stemmy/undercling, then bust a move left (crux) and over to a 2-bolt anchor.

P3: 5.11, 110’ - Wander up the wonderfully clean rock past a couple bolts to some difficult moves left. Continue with more sustained moves protected by bolts to the bottom of the black streak and a 2-bolt anchor.

P4: 5.12-, 115’ - Study the shallow chimney-like slot above you and make a plan. Do some 5.10ish moves up and clip the 1st bolt. Likely, abandon your plan here, and thrutch up the slot (crux) praying for grippy lichen underfoot! If Minerva answers your prayers, clip the 2nd bolt and relax; the rest of the pitch is much easier. Head up and left towards the chimney feature finding good gear and a no-hands “Honnolding” rest along the way. A fun mix of climbing behind the chimney eventually trends right to the top of the black streak and a 2-bolt anchor.

P5: 5.11-, 110’ - Now that you’ve done the crux P4, prepare for some adventure! The lichen and route-finding on this pitch may make it feel harder than it really is. Persevere, use your imagination, and enjoy the great movement up the rock. Eventually, you will arrive at a ramp with a bolt in the middle and a clean dihedral on the left. Clip the bolt and head directly left, escaping the dihedral and up to a 2-bolt anchor.

P6: 5.11+, 150’ - Make unprotected moves out an easy slab on the right and locate a line of bolts going up the steep face above. The climbing gets gradually more difficult up to the apex where you’ll encounter a solution underclingy-finger slot. Crank through here (crux) and arrive on Onion Ledge and a 2-bolt anchor. You’ll find some wild onions and nice soft moss to stand barefoot in. An enjoyable place to be!

P7 - P12: Best simul-climbed with the occasional belay as necessary. Follow your nose through some 4th class, sometimes bushy scrambling towards kind of a small saddle. From the saddle, you may be able to look down into a cool treed area high on Minerva’s north flank. From here, traverse left under a boulder (good handjams) and then head up to the start of the Knife Blades. Hand traverse across the unique knife-blade ridge, passing a 2-bolt anchor for the top pitch of SE Face route. Step down to another, duller knife-blade ridge and walk across that to a 2-bolt anchor. A move of 5.7 above the anchor leads to more 3rd/4th class scrambling. When you think you see the summit blocks, go around to the right into a 5.4 dihedral. At the top of this dihedral walk up the final slab to the summit.

Welcome to the very small cult of pain-worshipers that have ascended Minerva’s Temple. Look around for an ammo box, and add your name to the nearly empty summit register.

Descent: Scramble down as far as you dare, before making a series of single-rope rappels, off of whatever features you find handy, finding your way back to Onion Ledge. It may be easier to belay or solo back across the knife blades, otherwise, rappel on their NW side getting back to the saddle. Bring some extra webbing and leaver biners just in case.

From Onion ledge, make 5 double-rope rappels to the ground. The first 3 rappels are from anchors you used on the climb. The last 2 are climber’s left of the route. By now, you’ve probably learned to go slowly as the bolts are sometimes difficult to see, but if you haven’t learned this yet, rap slowly as the bolts are sometimes difficult to see! It may be possible to rap this route with a single 70m rope, but this hasn’t been verified. If you do, please report back here.

GPX file for the approach:…

Bibliographic Note:


A single run of Camalots from 0.2 to #2.
A set of stoppers #5-#10.
12-15 long slings/draws.

If you’re worried about only having singles, a red link-cam spans the most common placement sizes nicely.
Nice write-up and good work on the route! Impressive. Apr 16, 2016