A pure, consistently technical rock route on mostly-good granite. Much of the rock is excellent, with enjoyable cracks, some satisfying little overhangs, and good pro. Some of it is rotten, crumbly crap. The degree of exposure is remarkable for such a small peak, and the difficulty builds to a climax right near the top.
Being surrounded by neighbors twice its size means Minuteman is overlooked and underclimbed. Even on a sunny summer weekend you stand a good chance of having it to yourselves.
See the Main Page for the peak. Park near the pond beside the highway, hike up through the woods, bearing L to the wide-open talus slopes under the E faces of Lexington, Concord/Minuteman, and Liberty Bell. There was no trail in the mid-80's. Let us know if you find one. Reach Minuteman's SE (left) corner. If you're on snow, scramble to the first ledge before donning rock shoes.
Stay on or near the left corner for the first couple of pitches or more. Our second pitch began in a little alcove cut right in the corner of the apron, with a major drop S behind the belayer. A bit of blank slab, then a good crack lead straight up to an intimidating roof/left dihedral that turns out to have better holds than you could have hoped for.
About a ropelength below where the face obviously narrows and steepens, find a crack system that leads right (photo), then up to the far edge, at the right side of the base of the vertical section. Here, climb a chimney of rotten, crumbly granite. It's been just under 20 years since I was last here, but I seem to remember only a couple of chock placements, using counterforce to hold the rocks together, and trusting to luck. Radek (rpc) and Shirley avoided the chimney by climbing a 5.10 crack system left of the chimney. Read about it in his comments to this page. The chimney improves near the top (mercifully), ending on a fine pedestal on the left. A fine crack greets you here, leading out onto the final shield, staarting diagonally leftward, then sweeping up as the shield itself sweeps up and the crack narrows to 5.9 fingers. Top out with a mantle onto a roomy ledge with a solid pine tree anchor. A short cooldown pitch leads to the summit.
The direct route up the headwall to reach the shield is harder, but much more aesthetic than the chimney. rpc provides this beta (link to photo will open in a separate window):
Starting with this
photo from http://www.cascadeclimbers.com (shot of upper pitches
of East Face on Minuteman from one of east face routes on Liberty
Bell - not my photo).
Getting to the point shown roughly in the lower right hand corner of that photo is the goal - from what I recall, many options and variations are possible to get to that point (there's a small bush in the photo = "starting bush").
From here, seems as though there are two options of reaching the nice splitter in the shield ending on a ledge with some bushes (center and midway up the photo):
Option 1: This is what we did. From the starting bush in lower right hand corner, we did a sketchy traverse to reach the hand (splitter) crack below the roof in yellow rock. We then climbed the splitter (probably 5.10-; some loose stuff down low but overall nice hand size), stepped left around the roof and followed a short, wide hands crack (not visible in photo) to the ledge below and slightly right of the wide crack going thru. what looks like the upper roof. Belayed there (uncomfortable, sloping ledge). We then moved up the wide crack thru. the roof - it's not that dramatic when you get there (Nelson and Potterfield call it 5.8 - I'd give it a 5.8+). We then reached the nice splitter in the shield. The two options (I think join at the base of the splitter).
Option 2: Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is what you might have done Eric. From the starting bush, move up to reach the dark chimney above and slightly right of bush in the photo. Up the chimney to reach the base of the nice splitter crack in the shield.
From top of this splitter, we traversed right and up on ledges eventually reaching the summit which is "way in the back" out of the shot.
A full, standard rock rack and slings, including some long slings for places like this photo. Even climbers who don't normally wear helmets will want them here. Boots and ice axes may be called for on the approach. Prepare for mountain weather extremes. There is no water on the route, and in late season, probably no water or snow on the approach, either.
Beckey's guidebook recommends rappelling N until you can cross the gully separating Minuteman from Liberty Bell, then downclimbing to a bush for a last rappel. I believe our party stayed on Minuteman throughout the descent.
I wouldn't recommend lingering in the gullies on either side of the peak. They are so high, so deep, and so steep, you may never hear what's coming.
I Could be Wrong...
...about climbing that rotten chimney. Beckey's guide rates the climb as 5.8 A1. We've found several 5.8 A1 routes in his books that go free at 5.8 or 5.9, so I believe we followed the original route. Still, he says one pitch involved four aid placements. That might have been the finger crack in the upper shield (free at 5.9), or perhaps it was the 5.10 crack system left of the chimney. The former seems too short to have required 4 aid placements, the latter too long. If you have better information or experience, click the Add Info link and let us know.
Update: Now that Radek has climbed the crack system out on the face (See his comments, his album, and Steph Abegg's excellent photographic trip report.), I'm convinced that's the way to go if you can lead that difficulty (or brought a rope gun).
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