Trip Report
Ho Chi Minh Trail 6-20-10
Thursday June 24, 2010 9:17pm
Last weekend my friend and I did the Ho Chi Minh Trail on Middle Cathedral.
It took us about 12 hours for the climb and 5 hours to negotiate the catwalk and get to the car, soo tired!
I won't write too much about it but instead paraphrase from Clint Cummins' First ascent write up located here: http://www.stanford.edu/~clint/rep/dnb.htm

The start was an immediate problem. It seemed we had to pass the gauntlet of a flaring chimney with a hand crack deep inside to reach the promised face climbing above. Rated only 5.7, I was barely able to manage it, with much foot slippage and hand pumpage.

Credit: squatch

I was the presumed expert on mantles, so I drew the lead. The 5.7 lieback was surprizingly hard, and the long reaches and runout 5.9 mantles which followed really raised the excitement level. I stared at the W-shaped hold of the crux mantle and clipped both bolts. I could press up on the hold without too much trouble, but I couldn't lift my foot up to it. The wall above was glassy smooth, and I was going nowhere. After a few attempts with different positions, I brought John up for a try. He didn't have much luck either, finding even the press quite strenuous. It looked tough for the kids, but I just had to try again, even though I had no good ideas. This time, I just jumped up into the press position, as my left tricep was too weak to muscle the move in the normal slow manner. I tried to bring my foot up, but it wasn't even close. Just then I thought of something crazy. Why don't I just grab my foot with my "free" hand and pull it up forcibly to the hold? A move only a cripple would have thought of, but it worked like a charm. Soon we were both at the belay, scoping the white, grey, and orange- colored wall above.

Credit: squatch

Scott mid-mantle, just after the foot-grab
Scott mid-mantle, just after the foot-grab
Credit: squatch

The topo said the next pitch took the third corner on the right and then traversed back left under a roof. It looked wild, but I was at least consoled by the fact that the route had been soloed (only once, though). It was a beautiful finger crack with plenty of the multicolored face holds and incomparable textures that Middle Cathedral is famous for. A classic pitch, but as I neared the roof, it got hard fast.

I couldn't imagine myself soloing this, that's for sure. After placing the last pieces of my rack from wild one-arm positions on the traverse, and somehow managing to style the final undercling, I arrived at the belay with a real sense of accomplishment...

Scott starting up the third crack
Scott starting up the third crack
Credit: squatch

Scott following the roof traverse
Scott following the roof traverse
Credit: squatch

The first pitch on the new ground started easy up nice hand cracks, but it got tough as I did some hard runout face climbing over a roof to gain a dirty crack. A long shower of dirt followed for John as I cleaned out the crack and aided up it on wireds. It looked like hard 5.11 to free, including a short pendulum, so I was discouraged. The next pitch was only 5.8, though, and we arrived at a good ledge and dropped off the pack. John used a pin to protect a hard face move and quickly moved up the interesting dark grey rock. I arrived to find him at hanging belay high up in a large corner. I barely cranked off the headwall traverse moves which started the next pitch -- it looked loose but luckily wasn't.

Leading off on pitch 6
Leading off on pitch 6
Credit: squatch

Me on pitch 7, the first "new ground" on Ho Chi Minh.
Me on pitch 7, the first "new ground" on Ho Chi Minh.
Credit: squatch

Scott somewhere in the dark rock of pitch 9/10, with the "mossy chimne...
Scott somewhere in the dark rock of pitch 9/10, with the "mossy chimney" barely visible in the top
Credit: squatch

at the end of pitch nine is a hollw shell of a lizard, mouth open and ...
at the end of pitch nine is a hollw shell of a lizard, mouth open and holes for eyes..... RAD! go up and see for yourself
Credit: squatch

Soon we were at the tree below the mossy chimney, peering out right at the potential traverse. It went free at about 5.6 on incredible knobs. A second traverse followed which was slightly harder, and I set up a belay below a flaring squeeze chimney. Again, I felt we had to avoid any such chimneys, and a way out right seemed possible, but we were running out of daylight, so I aided up a thin crack and cruised up easier ground to a reasonable bivouac ledge.The next morning it took me four hours to lead the next pitch -- massive dirt mining up what will be a nice double cracks pitch in the future. Joel ran up the next two pitches as I followed dizzily with the sack. Reaching the Turret, we looked up at the final part of the buttress, but had neither the water nor the strength to finish.

Somewhere around pitch 12/13, I kind of epic-ed on the knob traverse t...
Somewhere around pitch 12/13, I kind of epic-ed on the knob traverse trying to find the right corner, and get any decent gear. Also the wind started to get pretty insane right here (like 35MPH-ish)
Credit: squatch


The next day we managed to solve the key first pitch above the Turret by a blind traverse around a corner which allowed us to avoid an offwidth crack. The next pitch went up a solitary crack which started thin but turned into a corner and then an arch. My feet pedalled on lichen as I completed the arch and looked up at a singular white, blank, but short inside corner. I managed to aid it with a few moves and eyed some loose-appearing but solid holds for an eventual free ascent. The crack continued at a nice hand size and slowly narrowed to fingers...



Scott leading out in the nice hands beginning of pitch 18
Scott leading out in the nice hands beginning of pitch 18
Credit: squatch

//Another arch, this time right, avoided an overhang and a few aid moves gained a belay at a large hollow flake. Above and right we could see the spectacular "Flake of Destiny", a wavy flake right on the airy edge of the buttress. It was definitely the climactic finish which the route demanded, but the start looked a little loose, and we were tired, and short on time and water, so we opted for a fairly nice 5.8 cracks pitch straight up above the belay. A final short but classic 5.7 hand/fist crack brought up to the base of Thirsty Spire and third class ground.//

Pitch 19 has some great hands sections and fun traverses around corner...
Pitch 19 has some great hands sections and fun traverses around corners.
Credit: squatch

at the top and pretty tired, but not nearly done yet
at the top and pretty tired, but not nearly done yet
Credit: squatch

View from the top
View from the top
Credit: squatch


Finish off the weekend with a run up the Arches and down North Dome Gully to watch friends on Astroman, and you have a good reason to be tired on monday.


Later,
Zack

  Trip Report Views: 5,004
squatch
About the Author
squatch is a boulder climber from santa cruz, CA.

Comments
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karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Jun 24, 2010 - 01:55am PT
Great send! I've read about this before, think I'll give it a try! Thanks for the tr.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 24, 2010 - 02:04am PT
Cool, Zack - nice photos, and thanks for resurrecting some of those old quotes!
Zander

climber
  Jun 24, 2010 - 10:08am PT
Nice trip report.
Looks like a great line.
Z
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Jun 24, 2010 - 10:36am PT
Zack: Looks and sounds like a "testpiece." Pat yourselves on your backs and have a couple beers!

Thank you for sharing the story.
toyon

climber
  Jun 24, 2010 - 12:32pm PT
Thanks for catching my runner with your rope on the Arches. I bought my lottery ticket yesterday...
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Jun 25, 2010 - 06:26pm PT
Ho Chi Minh, Ho Man. That's Sassy!

You's all are in the serious end of this climbing business. Congrats for making it out alive and for having a good adventure along the way!
Bob Palais

Trad climber
UT
  Jun 24, 2010 - 03:29pm PT
Great photos and echoes of the ghosts of the Ho! Crazy to think that it was really 22 years ago that Clint was kind enough to share a portion of the ride along this amazing project journey. Makes my throat parched. Good inspiration that I need to get back out there soon.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jun 24, 2010 - 04:47pm PT
Pretty bold route. Well done, guys!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 25, 2010 - 06:33am PT
Yeah, Bob - going up in 95+ heat was maybe not one of my best ideas!
Fortunately it was another warm forced bivvy at the Turret, and the water cache saved us.
I remember after we bailed from the Turret, you got all those popsicles and didn't have room to eat 'em all!
G Murphy

Trad climber
Oakland CA
  Jun 25, 2010 - 12:37pm PT
Me and Elliott went up pretty high on the HCMT in winter 1988 or 1989 or so. I'm pretty sure it was either raining or snowing and we rapped from the the Turret or Thirsty Spire. Big fun as always. Nice job guys.

Greg
Bob Palais

Trad climber
UT
  Jun 25, 2010 - 05:44pm PT
Such great memories, Clint, ever grateful to have gotten to participate and share a true adventure with a hero-mentor-friend regardless of the thirsty Thirsty. I remember pics of Greg and Elliott going up on Lower C too in a crazy winter storm that year. Extremes of temperature eh? Good inspiration to do some longer stuff here this summer. Heading up to Ruth Lake in the Uintahs this weekend... I forgot the popsicles, but remember going over and meeting John Dill after the climb.
karodrinker

Trad climber
San Jose, CA
  Jun 9, 2011 - 03:06am PT
Climb on in eternity. RIP.
Muddud

Social climber
the Cruz of Santa, CA
  Jun 9, 2011 - 05:02am PT
rest in peace, master shake. all my love.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jun 9, 2011 - 09:40am PT
RIP Brother.

Credit: survival
k-man

Gym climber
SCruz
  Jun 9, 2011 - 02:02pm PT
Yo Bro, you're on the big trail now.
Miss you already.
lunchbox

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Jun 9, 2011 - 02:46pm PT
I was just looking at the topo we carried up this climb last night. Somehow I opened the guide book to this page, ironically it was tucked into a tattered copy of the Big Walls book I left in my wall partners van a few weeks ago. I broke the news to him last night when he called me from the Bismark, a climb Zach had shared his beta on just a couple of days ago. At the heart of it all its amazing to think about how closely tied together we all are. And despite one's absence we all carry a part of them in our hearts.

Darwin

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jun 10, 2011 - 06:44pm PT

What a moving thread. The trip report and Clint's chiming in stand on their own. Zach's passing is too sad, but I'm glad he wrote this up and that in some small way I got to know him through it.

Love and condolences to friends and family,

Darwin
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  May 6, 2013 - 02:34pm PT
RIP, squatch - every time I see his name pop up here on ST I get a sense of what a great person he was.

Also a call out to anyone who's been on the HCM in the last few years. Stories, photos, spray? Let's hear it.
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Aurora Colorado
  May 6, 2013 - 03:15pm PT
Looks like a really fun route. 5 hours is a long time for the descent, glad you didnt fall off. I remember finishing dnb just as the sun was going down, and we didnt have headlamps, but we got onto safe ground before it got dark.
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  May 6, 2013 - 05:13pm PT
Great thanks to those who bumped this thread. I remember looking at HCM from the North Buttress almost 40 years ago and thinking fearful thoughts of being on it. I'm afraid, a TR may be as close as I come now, in my advanced age.

RIP squatch. Even in eternity, you've blessed me.

John
S.Leeper

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  May 6, 2013 - 05:45pm PT
I can't believe I've never read this TR.

Zach sounds like a great guy. Did they ever catch the perp in his hit and run?
GhoulweJ

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  May 6, 2013 - 05:54pm PT
Closed right now for the nesting pigeons
S.Leeper

Social climber
somewhere that doesnt have anything over 90'
  May 6, 2013 - 06:05pm PT
Zach's buddy looks a bit like Bachar..
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  May 10, 2013 - 07:42am PT
Zack's gone, too soon.
Here's a photo overlay with pitch numbers as per the topo in Reid (1994).
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  May 10, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
Clint FTmfnW!!! Thank you!
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