Trip Report
Ho Chi Minh Trail: Your Substitute RNWF Experience Awaits
Tuesday July 28, 2015 10:22am
A ripped climber is standing in the Curry parking lot. Perhaps in the same spot you yourself have stood, reader.

She may have been born in Charleston, Puebla, Liverpool, Osorno, Hamburg, Melbourne, or Cape Town. Or she may have been born down the block from you. Doesn't matter. She's arrived for the first time.

If you were to catch a glimpse of her, you'd be struck by the evident strength in her frame – testament to a life of climbing. She has put in her time and now is here. You'd feel that respect you feel when you see a climber who has put in work. But hold up something is wrong here.

Her shoulders are caked in a patchwork of dirt and misc Valley grime. That’s normal. They slump dejectedly. She's scowling at the earth before her feet. Why?

She's got salad dressing from a half-hearted, top-of-the-bearbox dinner coagulating at the corner of her mouth. A fly buzzes to it but she doesn't flinch.

She's not high on the fiddler's weed. She's not in a Post-Cookie daze. She doesn’t give a f*#k about salad dressing, not right now.

Her fists go white. She is seething, visibly shaking as she lifts her gaze. WTF is this you're thinking?

It's July 3rd, the day before she and her partner planned to blast up the Slabs. She's just heard the news. She may have crossed an ocean to get here. May have washed dishes, cooked tortillas, sold her bike, squandered her graduation gift just for the scratch to get here.

She closes her eyes. She would beg, she has no doubt. She has never begged for anything in her life, but for this she would beg. There is no one to beg. Who, time?

The pain is searing. Lower lip trembling, sputtering. She opens her eyes again, looks east, up, past the RVs, the Silver Platter, the Skywalk diagonal, the Porcelain. Her eyes land on the NW face.

It's steep. It's proud. It's now bathed in evening light. The Half Dome.

Unclimbable. The dream of the Reggae. Objective #1 for years. Nevermore.

Her arms extend Willem-Dafoe-on-the-Platoon-cover-style as she falls to her knees. Two puffs of rank Curry Village dust lift and settle. She is a piteous site. She inhales deeply --


But wait! Hold that desolate cry all you broken-hearted crankers! There may be hope yet!

• Yes, your dream route is gone.
• No, you will never-except-in-dreams follow in the true and complete footsteps of the mighty Robbins.
• Yes, a variant will emerge, may have emerged already! But look in your heart and you will admit that based on current available info regarding rock fall only the bat-shit insane and utterly stout are heading up to that vicinity for the foreseeable future.

All that said, I am here to spread the good news about Middle Cathedral's very own RNWF Simulator-slash-Interim-slash-Replacement Experience.

So lace up your all-day shoes, bone up on your routefinding and mantling skills, send up a prayer that you'll get off the Kat Walk in daylight, then head on down to the intersection of Southside Drive and El Cap Crossover. If you've got 15 minutes, you've got enough time to find the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

You won't be sorry. We're following in the footsteps of Cummins, not Robbins – a man and a crew that put in a high-quality and proud line. After a pitch, or two, or perhaps exactly at the moment 40 feet off the belay on the third pitch as you run the rope left further and further away from the security of a .75 corner and onto a golden face with some mantles in the crosshairs, your no-Reggae, FML moment will be a distant memory and you'll be living in the present.

Here's the data:

---------------- Ho Chi --- RNWF of HD
Approach ------- X
Mantles --------- X
Routefinding --- X
Is it intact ------- X

Four clear W's for the Ho Chi? The Ho Chi Minh Trail: a clear winner in the post-Reggae world.

See you out there on Middle!

Good views all day

Great stone most of the day

Mantles mantles mantles

Linking galore if you've got a 70m. 20 pitches on paper, we got her done in 11. On two of them the drag was shitty and I meant to remember which but no longer can. All the rest were great links – good movement over long swaths of stone got to love that.

My memory is saying three or more roof traverses, guar-an-teed

Gooooood Middle-grade stone over 90% of the route. Textures and colors are just all day, non-stop killer.

Sun in your eye for a lot of the day, but with a breeze the heat is absolutely fine. Our day was mid-90's according to the always appreciated hand-drawn sign at the 120 entrance.

Proof that we weren't cooking up there. I got downright cold in the Notch. Mid 90s down in the meadow!

Position position position

Huge variety in climbing styles, with lots of jugs, reaches, face sequences, and edges for the feet, but also plenty of flakes, underclings, some chimney if you want it though not required, some finger and hand cracks though it's never enough of those two, on any climb anywhere you always want more. Surprisingly not too much smearing and palming though there is some.

There are some variations you can do from the old Reed topo

I think the flake of destiny is on the left there but the corner through a wide pod to a rooflet of lichen looked sweet. Seemed clear that lots of others have gone that way too.

Hardware report: Good hardware, and not much after the first five really

Then suddenly you fire up a splitter and top out on a sweet ledge with a grand view. East Butt of El Cap looking mighty small over there, great route size isn't everything

The Regular is going to be the furthest thing from your mind as you work your way through the Kat Walk, which incidentally beats the cables on the adventure scale and scared me in a few spots and seemed like much harder route finding but a little easier technically than the Sentinel approach. Can easily see how simple it would be to die on either.

Looking back up – feels good after eight years of wanting it.

Quick swim, and back to Oakland. Youngblood here has something pending.

Bridge status, summer evening 2015

Door-to-door report (important metric for any parent climber): 28.5 hours, once again didn't get the 24-hour goal but didn't bivy on the Kat Walk either which was a worry during our pre-game and led to all that linking.

Sign over my gear heap at home now reads: THESE TOOLS HAVE GONE 1,095 DAYS WITHOUT A FORCED BIVY. (Miss you Nutjob/NutAgain, no regrets okay maybe that cold one)


Credit: le_bruce

  Trip Report Views: 5,257
About the Author
le_bruce is a climber from Oakland: what's not to love?

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Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Jul 28, 2015 - 10:31am PT

right On!!!
this just in

Justin Ross from North Fork
  Jul 28, 2015 - 10:57am PT
Thanks so much Le Bruce, I really needed something good to read today and you delivered.
So, any luck or progress on Stoner's Highway?

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  Jul 28, 2015 - 10:49am PT
This is fantastic!
This is what the Forum is all about.
Thank you.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Jul 28, 2015 - 11:26am PT
I remember gazing at that area of Middle Cathedral Rock while climbing the North Buttress in the early 1970's, and thinking there'd be a good route there. Now, 40+ years later, your trip report confirms what I thought. I wish I had the initiative then to have acted on it. What beautiful climbing - and on my favorite rock in the Valley! Thanks much.


A long way from where I started
  Jul 28, 2015 - 11:39am PT
But... But...

But it's not the route I had my heart set on!

But it doesn't have three stars in the guidebook!

But I won't sound as cool when I spray about it!

Waaahhhhh!!!! I think I'll just climb Nutcracker and then go home.

Great TR. Thanks.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jul 28, 2015 - 12:22pm PT
Wow. What a fun ride!

Thanks man!
Gnome Ofthe Diabase

Out Of Bed
  Jul 28, 2015 - 12:29pm PT
Very nice

little Z

Trad climber
un cafetal en Naranjo
  Jul 28, 2015 - 12:42pm PT
Nice. Thanks for taking us there.

...those sights, those sounds, those smells.

Gym climber
Minkler, CA
  Jul 28, 2015 - 01:09pm PT
Can't beat orange granite, and I finally learned that the reggae route is the same as the regular route. I get it now so I'm part of the cool crowd!


Oakland, CA
Author's Reply  Jul 28, 2015 - 02:11pm PT
Hey thanks all for the nice comments.


Like John, I always thought there was room over there for something else ... If MCR was 5 degrees steeper, it would be almost too hard to climb...

Actually we saw some fixed lines a few weeks ago on the steep and thin looking corners, up and right off of the ledge at the top of the DNB's second.

Some strong team with no fear of lichen was testing waters up there or maybe sent who knows?
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jul 31, 2015 - 01:37pm PT
Glad to hear you had fun up there!

But it doesn't have three stars in the guidebook!

Edge of the Electric Ocean Beneath Red Rock
  Jul 28, 2015 - 03:11pm PT
Fantastic write-up, as per usual, and awesome stoke on what appears to be a great route. Thank you for sharing and taking the time to write it up!

Social climber
  Jul 28, 2015 - 03:15pm PT
Nice! Very nice write up and photos. Thanks!
Travis Haussener

Trad climber
Salt Lake City
  Jul 28, 2015 - 03:17pm PT
Nice. TFPU

  Jul 28, 2015 - 06:31pm PT
Superior quality content. TFP!

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Jul 28, 2015 - 06:54pm PT
Gonna read this later. Driving right now. Plan to shower, shave, stretch from a long drive, curl up in my robe and settle into this one before leaving a proper comment.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 28, 2015 - 07:54pm PT
le_bruce this is gold!

Trad climber
  Jul 28, 2015 - 08:01pm PT
tfpu. looks good!

Mountain View, CA
  Jul 28, 2015 - 08:44pm PT
great inspiration, thanks for sharing the adventure!

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Jul 28, 2015 - 09:02pm PT
Cool, good job, thanks for sharing. Putting that one on the list...

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Jul 28, 2015 - 09:39pm PT
Good stuff!

Balcarce, Argentina
  Jul 29, 2015 - 04:56am PT
Liked the goose bumps
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
  Jul 29, 2015 - 06:35am PT
Meng, that looks sooooo good. Well done. I've done the DNAB twice and once on the North Butt. That one beats 'em both.

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jul 29, 2015 - 07:38am PT
Great report about a great route, thanks homez!!

Trad climber
  Jul 29, 2015 - 07:47am PT

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Jul 29, 2015 - 08:25am PT
Congrats on a serious route in fine style, and another excellent report to add to your collection!

But that bivy jibe was a low blow ;)

It would be hard for an intelligent person to deny the pattern and ignore the data though.

Trad climber
  Jul 29, 2015 - 10:30am PT

Trad climber
New England
  Jul 31, 2015 - 07:18am PT
HA! Great stuff! Thanks for sharing this, can't wait to repeat it with ya.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Jul 31, 2015 - 11:10am PT
Thanks for posting a gneiss & granitic trip report!

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Jul 31, 2015 - 12:58pm PT
woop woop!

Oakland, CA
Author's Reply  Apr 5, 2016 - 10:10am PT
Curiosity killing the cat bump! Saw a party two pitches from the top on Saturday late afternoon. Nice. Did you get off the Walk before dark? Man did it get cold that night.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Apr 5, 2016 - 11:51am PT
Had a good laugh out loud re-reading this. Ye be a fine wordsmithy.

Edit: Are you telling me we passed like ships in the night, both in the valley last Saturday afternoon? I was in El Cap Meadow ~5pm or a little later, spent some time looking over toward the Cathedrals.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Apr 5, 2016 - 11:10am PT
LOL a few friends of mine. Good eye Brice! Per Jonathan "descent was a bitch." :)
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Apr 5, 2016 - 11:45am PT
Well dang, I've already done the Reggae Route, so I guess this must get done too.

Oakland, CA
Author's Reply  Apr 6, 2016 - 10:55am PT
Scott, shot you an email.

Vitaliy - glad to hear it. Nice early season send.

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Apr 6, 2016 - 11:48am PT
So I just got out of a bloody three hour surgery and while my assistant Mindy cleans up the sutures and wipes the red off the operatory floor I sat down and finally read this. LeBru you are an adventurer of the first rate. Fine send. And a worthy write up. Thanks for laying my apathy to the sharpening stone and firing me up to get out there and make a plan. I haven't climbed since last fall and this report provoked action....causing me to shoot a text to my steady pardner saying "Bro we gotta get out! Call me!"

Much thanks,


Oakland, CA
Author's Reply  Apr 8, 2016 - 11:49am PT
Nice, Micro. Before last Friday, I hadn't climbed since June either. It happens :(

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Apr 8, 2016 - 05:26pm PT
Micro, I want to see a dental-themed trip report... complete with dental floss hanging belays and root canal tools for power drilling.

  Apr 8, 2016 - 07:37pm PT
Great report, beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Feb 22, 2019 - 02:58pm PT
bump for one of the best TR intro's of all time.

Monterey, Ca
  Feb 22, 2019 - 05:17pm PT
bump to remind myself to reas this later...

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
  Feb 22, 2019 - 08:41pm PT
Nice read.
I enjoyed this route and it meant a lot to me, I did it in fall of ‘16, and it was my third climb after having major league abdominal cancer surgery just four months earlier.
You get to do all the tech cruxes of the DNB while avoiding the (reportedly) sketchy belays and nasty chimneys that await higher up on that route. Couple of heads up sections lower down (including for the second, as depicted in a photo above) but never too out there. Routefinding is always intriguing but not difficult. Rock is as good as it gets on Middle C. It’s great!
Didn’t quite make the top before dark, and the last pitch was quite interesting in the dark!
Also, finding the Kat Walk in the dark was a puzzle, even though I had done the Harding North Buttress 14 years earlier. We actually found it right away, and I went halfway across, starting with some bushwhacking I didn’t recall from the first time, passed below a pedestal I also didn’t remember, then the ramp we were on just cliffed out...I didn’t remember this at all and thought I was off route. Went all the way back to the big tree, thrashed around in the bushes for a little bit and then sat in the dirt next to my partner and had to admit I had no idea where it was. It was 10 PM and it started looking like we were doomed to a sit bivi. I saw a tiny scorpion in the dirt here too! Didn’t even know they were in the valley!
Then I had an idea...out came my phone, and I pulled up Clint Cummins website, with the assumption he’d have a photo with the route overlay. Sure enough he did, and the ramp I had already gone halfway across was the Kat Walk all along. You go up and over the pedestal. Derp. So much for my supposedly photographic memory. We kept the rope on for the Kat Walk, there’s good gear all the way and it’ll keep ya safe if you’re feeling knackered.
This route definitely delivers when you’re looking to just climb and climb! Go do it.
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