Type: Trad, 2000 ft, 19 pitches
FA: Clint Cummins & Joel Ager - May, 1989
Page Views: 6,984 total · 56/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Oct 7, 2008
Admins: M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Yosemite National Park climbing closures and conditions Details


Ho Chi Minh Trail is a variation to the upper two-thirds of the DNB and avoids the chimneys by linking features up the wall just to the right. There are still some "adventure" sections of climbing with loose rock and mandatory tree climbing, but mostly the climbing is steep and interesting. Pro is generally excellent. The length, star rating, and difficulty reflect beginning with the first six pitches of the DNB (which include the best climbing of that route and it's crux -- a trivial two-move affair).

Climb pitch 1 through 5 of the DNB.

P6: Begin up P6 of the DNB, but where that route begins to traverse left to a belay on the top of a ledge system formed by huge flakes, continue up and right. The route face climbs and ascends a left-facing corner to a bolted belay on a pedestal. The anchor here is new, and it can be spotted from below which helps with route-finding. This is the P7 belay in the Reid topo. 5.9, 190'.

P7: Locate a significant, huge left facing corner (difficult to see) capped by a huge roof (obvious) high above. Your goal is a belay near the base of this corner. Traverse up and right off the belay passing a bolt. Continue up past an optional belay ledge and into an S-curving left-facing corner. 5.10c, 180'.

P8: Pass another bolt off the belay to the right, then continue up to a belay ledge on a large sloping ledge system below a huge diorite chimney/gully feature. This is the pitch 10 belay on the Reid topo. 5.10a, 180'.

P9: Climb up into the chimney (slightly wet in places), then traverse wildly around to the right and continue up the headwall to belay on a ramp feature below some large trees in a mossy chimney. 5.10a, 190'.

P10: Traverse right on knobs around a pillar, and continue into a right facing corner. Up this past some lichen-covered liebacking (good climbing though), and up to a belay at a good stance. 5.10c, 180'.

P11: Head up and left on easy, loose blocks, then up twin cracks to a belay just above and to the left of a long roof. This is the pitch 14 belay on the Reid topo. 5.9.

P12: Climb out right and up an unprotected slab, using the tree to finish the last scary move. Continue up a corner/groove to a belay at the Turret ledge. 5.8.

P13: Climb up nebulous terrain, cracks, and loose rock up and to the left. Belay below a left-facing corner with a blocky undercling roof at the top. 5.8.

P14: Climb the corner and move left through the juggy roof - a cool pitch. 5.10.

P15: Up an airy flake/face to a difficult move stepping left, through a small roof, and up a thin crack above. Dirty and difficult. Belay or continue up loose rock above. 5.10.

P16: If necessary, continue climbing to a huge ledge below the top of Thirsty Spire. From here, a short 5.7 hand crack up the center of the Spire leads to 100' of 4th class to the two huge trees that mark the start of the Kat Walk.

...or something like that.


Double set from 0.3 to #2 Camalot. One #3. Wires.


That two-move sequence is scarcely 'trivial'! Oct 12, 2008
alix morris
Estes Park, CO
alix morris   Estes Park, CO
In Reid Guidebook, P19, is described as 5.8 loose...It was certainly loose and definitely WIDE. We only brought a rack to three, but if you want to safely protect this pitch, bring a five or six. OR face traverse over to an easy flaring chimney in a left facing corner that protects with a #2 or #3. [unless we were off route]

Also, I would bring doubles to three, not two. They were very helpful for the climb and belays. Sep 30, 2013
This is stellar route that needs some more traffic. We linked it up into 12 pitches last Saturday with a 70 meter rope. The photo overlay posted by Clint on a Suoertopo thread was very useful in the route finding. I'd say the rack is fine above. If I added anything it would be a few extra cams in the 1" range to ease on linking and making belays.

The most tricky route finding for us was the next to last pitch. After you do the pitch with 2 10b sections indicated you arrive at a belay with a single bolt. Above here you look up from right to left at: a left facing squeeze chimney, a prominent right facing corner, discontinuous cracks leading to a 4" crack that splits a steep section on white rock. You want to stay left and head up to below the 4" crack and then bust left around the corner in an improbable traverse. With a full 70 you can go to the top in this pitch Oct 12, 2015
Vlad S
Vlad S  
Felt like pitch 5 was a bit more sustained and trickier than pitch 3 which really is a trivial two mover as described on very clean rock and with a bolt at your face. A few of the 5.10 pitches higher up also required a higher commitment level due to dirty and questionable rock. 70 m rope was not needed anywhere. We did all the logical links doing the route in 14 pitches and none of the pitches were longer than 60 m. Lots of shorter pitches don't make sense to link due to the back-and-fourth traversing. I would recommend bringing the shorter cord to save on weight.

On pitch 12 (Reid 15), we didn't find either the slab, or runout, or a dead tree to pull on. It went up and right through worn rock on jugs with good gear and up past some very much alive-and-in-your-way trees.

David's comment about (Reid) pitch 19 is spot on and I wish I remembered it better. Climbing up and back down the obvious lichen-encrusted 4" fist crack was not fun. The pitch goes out of the view around the LEFT arete after 30 feet of easy scrambling on a pile of loose blocks and links well into the 5.7 hand crack on p 20. May 16, 2016
Absolutely sandbagged (again!) by my longtime climbing partner, Hans Lippuner, into doing this climb circa 1999. He claims Dan Osman is the one who turned him on to this Route. I only found out later that Clint Cummins is responsible for this bold, almost visionary line that makes the touted DNB look like mere child's play. And even after firing the route, you still have to find and cross the wildly exposed Kat Walk; and preferably be familiar with the East Buttress Descent. I think the best part of the HCMT is the "wild" traverse on Pitch 9! It is a full 200 feet and must be some of the most bold and exposed Valley trad climbing period. I think the so-called 5.8 roof on Pitch 12 is under-rated, scary, exciting, and distressingly pumpy for the Grade. I enjoyed leading Pitch 15 (5.10c thin crack), and especially because you top-out at a small tree and nice ledge. We 3rd Classed from here to the Kat Walk, which I wish we knew beforehand that "two huge trees" mark the start.
The only long trad climb I can compare this to is the 20+ pitch Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag, which is much easier. Epinephrine is easier still, and a walk in the Park compared to the HCMT. What about "10" on Patterson Bluff for length, difficulty, and commitment level at 15 pitches, which you have to rap down into even before you can then start the climb (a majority of the pitches being solid 5.10, and harder)? I think the Red Dihedral on the Incredible Hulk, or Fish Hook Arete on Mt. Russell, both car-to-car, are easier and less committing than the HCMT. I have since searched-out and aspire to Mr. Cummin's "Recommended List" of long trad climbing routes in the Valley!

Aug 17, 2016
Michael Dom  
This route is Yosemite at it's finest. Be sure to bring a topo with you since this route wanders. You will definitely remember this one. Oct 14, 2016
Dmitriy Litvak
Pacifica, CA
Dmitriy Litvak   Pacifica, CA
Any word on whether the route stays dry in the early season. May 17, 2017
Oakland, CA
Sirius   Oakland, CA
I thought p3 was .11-, not .10+. Bit of a runout sequence on two mantles leading to the crux - no falls here, would be ugly.

I think the best part of the HCMT is the "wild" traverse on Pitch 9! It is a full 200 feet and must be some of the most bold and exposed Valley trad climbing period.

100% agree. Two years after we climbed it and this pitch shines as the wildest on a route full of excellent pitches. Not "bold" per se, in the way I understand that word ie heady, but an airy voyage into a surprising sequence of route-finding decisions with biiiiiig air beneath your feet - absolutely loved it. With a 70 we linked this and the next pitch, up through the dark chimney flake and onto the ledge (never found the .10c indicated there).

David's comment about (Reid) pitch 19 is spot on and I wish I remembered it better. Climbing up and back down the obvious lichen-encrusted 4" fist crack was not fun.

We went straight up this crack, protected with a #3 C4 and went at .10- (lichen).

With a 70m we linked in 11 pitches. We definitely didn't want to do the Kat Walk in the dark. Now having done it, I'm glad we did it in the daylight.

supertopo.com/tr/Ho-Chi-Min… May 17, 2017
Nkane 1
Berkeley, CA
Nkane 1   Berkeley, CA
What an incredible journey. By the time we topped out, I couldn't believe that I had done the P3 mantle on the same day. This is a long, fantastic route on mostly good rock, with mostly fun climbing and mostly safe protection. The exceptions to the above statements mark the difference between cragging and adventure. My hat is off to Clint Cummins for a visionary line (and wonderful beta)

I'd say I don't know how you could pack more free climbing into a day, but I got down to learn that Alex Honnold was soloing Freerider while we were up there. How's that for perspective.

A few notes while this is still fresh in my mind. Warning - detail ahead!

The pitch numbers below match up to the pitches in the above description. We did the route in 14 pitches.

P1 - we attempted the "MacMillan Variation" to the right to avoid the 5.7 chimney. This mostly went quickly but we found a move that was definitely 5.10. The new Sloan topo seems to indicate that there is a 5.8 passage but we didn't see it. ~140' to the DNB P2 belay.

P3 - the first mantle (at the pin in the corner) is surprisingly difficult, the next two are easy but runout, the fourth is the business but not really that terrible.


P6 - there are right-facing and left-facing corners facing each other after DNB goes left. You can climb either; step right at the top to belay.

P7 - Route finding is tricky on this one. Be not suckered right into an attractive, juggy, right-trending crack after the first bolt (even though this is really fun climbing to up- and down-climb). Rather, look up and left for 2 fixed pins and eventually a second bolt. I thought the move past the pins was one of the hardest of the route and was the only place I fell. The lower pin backs up well. This entire pitch, including the S-curving corner/flake (fun!) is more like 150' than 180'.

P8-9 The pitch lengths above are wrong for these pitches (10a face past a bolt then chimney to 10a headwall on black rock). The two combined are about 180' and link very easily and logically. Belay on a ramp below some trees after pulling the steep 10a headwall.

P10 - another tricky one for route finding. Go up a ramp for maybe 30' then step right on knobs to reach another right facing corner. Go up again maybe 20' (5.8-9) and look for subtle edges that go right at a surprisingly easy grade (5.7-8) to a second right facing corner. This is the 10c "lichen lieback." Fun climbing and all the footholds are clean. Belay on top of a golden block.

P11 - nice pitch but fatigue begins to set in. Belay amongst an uncomfortable tree.

P12 - I agree with Vlad's comments about this pitch. The initial part is no biggie and the holds are all there. The second half, (labeled as 2 1/2" on the Reid topo) though, is SURPRISE OFFWIDTH! Not terribly hard, but 4-6" for 40' or so. It might be possible to step left to another system but I chose not to. The whole pitch is probably 180-190'.

p13-15 are all relatively short. The two 5.10 pitches would be a logical link if you have the gear and the guns remaining by that point in the day ( I did not). The 10c on 14 is really fun and protects well; straightforward crack climbing was a nice break from all of the funkiness and uncertainty of the previous pitches. If you want to belay at the top of 14, there's a small triangle stance right after the difficulties. On p15, the route we found went right (not left) around an arching roof with a bush just below it.

P16 - you're now below the final obstacle (pictured in Sirius's comment above.) Rather than taking the right-facing fist crack, as he is pictured doing, I found a passage stepping left just below the left-arching crack on white rock. The place to step left is where you climb a short, steep corner with two handcracks. Follow the left handcrack to a stance and step left to a left-facing corner system. This goes up 50 or so more feet on 5.7 terrain to a massive ledge across which you can continue up the final 5.7 handcrack (fun!) to the bushy ledge at the Thirsty Spire notch, and victory.

To find the Kat Walk, Clint's beta was invaluable. The key is to trend left and up from the Thirsty Spire notch, following the line of least resistance through bushes, until you discover the giant (ant-covered) fir tree behind which you can tunnel and then continue up to the 2 fir trees that mark the start of the Kat Walk itelf. We were nervous about finding the East Butt trail in the fading light, but traversing and descending at logical points after the narrow part of the Kat Walk seemed to lead us naturally onto it and right around the corner (don't go down too much) into the gully. There was enough of a drip at the top of the gully to harvest a few needed swallows of water before descending, but it probably won't last longer than a few more weeks.

Gear: we brought doubles to #3, with a few extra offset cams in the finger sizes and 15 slings. I used allllllll of that gear on some pitches. 2.5 L of water each and a small pack. Running shoes were fine to descend the gully but we kept climbing shoes on for the Kat Walk.

Go get it! This should get climbed more. Jun 5, 2017
Remy Franklin
Tucson, AZ
Remy Franklin   Tucson, AZ
With much respect for the first ascensionists and positive comments below - we had a terrible time on this route. I couldn't disagree more with the previous comment regarding "mostly good rock, with mostly fun climbing and mostly safe protection." I would say there were only about 3 pitches with "mostly good rock" and just a few with consistently safe protection. I felt safe on much of the route because I have no trouble onsighting these grades, but I wouldn't recommend climbing Ho Chi Minh Trail if you think you might fall. I actually wouldn't recommend climbing the route either way, unless you enjoy the excitement of climbing on bad/sketchy rock (many do, no judgement). There are lots of amazing routes nearby with wonderful rock.

I pulled off several holds that looked and sounded very solid (lucky to have recently placed a cam one time and to catch myself the other time, so I wasn't too badly hurt). There are many more sections where if a hold broke you would not be as lucky as I was, and there were many pitches where you have to pull on big blocks/flakes that sound hollow and could easily come off.

Aside from comments about rock quality, I mostly agree with the beta below. So read carefully and ask around a little before you decide to get on this route. Also, as others have said - the descent is almost impossible to figure out at night if you haven't done it before. Plan accordingly.

Finally, just to put things in context a bit - we had climbed a lot of multi-pitch previously but this was one of our first big, day-long pushes in Yosemite. I was leading every pitch and we did not bring wide gear (only up to #3), which means I was mentally exhausted from being slightly terrified (of rock quality and various long, easy OW solos). So it's possible you would have a different experience! I may have been a Valley newb when we did this, but even after another month of climbing hard classics in Yosemite, I still wished I hadn't climbed this route. Dec 7, 2017
Amazing line, classic route. Deserves to be climbed more often. Jul 8, 2018