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Unsorted Routes:

Cool Hand Luke 

YDS: 5.11a French: 6c Ewbanks: 22 UIAA: VII+ British: E3 5c

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch, 80'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.10c/d French: 6b+ Ewbanks: 21 UIAA: VII+ British: E3 5b [details]
FA: Paul Piana and Drew Arnold, 1983.
Page Views: 2,049
Submitted By: Steve Annecone on Jul 30, 2005
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You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (23)
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Photo by www.vedauwoo.org. The climb is #3 o...


This is a very good and sustained pitch with lots of variety. It's located on the north side of the Nautilus just west of the Horticulture area. Start up the left-facing corner system and climb through moderate but sometimes insecure terrain. The first half is harder than it looks, with [tricky] gear in spots, maybe 5.9+ or easy 5.10.

Once you've arrived at the base of the overhanging, flared hand crack, things get much harder. Power up this sustained crack for 15 or 20 feet, the crux is getting over the bulge at the top of this section. For people with thin hands, the jams may feel relatively secure, but many will find it thin and flared. A nice rest stance comes after the overhang and under the final roof/offwidth.

Work into the wide crack, this upper crux is getting off the stance and into the crack initially. This bit felt like 5.10c or so, and can be protected with a #4 Camalot. From there, easier 5.9 fists takes you to the top. Walk off to the west.

Quite a nice route, even by Nautilus standards. I took the liberty of increasing the rating a bit over the 5.10d listed in the guidebook. I've done other 5.1la routes in Vedauwoo that felt easier than Cool Hand Luke, and this felt similar to Boardwalk (5.11b) in difficulty and type of climbing, so the 11a seems justified by Vedauwoo standards. (Also, three others who climbed it that day thought it was 11+ so it may still be tough for it's rating).


Standard Vedauwoo rack with plenty of cams, and some nuts. The crux will require 1.5 to 2-inch cams, and make sure you have a couple of pieces in the #3 to #4 Camalot size for the final wide crack at the top.

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By Thomas Jensen
Aug 8, 2005
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b

Great climb, but hardly Vedauwoo 5.11 Try Maxi Lash or B-G Crack and then call this 5.11a without laughing.

By Steve Annecone
From: boulder
Aug 9, 2005

I agree this isn't as hard as Maxi Lash, but that's a known sandbag, and offwidth to thin crack comparisons are not so useful. I thought it was harder than Boardwalk (11b), 2nd pitch of Friday the 13th (11a), and Mud in Your Eye (11b), and hence the proposed rating... but ratings will always be somewhat subjective.

By Justin Edl
Apr 21, 2006
rating: 5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b

Ratings are a "should I walk up the hill and try that" guideline. 11a or 10d, if that is your range then hell yeah you should walk up the hill and try that, no need to upgrade everything. Climb because you love it, and use numbers in a general sense to recognize your own improvement, because that is undeniably important to us. It helps us feel that we have accomplished some degree of improvement and proficiency, and that is very human. This climb was originally graded 10+, and 10+ it should stay. If you feel it to be a sandbag, deem it so and don't worry about the actual number assigned to it. A challenge is a challenge, and we all know when we are and are not pushing ourselves. Sandbags have the wonderful characteristic that they allow you to get on stuff you might not otherwise try, and on well protected climbs, especially single pitch climbs, this is not a bad thing at all. I was once talking to a very enlightened person about the grades at Vedauwoo, and he opened my eyes to a beautiful perspective. He said when you are up there getting you ass kicked on a pitch that carries a grade that you can typically onsight at many other places, you know you are climbing the line not for the number assigned to it, but because you really want to do it. I think this is a very wonderful outlook on climbing.

By Rob Dillon
May 19, 2007

This climb demolished my 8a.nu rating, and I hate hate hate it!

.12d in the Sport Park, easy.

By Brian Weinstein
Jun 11, 2007
rating: 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b

Well said Jammer.

By Skip Harper
Dec 11, 2009

Cool Hand Luke is #3 on the beta photo (Piana and Arnold,'83). Failure to Communicate is #1 on the beta photo.... named by Kelman and probable FFA by Waterman (date?). Route #2 is 'Dragline's Demise'. It surmounts a series of ledges to the crux, an overhanging bulge at about 10a, and tops out via a decent hand crack. This was put up by Harper and Diamond in '92. Since then, someone has put in rap anchors on top. This is a great little area and the climbs are fun, despite grade controversies.

By GabeO
From: Denver, CO
Jul 1, 2012

I don't have enough experience at Vedauwoo to feel I can grade this climb accurately, so I'll just add my two cents here, where you can take it or leave it, and it won't go into the MP grading algorithm. I cruised the thin-crack crux (which I'd put at low to mid-5.11). The upper OW crux nearly spit me off, but I'm not a great OW climber. So, I'd give the upper crux 10+/11-. Overall, I'd grade it low to mid-5.11.