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Left Hand
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Air Conditioner T 
Fine Whine S 
Left Hand Crack T 
Question of Balance T,TR 

Left Hand Crack 

YDS: 5.8+ French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c

Type:  Trad, 1 pitch
Original:  YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c [details]
FA: Bob Dickerson
Page Views: 7,215
Submitted By: phil broscovak on Jan 1, 2005

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (73)
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BETA PHOTO: Left Hand Crack.


I was really surprised that no one had submitted this absolutely fabulous Harmel's classic. Left Hand Crack might just be one of the best 5.8 cracks on the Western Slope. Many people would argue that LH should be rated 5.9, some would even say 9+ but for two things; 1: Left Hand has always been rated 5.8. and 2: Left Hand has everything you need. Sure, I will grant that it is stiff for the grade, but Harmel's has always been stoutly rated, and yes it is in your face crack climbing. But if you avoid tunnel vision and make like the Vitruvian Man, you will see what all is around you. Most people who struggle or fail on LH do so because they only focus on the six inches of rock in their face. At Harmel's, there is always more than meets the eye.

In the background of first picture under Question of Balance, you can see the inverted Vee where Left Hand starts. The start of LH is fun jams, stems and liebacks to get established on the narrow ledge to the left. From this stance, there are two flakes like surfboard ends right in front of you. From here, also the overhanging crack and dihedral of LH looms above. Lieback the flakes and jam up the crack till your feet are atop the flakes. Repeat the same process of lieback, jam, work feet to stances on left until the angle kicks back to less than vertical. From there, work up and left passing the roof on the left and joining the Crystal Staircase finish to the bolted belay stance. The crux is the awkward transition from overhanging crack to less than vertical crack. Look for a teeny stem hold way out near the arete behind you to your right. If you are competent with solid gear placements, they can be gotten from stances and any potential air time should be safe.

From the bolted station atop LH, you can rap and top rope all of the routes on that wall from Tony's Tango to LH. Or you can finish up to the top on a variety of routes. My favorite finish has always been the 'Aqua Dog', 5.9, offwidth roof.


It used to be that you would work your way up, sling the flake, slot in a perfect #9 Hex and fire for the top. Now with all those fabulous springy things that are available, you could literally sew this splitter crack up. With modern gear LH would be a fine, early leading experience.

Photos of Left Hand Crack Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Recent pic of me with Bob Dickerson (on right), Oc...
Recent pic of me with Bob Dickerson (on right), Oc...
Rock Climbing Photo: A great first trad lead...I found right hand just ...
BETA PHOTO: A great first trad lead...I found right hand just ...
Rock Climbing Photo: "Left Handed Air Dog".
"Left Handed Air Dog".
Rock Climbing Photo: Mark Abbott at the crux.
Mark Abbott at the crux.

Comments on Left Hand Crack Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 10, 2017
By Caitlin Galt
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Jun 6, 2006
rating: 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a

This is definitely rated stiff! Be sure to tape up your right hand, the back of it gets beat up pretty bad. Yeah, it's called left hand, but I think thats cause you only come off the route with your left hand remaining. Fun climb though!
By John Peterson
Jun 14, 2006
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a

Maybe it's always been rated 5.8 but it's always been a 5.9 climb! But just for a couple of moves.
By Daniel Crescenzo
Jul 24, 2007
rating: 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a PG13

If this route is 5.8, my dog wants to sell you a bridge in Frisco!!! Any route with an overhanging handcrack should not be considered an 8.
From: Santa Monica, Ca.
Oct 12, 2007
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

The fun way I always used to do it was (see photo above), after the crux, traverse right (unprotected) onto to a sloping slab to the 1st belay of Air Conditioner. This move is reminiscent of turning the corner on the first pitch of the Owl in Boulder Canyon, not hard (5.6/5.7) but would be a nasty smack if you fell on lead. Then continue up the second pitch of Air C. and top out with Aqua Dog. I guess you could call this variation "Left Handed Air Dog". Anyway, it makes for a fun 3 pitch 5.8 (old school) climb.
By Jon Miller on the WS
Apr 16, 2008

So I was leading Left Hand after a LONG time (my first shot lead to a 35ft head first fall - hey I was young and stupid!) and this guy walks up and watches me finish. When I got down he asks - "Do you know what's that rated?" I told him 5.8, but everybody I knew would love to say 5.9. It turns out he was Bob Dickerson, the FA. He rated Left Hand 5.8 because he led it onsight. Anything onsight and hard was 5.8, anything hard that he fell on was 5.9, which is why Air Conditioner is a 5.9 - another Dickerson FA.
From: Santa Monica, Ca.
Jul 24, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Great story Jon, Bob is one of my best friends. In 1972, Air Conditioner was actually rated 5.7! cuz everybody thought that chimneys just weren't that hard, if you failed it was just cuz you had bad technique. It used to scare the sh*& out of me.

Bob also did the FA of Gymnastics, free-solo, after he rode up there on his motorcyle (a Norton I think), wasn't anyone there to climb with, so put it up, came back to town and said he put up something that had some kind of gymnastic moves at the top!
By phil broscovak
Jul 30, 2008

Hey Scott Mr MossMan
Bob is an amazing cat. One of the smartest and funniest people I have ever known. Back in the day we considered him a mobile epic maker. He wasn't having fun unless everyone was gripped. I remember one time, in the mid seventies, on an early ice climbing trip to Lake city. He was driving, his 6'5" frame barely wedged into his tiny Datsun, at 70 mph on the icy, snowpacked road between cliff face and frozen lake. Around one corner the speeding car lost its grip and we did a full 360 spin. The little rice burner regained traction and he continued, at breakneck speed, as if nothing had happened. Nothing had except for the rank odiferous change of atmosphere emanating from us slack jawed white knuckled passengers. Later that day on descent he slipped and proceeded to take a 300' tumbling slide down the mountain. We thought he was dead for sure. Arising unscathed he calmly dusted himself off and merely asked if we had seen where his ice axe had landed. Blessed by the gods he even recovered that. What a remarkable animal!
By coop Best
From: Glenwood Springs, CO
Sep 13, 2010

Maybe 2 moves of 5.9, fun route, showing signs of wear.
By Jamie Estep
From: Crested Butte, CO
Feb 17, 2011

Climbed this the first time when I was 12, and it's still a tricky climb and I climb 12s and 13s now. I would call this one of those classically graded routes. Best climb in Taylor, IMO.
By Kyle Judson
From: Colorado
Jul 3, 2011

My brother got off the couch after not climbing for 8 years and sent this on top rope. Definitely stiff, but that's what Taylor 8s are. One of my favorites on the First Buttress.
By Creed A
From: Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 17, 2014

The description and comments make this route seem like a massive sandbag. It's not. My trad onsight limit is 9+/10a depending on the style. I thought this was a cruise. If you know how to hand jam, you will send it, and the gear is bomber.
By Jamie Estep
From: Crested Butte, CO
Jul 17, 2014

@C. Archibald

I do think it's sandbagged, but if you look at it in the context of the area it makes sense as far as I'm concerned. Comparing it to similarly graded in the area Air Conditioner, Zig Zag, Jackal, Left Hand Mantel, Dunns, Chucky Cheese, etc., IMO this is harder than any of the 5.9s, except protection on Zig Zag, and at least 2 grades above the others. Also, it makes a very difficult climb to protect and clear if trying to lay it back which many think they should.
By Eric Klammer
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 27, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Ignoring the beta on the MP page and just going for it with simple jamming seemed to be much easier than stemming and other trickery employed by my other climbing partners. For the most part the jams are solid and perfect, and the few places where the crack the widens or tapers are easy to reach past. A super solid jam over the lip allows you to pull over with ease. Enjoy, it's very fun!
From: Santa Monica, Ca.
Aug 27, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c


I agree Eric, although I think that it might be fist-size dependent. BITD, I solo'd it and then when caught in a rainstorm after the crux, downclimbed it in the rain, but the crux jam just fit my fist, and I was a lot more flexible then (could walk my feet up the crack and stand up with my weight solely on the jam).
By nolteboy
From: Fort Collins, CO
Jul 10, 2017

I think the 5.8+ grade is spot on, due to the excellent hand jams and varied (and large) features for the feet.

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