Gambit provides an extremely enjoyable moderate trad climb to the summit of Shirttail Peak. Due to the long-ish approach (1 mile), the route sees far less traffic than other classic routes in Eldorado Canyon. The route follows a series of superb cracks, dihedrals, and off widths. The crux comes on the 3rd pitch as the climber must first surmount a fine layback crack that leads to a small roof. The views are excellent from any point on the route, stretching from Denver to the Indian Peaks. There is quite a bit of loose rock on this route. Most of the belay ledges are littered with loose rocks that must be paid attention to. Helmets are a must. The route tops out on the summit of Shirttail Peak, the highest point in the state park, and very rewarding summit views are presented. This is a south facing route, so it can get pretty hot in the summer, but climbable in the winter. After a few warm days, the route and approach should be snow/ice free.
Getting ThereEldorado Canyon State Park is reached from the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 170, 3 miles south of Boulder. Take Highway 170 west into the town of Eldorado Springs. As the pavement ends, continue through the town and past the park entrance where you pay. Drive up the dirt road for about 1 miles until you cross a bridge. There is a parking lot a few feet past the bridge on the right. Park here.
Getting to the base of the climb is pretty easy. You can see the distinct summit pyramid of Shirttail Peak from almost anywhere on the hike. From the parking lot, head up the road to the right and follow it towards the Eldorado Canyon Trail (.1 mile from the parking lot). Take the trail up for a few switchbacks and take the first right onto the trail that leads to the Rincon Wall. There is a big sign here and it is impossible to miss. Follow this trail until it comes to large boulder field. The trail kind of fades in the boulder field, but picks up again on the other side. After crossing the talus, you will be at the base of Rincon Wall. Follow the trail along the base and it will take you into a steep gully full of loose rock. Scramble up the gully a little ways to the base of the climb, which is located just to the right of Tiger Balm Arete, the large undulating Arete visible above. There is a large pine tree whose roots and base wrap around the rocks at the base.
Route DescriptionThe climb can be done in 4 pitches pretty easily, even though it is listed as a 5 pitch route. We shortened pitch one by starting a little higher and to the right of the base of the climb, then traversed left back onto the route. Pitch 2 and 3 can be easily combined with a 60 meter rope.
P1: Follow the crack system over relatively easy terrain, first past a small tree, then up to a nice ledge with a large tree for belaying and anchoring.
P2/3: From the ledge with the tree climb up the obvious crack, just slightly left of the tree. This crack will turn into a dihedral, then come to a small roof. Climb the roof, and continue up to a layback crack that leads directly into another small roof. This is the crux of the route. Climb the roof, and climb up easier terrain for about 15-20 feet to a large belay ledge that has a lot of loose rock. If you are doing this stretch as two pitches, there is a small belay ledge about half way between the two roofs.
P4: From the large belay ledge, climb up to the right, up an awkward off width, and then onto another ledge. From here, inch yourself out onto the actual face of the summit block. You can clearly see the most of the rest of the route from here. Climb up a series of cracks for about 50 feet to a thin, but long slanting ledge.
P5: The last pitch is relatively easy, but very exposed. At this point, you are over 1000 feet above the canyon floor, on a nearly vertical wall. Climb up more cracks and blocky holds to the summit. Aim a little to the left, this is where the better protection is. Top out on the summit.
Essential GearA 60 meter rope barely makes the last rappel. Other than that, normal Eldo gear suffices for this route; Cams 1-4 (we placed the Number 4 just for fun), set of nuts, and plenty of runners/slings.
External Links-Mountainproject.com Gambit entry
-Eldorado State Park