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.
Eldorado 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, following the rock-built trail, climb a short iron ladder, and look for a pine tree growing around a bulge at the base of the cliff. This is the start of the route.
Me Climbing Pitch 1
The 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: Begin just to the left of the pine tree and climb easy rock to the start of a right facing corner. Climb up this, past a large ledge, step left, and continue further up the corner. Belay on a large ledge with a large pine tree.
P2: Tackle the obvious overhang, climb a short corner, and pull a roof. Belay somewhere, or better yet, continue into pitch 3.
P3: Step right into an arching corner with a hand crack and climb this to another roof (crux, 5.8). Jugs lead to a spacious ledge.
P5: The original route heads straight up from the highest point on the slating ledge through blocky, nebulous terrain. I have heard a better variation is to do the last pitch of Tiger Balm Arete, an exposed 5.6 arete. Either way, the route tops out right on the summit of Shirt Tail.
Me Climbing Pitch 3, the crux
P4: Head right along the large ledge and climb a short but awkward flare (Fixed Pin, possible to back up with #4 Camalot), and then step around the corner to the right. Fire up on fun 5.7 cracks to a small, but long slanting ledge. Couple options for belaying here.
P5: The original route heads straight up from the highest point on the slating ledge through blocky, nebulous terrain. I have heard a better variation is to do the last pitch of Tiger Balm Arete, an exposed 5.6 arete. Haven't done it, so can't comment on it, but either way, the route tops out right on the summit of Shirt Tail.
Phil Climbing Gambit
First Rappel Tree
Descent: 3 rappels can be made off the summit ridge back down to the gully between Shirttail and Rincon. Begin by scrambling from the summit to the north, along the summit ridge. About 100 feet after the summit, begin looking west (left) for a medium-sized pine tree with red and blue slings wrapped around its base. The tree is sort of hard to spot. My suggestion is to look when you come to a ledge on the west side of the ridge that is covered in loose rocks. Peer down into the steep gully, and you will see the tree about 20 feet down from the ridge. Scramble down to the tree, rappel down the gully to a second tree with more slings on it. Rappel from this tree about 75 feet down the face to the third tree with slings on it (it is easily visible from the second tree). From the third tree, rappel to the deck, but be careful, we had a 60 meter rope and the knots were about 5 feet above the ground, however the last few feet can be easily down climbed. Walk back to the beginning of the route, and re trace your steps back.
A 70 meter rope may make the last rappel involve less down climbing. A set of wires and 2x cams for finger sized through number 3 camalot, with an optional 4 Camalot for the wide crack would suffice for this route. There is a way to bail from this route if the need arises: There is a rap station immediately climber's right of the top of the crux roof on the third pitch, about 15 feet out. You should be able to rap into the gully from there.
-Mountainproject.com Gambit entry
-Eldorado State Park