Type: Trad, 5 pitches Fixed Hardware (1)
FA: George Hurley and Bob Culp, 1965
Page Views: 55,761 total · 203/month
Shared By: Michael Walker on Sep 2, 2001 · Updates
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

You & This Route

751 Opinions
Your To-Do List: Add To-Do ·
Your Star Rating:
Rating Rating Rating Rating Rating      Clear Rating
Your Difficulty Rating:
-none- Change
Your Ticks:Add New Tick
Use onX Backcountry to explore the terrain in 3D, view recent satellite imagery, and more. Now available in onX Backcountry Mobile apps! For more information see this post.
Warning Access Issue: 2023 Seasonal Closures - lifted DetailsDrop down
Warning Access Issue: 2017 Raptor Closure Lifted DetailsDrop down

Description Suggest change

Gambit shines like a rough, uncut diamond. Interesting climbing gets increasingly better with each pitch, as one gains the majestic Southwest Face, finishing on the highest summit in Eldorado Canyon State Park. This is a very fun climb.

Due to the loose rocks on the belay ledges, it is NOT advisable to follow another party up Gambit - 120% vigilance is required at the belays, and most of the time you're lost in the views instead, but luckily, you should find Shirt Tail quiet; mostly due to the 45-minute hike. An early start is advisable in the summer as shade is provided all morning until the climber ventures out onto the southwest face. This face can be hot in the afternoon.

The following description breaks the climb into 5 pitches. It can be done by condensing P2 & P3, but by breaking them into two sections, the leader avoids some rope drag approaching the 5.8 roof and also enjoys at least one "normal" belay (read: slightly uncomfortable Serta-lounger-with-a-view on a carpet of pigeon shit). After all, the other three belays are roomy, comfortable, and relatively safe on good ledges. Pitches 4 and 5 combine nicely with a 60m rope.

Approach: follow the newly built (fall 2010) trail up Shirt Tail Peak until it ends at a nice, big, flat rock step.

P1. Start just to the right of the base of the Tiger Balm Arete (the blunt arete that narrows and finishes on the West of the summit) from near a large tree growing curiously "around" a bulge in the slab, following a large crack that gets thin, passing a small tree and entering a right-facing dihedral. Once at another small tree, jog up and left entering another short, right-facing dihedral. Fun liebacks gain the first big ledge. Belay by a big tree on this ledge.

P2. Follow the steep, tricky crack straight up from the ledge, mastering a slight overhang. Interesting climbing continues up steep terrain to a second overhang. Master this small roof, and set up a belay on the pigeon shelf, which actually provides a nice view of your second having fun in the crack below. If you plan to continue on (recommended), mind your rope drag with a long sling when protecting the traverse.

P3. From the pigeon shelf, traverse right and stem out across the void with a stunning move into the left-facing dihedral above. A great hand/fist crack follows, splitting the aesthetic dihedral. The crack arcs up and slightly left, ever steepening until it meets an overhang. Jam out the fun roof, and pull onto a roomy ledge with lots of loose rock. [addendum: if you place a #3 in the last ~20 section, there is a good chance that you'll lose it. Place a #2 instead or use a very long sling.]

P4. This pitch packs more punch than may be implied by the 5.7 rating it garners. This one is a classic. Improbably, you must first find a way up and right from the roomy belay, through a narrowing slot. A hanging slab with few holds and a half exposed pin forces climbers into the offwidth on the right. Clip the pin, go set up a nice #4 (I used a 3.8") in the back of the offwidth, reach back, and unclip the (mostly psychological) pin. I won't tell you the secret of the offwidth -- that's half the fun. Surmount the chockstone at the head of the slot, and you'll be standing on a ledge just below the Southwest Face. Now it's party time - step up right and out onto the face, following a right-angling, slightly overhanging hand crack over stupendous exposure with knockout jams...a real treat. Continue up the face until you see a made-to-order 2-foot ledge angling across the face. You get a choice of belays on the ledge, but the crown of the ledge, with two seats, made for airy position and a comfortable crib. You are belaying in space, the flat face dropping away below you. With a 60m rope, you can make it to the top if the drag isn't bad.

P5. Continue up the face on good cracks past blocky, seemingly sketchy rock that ends (thankfully!) right on the summit. Stay left near the top to avoid the worst of the loose rock. Bring your second up, watching to the south the busy Eldorado antics, the fascinating Flatirons to the north, or the Indian Peaks to the west; reveling in the solitude of the upper canyon.

Protection Suggest change

SR up to a #4.

Descent Suggest change

From the top of the climb, look north and you'll see a large tree (the largest in the area) about 100' away, and 20' below the ridge. It looks like a perfect rap tree, but you can't see the webbing from here. There is a much smaller tree about 40 feet from the summit with slings around it - it's a decoy - go farther to that big tree.

Rap ~80' to a large ledge and find the next rap tree just a little further. Another ~80' rap to another tree. From there, a 60m rope just reaches a large ledge with easy climbing to the ground. If using a 50m, you can downclimb this last bit, but watch the rope ends!