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Routes in Shirt Tail Peak

Can't Find My Way Home T 5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Cro-Magnon aka The Tail T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Destruction T 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a R
Double Life T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a R
Emperor's New Shoes, The T 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a PG13
Future Primitive T 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Gambit T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Ginseng Junkie T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Giuoco Piano Direct T 5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R
King Of Pain T,S,TR 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a R
Missing Link T 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
Moriarty's Mistake T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a R
Moriarty's Revenge T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a R
Mountaineer's Route T 5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
Mrs. Clean Gets Down T,S,TR 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c R
Serrated Jam Crack T 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Sorenson Crack T 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Throne, The T,S 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Tiger Balm Arete T 5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c R
Windlass or 'The Tail' T 5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a R
Type: Trad, 4 pitches Fixed Hardware (1)
FA: Bob Culp and George Hurley, 1965, FFA: Jim Erickson, 1975
Page Views: 3,567 total, 19/month
Shared By: Tony B on Feb 15, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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This route is a forgotten classic. After getting on it for the first time, I had to do it again, and SOON.

After a junky first pitch, the climb shows 3-4 beautiful pitches on great stone, each with their own character. Tiger Balm Arete climbs the solid left-side arete of the Shirt Tail Peak, just left of the climb Gambit .

Pitch 1: On the prow of the huge arete on Shirt-tail climb the obvious off-width system or junky, bush-choked cracks to the left (either is 5.8) to reach a big in-cut ledge system with a 7' tall pine tree and good hand-crack above. Don't belay at this tree- keep going through P2. It would also be just as well to do the first pitch of Gambit to the large belay tree and go up and left on the big shelf the first pitch belay of Tiger Balm Arete.

Pitch 2: This is the first good pitch. From the belay-tree pull up and left into the thin-hands crack. The hard part will be getting past the tree and into the crack off of the deck. Climb 45-50' of hand jams and perfect jugs to a final 6' of finger-crack (right) or wide hands crack (left) to finish on the next incut ledge. This pitch protects well with a few cams 1.5" to 3". If this pitch were longer it would be a classic in and of it's own merit, and there would be lines of climber cued up to do it. Worthy! Belay on the large ledge system above this crack.

Pitch 3: This is the crux pitch. Pull up off of the ledge system to a good, fat bolt on secure holds. Clip the bolt and twist through the big crux move. I found this to be much more technical then powerful. This long move (5.11b) would be extremely difficult without the right body position. Above the crux move there are good holds, but the wall is steep and does not give good rest. Move up and right (5.10a) from the in-cuts to a large horizontal (you can place #4.5- #5 camalots in this broken groove) and then up to a small crack in a right-facing feature (5.9). Load this with RP's or small nuts and a ball-nut before continuing up (5.8) and onto the slab above (5.7). The slab protects occasionally and should be considered S, but if you get that far, I don't think you will be falling at that point. Continue up the slabby face past a small ledge (5.4) to the next incut ledge and belay from the large pine tree with fixed anchors (100').

Pitch 4: There are a few options, but the best two both start by climbing straight up above through the finger-crack with 2 big jugs, a fun and physical start. After 30' the route splits Option 4a: Climb up the easy, well protected, left-facing corner and hand traverse (5.9) out the roof to reach the arete. This will create drag if you were hoping to shoot for the summit from the last belay. Option 4b: Climb up the dark arete up and two your right for 35 feet. This will leave the rope free of drag, and if you have a 60m rope (a 50m MIGHT work), you can run for the summit. This is 5.8- and has no protection at all. A fall would be a career-ender, but the moves are secure and relatively easy. All finish: Continue up the sharp prow of the arete, protecting when ever pro becomes available, as it may not again soon. Since there are no really good belays on the arete, fire for the spectacular summit of Shirt Tail Peak for a belay. The final 35 meter arete is comparable to the summit pitch of The Yellow Spur. However, the pitch is a little more vertical, a little more protectable, and in my opinion, a little better.

What a fabulous route!


The crux is bolted. After the crux the climb is mostly small wires and a small ballnut, but take a standard rack of cams to proect the rest.

If you think you will be afraid of a 15' ledge fall from the 5.9 moves, a #4.5 and #5 Camalot can be placed in a broken horizontal for protection just above the crux bolt.

Rossiter gives this climb a VS, but I don't agree with the rating. Several good nuts can be placed along the way and the only real runouts are rated 5.7.

Robert D.
Boulder, CO
Robert D.   Boulder, CO
I went up with little beta was drawn into climbing the variation. I couldn't remember how many bolts were at the crux (1 or 2), so I climbed up to the obvious second bolt before realizing I was now on a bolted line. Oh well. The variation is fun, but I can attest from my experience that it does draw climbers, particularly those with sketchy beta, off a classic route. Guess I'll have to go back when I want a good scare.

Moral of the story -- head right after the first bolt if you want to climb the original line. Mar 10, 2014
Just to keep the record straight here---the first ascent of the line was by Bob Culp and George Hurley in 1965. I don't know the details re: amount of aid used, but knowing those two as I do, there probably wasn't much at all. This was done shortly after the first ascent of Gambit. Mar 27, 2012
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
Guy H.   Fort Collins CO
The swing potential at the crux is an issue for the second. When I followed this pitch, I tried to leave the quickdraw clipped and reach down after getting the good hold after the crux move. This was difficult to do, since my belayer was keeping me tight. I would suggest clipping a 2 ft runner to the bolt, which would make this process possible.

I don't think the bolted variation to the left affects this route. The serious part is getting in good small gear (or the #5) after the crux. A fall here might put you on the ledge below. The runout on the upper slab is pretty mellow with positive holds. (~5.7R) Oct 12, 2011
Oh well, everyone makes mistakes, Stu. I have been aspiring to test my mettle on Tiger Balm Arete and had no knowledge of the variation until I read this post. be honest, the bolts do take a little away from the test I was about to present to myself.

I think maybe I'll do both ways...I won't say I'm unhappy about an out-of-character bolted route in Eldo until I try it... Sep 12, 2008
Stu Ritchie
Stu Ritchie   Denver
Tony, and all familiar with variation I called "Eye of the Tiger" to the left of Tiger Balm. I placed the application for this route with the FHRC in 2001. It was open to inspection and public comment for several months. The final consensus was 12 positive and 4 negative comments. If you care to read the exact comments, check the FHRC archives. I have led both climbs several times and have found that one really needs to make an effort, and stray way off route to access the "new" bolts from Tiger Balm. It was never my intent to "infringe" upon a great mental classic like Tiger Balm. If that has been the unintended result, I sincerely apologize.

Stu Ritchie Jun 6, 2008
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
This past weekend, I did Tiger Balm Arete for the first time since it was retrobolted. Perhaps some might say "since a variation was added to it" but that is not how it felt to me. It felt like the route was changed. Sorry, I tried to be all zen-like and accept the change, but 24 hours later, it is still not happening for me.

Prior to this time I held my comments, for lack of having done it both ways. But now I feel I have put in the requisite work to formulate an informed and well-grounded opinion of the situation.

The 'variation' is a different route. It really is, no sarcasm intended. It has good climbing, probably 3 stars out of 4. Even if it shared no space with TBA, it would be 2 out of 4- good climbing with its own merit. It is worth bolting and having and climbing. But...

Not at the expense of the superior quality and historical precedent of Tiger Balm Arete. Yesterday, after doing a pitch to feel out how my day would be, to see if I felt solid and secure, to test my muscles and balance, to test my head... I threw down the rope at the base and headed up on lead. I placed a small green Alien in the horizontal at the base, grabbed the starting holds, took a deep breath and looked my partner seriously in the eye-
"If I fall above that bolt, you yard in rope and jump down there to take in slack. There are broken people from that fall. You know what I mean?"
"Yes, I have you."

I worked up the trust in myself and my belayer, then cast off. I went up to the less-than-perfect feet, clipped the bolt, and then started up the off-angled holds and onto the crux crimp. I locked off hard and got both feet left and hit the big reach square like I wanted. I breathed again, looking up, then down. I continued past the bolt, placing a pretty bad stopper and clipped that with a screamer. I made a few more moves and passed a small Alien placement, skipping that for lack of having one with me (small fuss here) and continued a few more moves into ledge-fall territory. I arrived at the 4.5 Camalot placement in the horizontal, and looked up at the easier climbing to come. I was done- "In there" so to speak.... I breathed a sign of relief.

I looked over left at the bolt just a move down and thought... "Hmmm, so that is the 'new line.'

From the 5.9 slab, I backed down a few moves and went left to the bolt from just below it and clipped it, continuing up that line. Along it I encountered an insecure independent crux on the line at the near top by a slight overlapping seam. It was interesting and challenging climbing.

I sort of felt like I'd climbed Tiger Balm Arete for the 3rd time. But then again, not quite....

I had approached Tiger Balm with some level of nervousness both this time and prior to now. I climbed a pitch or two to be sure I was "on" that day. I shook out and stretched, meditating a little before getting on it, thinking to myself, "it's OK, you DON'T fall on 5.9s." I tested the holds and my grip, I tried to stay focused, and then went for it with some anxiety.

Thus is the Eldo ritual of climbing R-rated routes- routes with reps. "The leader must not fall" was the standard, and for that matter, mostly can't bail out either. For other history, philosophy, or points of view on this ethic (mostly similar), you can refer to the articles on Eldo climbing that have been in the mags over the years, including the recent one featuring Hank.

But this route, Tiger Balm Arete, has now been diminished. No longer must a climber aspire to it, no longer must we approach it with the respect that it once demanded, nor wait until the time was right and the feeling was there. No longer will the ritual be necessary, no longer need we wait for the right day. No longer will it be left highlighted, but unchecked in 100 guidebooks, as a dream of stronger days.

Now we can just go for it in sport style. If you get up there and are not feeling the love, just reach one move left and go sport climbing. The left way is a good route, after all, right?!?! And safe! There is no real need to commit anymore. It's now a cheap Vegas wedding with a pre-nup and severance/divorce paperwork pre-signed, just waiting for your first fight for an excuse to bail out.

So if you feel that the mental experience of climbing is not the real experience, and that all things should have safe bail-out and alternatives...and if you feel that the physical part of climbing is really where it is at, and that rite and ritual are not a part of the game...and if you think that a new-router should have this creative license to wipe out what once was to put in something new....

Only then could I say that there is a great new addition to climbing in Eldo for you to experience. But instead, I say there is one less. May 27, 2007
Joe Collins  
Although folks have mentioned a lot of gear for the "5.9+ VS" part, this gear is all marginal. Due to its flaring nature, I don't think the horizontal will accept a large cam which is capable of holding a fall. Also, the initial gear placements in the shallow dihedral are junk.No way does the mank I got in there hold a fall (I tinkered there for at least 15 minutes). A bomber RP placement comes after pulling the trickiest moves (9+ seems about right), but climbers should expect a horrible 15-20 foot ledge fall should they blow the sequence getting there. I think this route deserves an S/VS (on 9+) rating. May 5, 2004
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
Sorry about the multiple voting on the quality and grade. It's easy to do when you're submitting multiple comments and using the Back button to submit each comment. Dec 21, 2003
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
I don't get the 9s/7s (Rossiter/Tony) rating of the slab above the crux. Step right after the crux to the base of the thin crack. Get good gear (see post below). Angle right for more gear. To keep it "pure", climb more or less above the thin crack on good, positive holds stepping right occasionally for gear (felt like 5.6 to me, and I'm not bold, and I'm not a slab climber). The last 30' is runout 4s. If you insist on being "pure", sure you can make it 7s or 9s. Just don't put gear in 6' to the right, and avoid all the holds, moving left to make it harder (but not too far, or you'll be on the 11a bolt variation). Dec 21, 2003
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
Last pitch: I think Tony is mistaken saying the start of pitch 3 is the same as for Ginseng Junkie. From the belay tree, Tiger Balm goes straight up over a 10a ceiling with finger crack, into a dihedral, continuing past a ledge to a roof. My old guide books say left around the roof; Rossiter and Tony say traverse right beneath the roof. Tony calls it a "hand traverse", but the biggest handholds are about two half tips. This is a dangerous traverse with somewhat dirty footholds. No gear after the start, and you're climbing up towards the arête. Fall, and you'll hit the corner hard. Better might be to get gear at the roof, climb back down and climb the 5.8 face that Tony describes, with a partial toprope. Ginseng Junkie climbs an orange dihedral about 10' further right and stays right of the arête (haven't done it, but looked at it from above and below and compared what I saw with the guidebook description). As for the final arête, in my opinion it doesn't compare with Yellow Spur. It's easier and far less precarious. Dec 21, 2003
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
Gear: When I do this again, this is what I'd bring on the crux pitch: #00 Metolius TCU, double green to red Aliens, a #9 HB offset nut, approximately 5 long slings, some draws, and whatever gear you need to clip the bolt (a few nuts, a long sling, and some draws). For the pitches above and below, add a few more long slings and draws, #0.5 to #1 Camalots, and a full set of nuts. I'd climb the crux with double rope (70m folded in half) to protect the second from swinging right falling off the crux. Run one rope straight up from the bolt. Above the bolt step right and place the #9 HB at the bottom of the thin crack. The placement is hard to see since it's in a shallow right facing corner. Step up and place the #00 TCU at the bottom of a slightly flared thin crack. Both of these pieces are good. Now step right ASAP to get in balance, and life is good. Up right is a horizontal that takes a #3 Camalot (if you have one), but you can get an Alien a couple feet higher. Gear continues in this crack/groove, and you can climb the clean face further left. Near the top you can get a good green Alien before the final runout but very easy 30'. Tony suggests a #4.5 or #5 Camalot above the crux. I misread his post and brought a #4 Camalot. It barely hung in there on a step at the upper end of the wide crack below the thin crack. A #4.5 would work great there if you want to carry it, and it might work further left, more directly above the bolt (to protect the second), but the crack is slightly flared there. Dec 21, 2003
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
A little history from my old Ament (5.10 and Eldorado) and Jim Erickson (Rocky Heights) guides: The FA of Tiger Balm was done in 1965 by George Hurley and Bob Culp with a "bit of aid". I wonder how they aided it? There are no scars where the free variation goes. Hooks? Further right? It was freed in 71 by Jim Erickson, _placing a protection bolt from below_. Using aid? It's awfully hard hanging around below the crux even with two hands on the rock. All three off these old guidebooks call it 5.10 (!). The third pitch is described as follows: "A short 5.8 move" (Eldorado), "Climb a bulge" (9-, Rocky Heights). This move felt like a 10a ceiling to me. Both of these guides describe the route as angling left, presumably past the left edge of the roof a little higher up, and then back right to the arête. Rossiter and Tony above describe the route as traversing right below the roof to gain the arête (9s, looking at slamming into the wall). Dec 21, 2003
Ivan Rezucha
Fort Collins, CO
Ivan Rezucha   Fort Collins, CO
Put the aid back in! I think that as an 11, this is maybe 1 1/2 stars. There's only about 10' of hard climbing, the crux reach followed by a few strenuous pulls. After you get the gear above that it's an easy slab (felt like 5.6) with gear on the right. The first pitch is about 5.8. The third pitch is 9s (s in my opinion, since if you fall on the thin moves, you'll hit the corner, hard). If you're a solid 11 climber, do the 4-bolt 11a variation mentioned above, and finish on Ginseng Junkie. If you're a solid 10a/b climber, go for it. Try the crux, hang if necessary, aid on the bolt if necessary. Finish on Ginseng Junkie. Dec 21, 2003
Yesterday, I did the new 5.11a, 4 bolt extension to the crux pitch. After TBA's crux move, go left toward the first bolt ("ok" green Alien), then up a beautiful stretch of pebbled slab. After the last bolt run it out on EZ terrain to an older bolt and #3 Friend belay stance. There is a 2 bolt rap (30M to a ledge, then downclimb)just to the left of this belay.... In my opinion this is a worthy addition and in no way alters the original finish! Classic! P.S. I happened to break the only! loose foothold on the line, so now it's super clean. May 8, 2002