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I Think Therefore I Ambush

5.12- PG13, Trad, Alpine, 1600 ft (485 m), 10 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3 from 4 votes
FA: Madaleine Sorkin and Chris Barlow, 7/25/11
Wyoming > Wind River Range > E Fork Valley > Ambush Peak

Description

Ambush Peak's eastern aspects have long been shrouded in obscurity with numerous parties quietly climbing bold lines up the steep East and Northeast faces and rarely reporting their climbs with much detail. The East Face proper is particularly challenging as an alpine objective due to a series of large roofs and discontinuous crack systems on the upper portion of the wall. Most of the lines of the wall are barely there: inobvious, indirect, and often dangerous. I Think There I Ambush will hopefully break this trend.

While still not being an obvious line, ITTIA is a generally clean, mostly well protected, and difficult free line up Ambush's East Face. It features much technical face climbing linking minor crack features. The most difficult sections are very well protected (often by bolts), but expect some fairly serious 5.9 climbing. While it is easy to fall into the trap of idealizing one's own first ascents, I think this route is pretty darn good. It offers an excellent challenge for those wanting a remote, big, and relatively difficult free climb in the Winds.

One has two options to begin. Option 1 (the one we used on the FA): Scramble up the grassy gully that begins the East Chimney/South Face route. At the largest open grassy patch (~300 feet up), cut right up a 4th class ramp to the large ledge system about 1/3 up the East Face. Option 2 (the more "core" option): Climb the first several pitches of Ambush Plaisir.

Assuming one has done Option 1, tie in on the highest grassy ledge that is about the width of a sidewalk. Begin climbing as far right as one can walk (if you have to scramble over exposed blocks, you've gone too far). Climb easy ground trending right from one short crack system to another, aiming for the bolt on pitch 7 of Ambush Plaisir. At this point, you climb that route for 2-3 pitches (depending on how you break them up) to the double-bolt belay below the last pitch. You'll know you're there if you see a single bolt in a slab about 12 feet above.

Begin the last pitch of Ambush Plaisir by surmounting the pillar and clipping the bolt. From here, ITTIA continues right along the major flake system with some spicy 5.8 on hollow flakes to a double-bolt belay near a large left-facing corner. For organization, I'll call this pitch 1 of ITTIA (even though you've already done 2-3 pitches of climbing on Ambush Plaisir).

P2 (5.11-, 20m): Climb directly right over hollow flakes, crossing the main left facing corner to the base of a shallow left facing corner with a finger crack. Climb up this corner ~20 feet, then climb right around a conspicuous dark block, passing 2 bolts on the slab, to a natural belay at the first stance below a flake.

P3 (5.12-, 35m): Layback up to and around some large detached blocks (be careful!). Climb through the double roofs and face above, clipping 3 bolts. Above the 3rd bolt, undercling right to a double, thin right-facing corner. Ascend this to a roof, which you undercling right. Belay at a semi-hanging stance just above and right of the roof.

P4 (5.11-, 35m): Climb up a shallow left-facing corner with a large plate. Climb right around a rounded arete to a thin crack/flake arching right. The first 30 feet of this pitch are runout 5.9. Climb the arching crack with cryptic moves and solid but challenging to place gear. Layback around a small loose flake and belay at a semi-hanging stance at a flake. There is a large, right leaning corner/roof feature up to your right at this belay.

P5 (5.10+, 55m): From the belay, reach long to the left to a crack. Ascend the crack to where it ends (~10 feet). Do a committing face sequence left to a crack through the roof. Continue up the right facing corner. Where the corner splits, move left to a frustrating and insecure flare. Some 5.8/9 R lurks here as well. Follow the flare to an easy layback on a flake and a hero jug traverse left to belay in a comfortable nook between a large chockstone and a small roof.

P6 (5.9, 55m): Climb right around the roof and move right along the obvious right leaning crack/ramp past a bolt to a stance. Do a short pull onto the second part of the ramp. Climb this to its end, and ascend a flake straight up then left to a right-facing corner. Climb this corner as it thins, then step left to belay in a sloping alcove.

P7 (5.9, 60m): Climb out the alcove (around a large chockstone). After 40 feet, traverse right on 4th class ledges then up easy but loose and dirty rock. Belay where you can.

P8 (5.9, 60m): In reality, there are lots of options for this part of the climb. Several excellent-looking cracks climb to the summit ridge. We climbed more easy, loose, dirty ground around right to a right-facing corner with twin cracks. While probably the easiest of the options, it will probably be wet in spots and a bit lichen-covered. Climb as far as you can and belay where the wall turns into large blocks over which you can easily scramble.

P9-10 (4th to low 5th class): Scramble up and right along the summit ridge, crossing the top of a large gully splitting the East and Northeast faces, to the summit.

Descent: Scramble down the west face then traverse south to the couloir between Ambush and Mt. Geike. Descend this (steep snow or talus) back to the base of the East Face. This gully is truly heinous. If it has snow in it, you'll be front pointing; if it's dry, you'll be scraping down tons of loose rock.

Logistics:

There are some excellent slick rock campsites just south of Midsummer Dome that are a moderate 45-min. walk to the base of Ambush. There is also a very nice bivy cave at the base of Ambush.

The wall is in the sun until early afternoon. The first half the wall is slabby and can get quite warm in the morning. The upper half, which is very steep, gets shade earlier. The wind can also be a factor - even calm weather at the base can blast you off your balance higher on the wall. The other issue with the wall is that the weather generally comes in from the west, which is entirely invisible while climbing.

The route itself is big. For our final push (after a fews days of establishing the pitches through the roofs), we took 22 hours camp-to-camp. Obviously, future ascents will require far less time, but plan on a very long day, even from a camp close to the base. The descent is not obvious; scout it first or don't attempt it in the dark.

Location

I Think Therefore I Ambush climbs a relatively direct line just right of the center of the East Face of Ambush Peak. Technically, it begins at the belay below the final pitch of Ambush Plaisir and climbs slightly right through the major roof system and tops out about 300 feet to the south of the summit.

Protection

RPs, medium to large stoppers, double set of cams from purple Metolius/blue Alien to #3 Camalot. Triples in .5 and .75 Camalots might be useful, especially if you will want more pro on 5.9 through 10- climbing.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The formidable headwall of the east Face. ITTIA climbs slightly right (about 50-70 feet) of the very large roof at the base of the headwall
[Hide Photo] The formidable headwall of the east Face. ITTIA climbs slightly right (about 50-70 feet) of the very large roof at the base of the headwall
Detail topo of ITTIA pitches from about where it diverges from Ambush Plaisir. Note that circles indicate belays while arrows are placed generally over or right of the line of ascent.
[Hide Photo] Detail topo of ITTIA pitches from about where it diverges from Ambush Plaisir. Note that circles indicate belays while arrows are placed generally over or right of the line of ascent.
Detail topo of ITTIA pitches from the large ledge at the start to near the summit including pitches on Ambush Plaisir. Note that circles indicate belays while arrows are placed generally over or left of the line of ascent. Notes include pitch grades and brief descriptions. Larger arrows indicate rappel anchors.
[Hide Photo] Detail topo of ITTIA pitches from the large ledge at the start to near the summit including pitches on Ambush Plaisir. Note that circles indicate belays while arrows are placed generally over or le…
This photo shows ITTIA in relation to Ambush Plaisir, including the 4th class approach. From where ITTIA diverges from Ambush Plaisir, each arrow is approximately one pitch, although several of the pitches detour significantly from the straight line. Photo adapted from James Garrett.
[Hide Photo] This photo shows ITTIA in relation to Ambush Plaisir, including the 4th class approach. From where ITTIA diverges from Ambush Plaisir, each arrow is approximately one pitch, although several of the…

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Nick Stayner
Wymont Kingdom
[Hide Comment] This route sounds awesome. Thanks for posting it! I'd be curious to see a hand drawn topo if you have one around. Jul 30, 2011
Nic Harnish
Durango, CO
[Hide Comment] Nice fuckin line. Aug 5, 2011
stephen arsenault
Wolfeboro, NH
[Hide Comment] Well done. Nice line!

I missed you guys by 1 week. I went in there with a big group including: Jim Donini, Joe Kelsey, and 5 " younger climbers". Jim was the oldest at 68, and Ben Lepasant was the youngest at 21.
As you know, this area has been getting more attention in the last few years.

Jim and I repeated my route left of the Golden Dihedral, which I did 40 years ago with John Bouchard.
Joe Kelsey is revising the guidebook, which will be done in a year or 2. I'm sure that he will be contacting you.
I think you can see why I continue to visit this area, over a period of many years. It's starting to get some deserved attention now. Aug 16, 2011
[Hide Comment] Thanks for all the praise. We are pretty happy with how this route turned out and rather proud of ourselves. We really hope future ascentionists find it a quality route and a lot of fun. It's a bit funny that we barely missed another large climbing group. We had expected to see nobody up there, but in our 10 days we probably met at least 35 other people in the area (none climbers other than a NOLS climbing course).

I agree with Mr. Arsenault; the whole East Fork Valley is a magnificent place. There was still significant snow in the upper valley toward Raid Peak and in the lakes, which made it feel even more "alpine." I certainly haven't seen all of the Winds, but from what I have seen, East Fork is an exceptional region. From Midsummers and Geike up to Bonneville are numerous crags and walls that offer extraordinary potential for climbers. There are still plenty of moderate FA's to be found, probably very good and long ones. There are several smaller crags that NOLS has used and look like fun cragging (not worth the hike in but a good option in between bigger objectives). The combination of tall and really steep walls offers difficult free climbing possibilities.

I'd say we took the "easiest" way up the central part of Ambush's east face. Certainly, with more effort, we could have pushed a more direct and much more difficult line. There are definitely other lines on that face and ones further north that would offer similar challenges. I would love to come back for more, maybe just a bit later in the season to avoid the bugs. Seriously, they were heinous. Aug 18, 2011
[Hide Comment] I was in E Fork for 2 weeks at the end of August and found a bunch of hardware and slings abandoned on a rock on the open ridge to the south of Ambush, plus some other slings scattered around the meadows nearby. Anyone's? (Bucking horse? Overloaded backpack?!) And yes -- horrendous mosquitoes! But they declined precipitously during the last week of August. Oct 5, 2011
[Hide Comment] As we approach the Winds climbing season again, I thought I'd share this story about the first ascent of ITTIA to get folks psyched to repeat this thing. Thanks for indulging . . .

Our Little Rodeo Jun 9, 2012
Mike McNeil
Spearfish, South Dakota
[Hide Comment] If done with Ambush Plaisar how long is this route? I was trying to do the math from the various route descriptions and seem to come up with about 900m or 3000ft. Obviously that is not verticle rise from the base, but that is one impressive peak. Sep 13, 2013
[Hide Comment] Total height of the wall is around 1600 feet, so no matter which way you start climbing (grassy gully or full Ambush Plaisir approach), the total length of the climb is close to that since it doesn't traverse much. Sep 20, 2013
Dane Steadman
Tempe, AZ
  5.12- R
[Hide Comment] I climbed this route in late August, expecting a mostly clean, and well-protected climb based on the description here, but what I found was far from that. We had a four-star adventure, but with one-star climbing, often loose and downright dangerous. I appreciate and respect the boldness of the first ascent, but I would not recommend this route to anyone. If you are still interested, here's some more beta:
-We approached via the Plaisir, which was quite fun, and with appropriate simul-climbing (most of it is very easy) will only add an hour or two to your day. It seems much nicer than the scrambling alternative.
-The first pitch of ITTIA with the "spicy 5.8" is very easy and not really spicy.
-All the belays above pitch 1 are gear.
-Pitch 2 is excellent and well protected.
-The crux pitch is quite hard and sporty, but very safe.
-Pitch 4 is where things got bad, fast. The 5.9 climbing around the flake is spooky, but where the climbing got harder, it was still very runout. After an insecure traverse around the rounded arete with no solid gear between me and the belay, I managed to get in a single mid-size RP in a tricky placement. Not wanting to commit to the .11- climbing above, I traversed back left and tried to find a better way, but took a big whipper when a large, seemingly perfectly attached foothold broke. The nut held, and is now fixed, which I believe makes the climb slightly safer since you can clip it before traversing around the arete, but the pitch is still very dangerous. Eventually, I aided through the hardest moves with a funky nut placement (C2+), and finished the pitch. The belay at the top is less than confidence inspiring, with all your gear behind a single, slightly hollow flake. Another protection bolt or 2, and a bolted belay, would make this pitch much more reasonable.
-On pitch 5, the rock out left, as recommended in the description, looked horribly loose and steep. Instead, I aided up the thin crack/flake directly above the belay, then traversed left to and through the roof (C2). Higher, the "insecure flare" felt more like 5.10 R. At the top of the pitch, I climbed the steep offwidth that is the continuation of the same crack system as the flare, to the nook belay (first non-hanging belay in a while), which seemed like the obvious way to go, instead of the layback and traverse back left described.
- Pitches 6 and 7 both felt more like 5.10, but had short and well-protected cruxes.
-Pitch 8 was much longer than 60 meters, but very easy despite considerable choss. We did about a 100-meter simul pitch to the summit ridge.
-Overall, the rock quality above the roofs of the crux pitch is quite bad. It seemed unusually brittle for the range, and I had numerous large holds snap and crumble under my hands and feet. There are many large, loose features that you often have no choice but to pull on or put gear behind, many of which could kill your partner or cut your rope if you aren't careful. The cracks are funky and solid gear was often hard to find. Basically, this route is extremely serious, and certainly does not break the trend of "inobvious, indirect, and often dangerous" routes on Ambush.
-Rack: double set of RPs, single set of med to large stoppers, doubles from tiny to #3 with triples of 0.3-0.75. A light hammer and a small selection of pins including knife-blades and baby angles would likely make the route a bit safer, but we did not bring any.
-The descent is very easy. It took us 45 mins to get from the summit down to the lake below Ambush. The gully between Ambush and Raid isn't bad at all, actually mostly fun scree-skiing. Aug 26, 2020