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The Martyr

5.9, Trad, 300 ft, 2 pitches,  Avg: 3.7 from 67 votes
FA: Stouch, Cheyney, Croff in the early '60s
Colorado > Colorado Springs > Old Stage Rd > Saint Peter's Overlook


After several attempts to find this route I was lucky enough to run into Stewart Green at Shelf Road. He emailed me some directions to it (thanks Stewart!). The Martyr has been described as some of the best 300 feet of crack climbing in Colorado. The route was much different than I thought it would be. I expected the rounded lip cracks that are generally found in the Platte. The cracks on The Martyr are square lipped and pretty damn steep. They kind of reminded me more of the desert than Turkey or Cynical Pinnacle. The climbing is super, the gear is plentiful, and the views are hard to beat. It is north facing and offers beloved shade when the rest of the world is frying.

To find The Martyr, drive approximately 13 miles west from the Broadmoor Hotel on the Old Stage Road to the St. Peter's Overlook. There will be a small dirt pulloff parking lot on the right hand (north) side of the road that overlooks the city. There are several very large boulders in this parking lot area. Note that the classic climbs volume 4 Pike's Peak area lists this as being approximately 18 miles. This has definitely lead a fair amount of people on wild goose chases.

Park at this pulloff. Facing the city, turn your head to the left approximately 90 degrees and you will see a steep tree covered ridge a couple hundred yards away. Start hiking straight up the side of the ridge, aiming for slightly right of the highest point. There is kind of a trail that goes straight (and I mean STRAIGHT) up the hillside, but don't worry too much about finding it. When you get to the top of the ridge, look over the other side and you will see some rock on the left. There is kind of a little cliff band that extends for a couple hundred yards. this is the sanctum. If you follow this cliffband with your eyes and keep looking to the right, this eventually merges into the top of the backside of the Aiguille de St. Peter. Below you the trees will fade into a large random talus field after a couple hundred feet. Just start heading down (minor bushwhacking might be involved) and you can't miss this talus field. Boulder hop down and after a couple hundred yards you can bear left along the base of the east face of the Aiguille until you can cut left at the base of the north face. The Martyr is RIGHT HERE.

The first pitch of this line is very striking and you will know when you see it. Look above and there will be a left facing corner with a finger crack in the back. On the left face there are also a pair of perfect finger cracks, capped by a small roof above.

Pitch 1 - Clamber up the initial blocks to get to the base of the finger cracks. Jam any or all of these beauties and head towards the roof, passing an antique piton. Instinctively, you will probably want to pull the roof on the right side. I haven't done this variation, but it looked like there might be a few troublesome flakes. Instead of going right, step left into a nice thin hands to hands crack. Follow this until you can pull around the arete on your left and over the roof into a flake undercling. These are some fantastic moves. Surmount the flake and rail up a sweet hand crack. Be sure to keep looking to the right for a decent place to belay. It will be very tempting to go up to a ledge on the left with a GORGEOUS thin crack system above. Instead of doing this, climb upwards until you see a very large ledge on your right hand side. Belay some where in this area.

To get to the base of pitch 2, belay your partner as he/she steps to the right onto the big ledge. This involves a weird step across with a large pillar trying to throw you off. Highly entertaining.

Pitch 2 - There are several options here, each of which looks like fun.

A) On the left side of this face above the ledge is a gorgeous lightning bolt crack that tears upward into a crazy looking offwidth right on the upper arete. Where it goes from there I am not sure. Or, just below the offwidth you can trend right on a ramp to a stunning lichen yellow corner.

B) Face climb straight up on large edges and flakes with big moves. nice and steep. There is an old pin driven down behind a flake about 15' up that is hidden from below. You can then head towards the offwidth or bust right on the ramp system to the corner.

C) From a pair of bolts on the right side of the ledge, head up a dirty looking dihedral. This actually climbs much better than it looks. Great Eldo-esque stemming past an ancient pin will get you up to the ramp system and the yellow corner.

From the base of this yellow corner, jam and stem with perfect hands until you can rock over onto a ledge. This section is steep and classic. After you have achieved the ledge, either step left and up the crack, or climb the crack straight above you (be careful for a couple scary flakes!). Pull a small weird boulder and you are on the summit.

The descent is pretty crummy. If you are brave you can do the small downclimb off of the backside of the summit. otherwise, bring some webbing so you can sling a block and rap off. We followed the gully down the west side of the formation and then traversed over to our stuff at the base of the route. This involved bushwhacking and mangy rubble. Use caution. Perhaps Julian Smith can suggest a better descent.


Standard rack to #3 Camalot/3.5 Friend. Bring extra small hands to hands pieces. If you are doing the offwidth above 2nd pitch then #4.5 Camalot of #5 Camalot might be useful.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Joe Williams, second pitch.
[Hide Photo] Joe Williams, second pitch.
Eben and Ange reaching the summit at last light.
[Hide Photo] Eben and Ange reaching the summit at last light.
Eben protects the splitter on P1.
[Hide Photo] Eben protects the splitter on P1.
Top of P1 on the big ledge.
[Hide Photo] Top of P1 on the big ledge.
John B leading P1.
[Hide Photo] John B leading P1.
Summit ridge.
[Hide Photo] Summit ridge.
Looking up at the stellar first pitch.
[Hide Photo] Looking up at the stellar first pitch.
Pitch two.
[Hide Photo] Pitch two.
Near the top of the first pitch.
[Hide Photo] Near the top of the first pitch.
About at the first roof on P1. A deep, tooth-shaped flake allows a moment to protect the move around this obstacle.
[Hide Photo] About at the first roof on P1. A deep, tooth-shaped flake allows a moment to protect the move around this obstacle.
The Martyr
[Hide Photo] The Martyr
Martyr from the west.
[Hide Photo] Martyr from the west.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Dan St. John
Castle Rock
[Hide Comment] I have mixed feeling having this area [illusrated] on [I] have climbed this area a number of times. The area is in the spirit of adventure climbing. The area is pristine and deserves a senstive [treatment]. I hope that the inclusion does not diminish the value of the area at all. Jun 24, 2002
[Hide Comment] I have to agree with Dan. While I have never personally taken the opportunity to climb this reportedly amazing [crag], I have known about it for a while and have also known it to be widely considered one of the more "hush hush" rocks in the Pikes Peak region. I'm not opposed to posting non-guidebook [crags] in principle, but it would be a sad day indeed to see Garden of the Gods-style hordes show up on Old Stage. There are several of these lesser-known areas within several hours of Colorado Springs, and for my money, I'd just as soon see them remain word-of-mouth only. Just one [opinion], no disrespect intended. Dec 9, 2002
[Hide Comment] For the descent, just downclimb the back of the summit tower. It's no harder than 5.4 at most, and if you can climb the route, the downclimb is a joke. Then just hike straight down the hill to the base (if you left gear) or straight up the hill back to the trail above the Sanctum. Dec 11, 2002
[Hide Comment] there's some more photos of the Martyr at this link: Feb 14, 2003
Darin Lang
[Hide Comment] Take option (A) on the second pitch to the yellow corner. The downclimb has just one sketchy move which, although only 5.4, would have fatal consequences if you slipped.Don't let the comments here sandbag you into thinking that you're a wimp if you want to rap off.. If you feel the least bit uncomfortable, add 5 minutes to the descent and drop a rope.The post-climb beers always taste better when you're alive.

It's unlikely that the Garden traffic will ever be seen here, although there are some interesting points raised above. I think there's a balance to be struck on these crags - you can acknowledge their existence while preserving the adventure. I have come full circle on this, and wish to thank Bob for publishing this (and some other very good routes not found on this site) in his Garden guidebook. I suspect he got some flak for even naming the routes, although his directions were purposefully ambiguous, vague, and in some cases completely incorrect. It's been an adventure just tracking them down.

4.5 stars

The rating is right on. You can add some mid-5.10 at various places if you so desire. Jun 23, 2003
[Hide Comment] Just for the record, I wasn't trying to sandbag anyone. Just pointing out that I found the downclimb very comfortable. If a rap seems preferable, by all means break out the rope. Jun 24, 2003
[Hide Comment] while i can understand the concerns regarding [St Peter's Dome] becoming the next [Sport Park], i am surprised that people think of this as an unpublished area. i can think of 5 publications immediately that give general directions to it ([Climb, Climb II, Vertigo Games, Rock'n'road, Bob D'Antonio's Pikes Peak] guide) and several others that mention its existence. when i climbed there last summer i found discarded powerbar wrappers, tape, and chalk caked all over the cracks. i don't mean to start an argument or anything, but if you think that [St Peter's Dome] is an obscure crag you need to get out and explore more. Jun 24, 2003
[Hide Comment] Instead of descending to the base of the climb directly, it is easy enough with a 70m to set an anchor on top of the climb and do two raps directly to the base - just barely. Each rap is a stretcher for a 70m rope (set your anchor as low as possible on the top of the tower with nuts). The walk from the base of the Martyr to Pearly Gates is much better done from on top and down - it's a grunt from below. And no, a single 70m rap won't put you at the start of Pearly Gates from the top. Unfortunately. Stellar, both. Jul 31, 2003
Michael J Yarros
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] I know that this is a hush-hush area, but for those who are interested, and haven't found the route yet. I've made a small topo map(from Topo Scout) of how to get to the base of the route. email me at and I'll send it to you. Keep in mind that just getting to the base of the route is a tough hike. This place isn't for those looking for routes right off the road :) Feb 12, 2005
Oakland, CA
[Hide Comment] A true gem. The one route I miss most since moving away - even living near Yosemite hasn't made me stop missing this one. I thought of this climb the first time I climbed Lunatic Fringe.

After the wild step across, on top of pitch 1, the airier variation on the left is really good. The corner is also good climbing, no doubt - but staying out near the arete is better.

It's hard to spot weather before it's right on top of you. Oct 31, 2005
Stubby-Ian Howells
Denver, CO
[Hide Comment] Fantastic Climb! I don't know if I would call it the best 300' of crack climbing in Colorado, but it is good. The grade is right on, and fairly steep for 5.9, amazing exposure as well.

Note: Go left as soon as you clip the first piton, moving out of the dihedral, this will put you up on some beautiful cracks. The dihedral looks pretty good, but not as good as the others out to the left. Climbing right off the belay through the yellow corner is fun, but it's real easy to find yourself on some 10 before you know it.

On the descent no need to take out your whole rope, just take a coredellete and you can sling it around a part of the boulder you downclimb, hold on to it as an extra hold and lower yourself...seriously decreases the fear factor. Sep 24, 2006
Brandon Schirm
colorado springs, co
[Hide Comment] Wow, I did this climb on top rope on 9-23-2007 and had to go back for my first trad lead the next weekend. Stellar route. It has everything, on the last pitch traverse right to a ledge then up a crack to a big roof pull it on two jugs then finish up to the top. What a great climb. It eats gear up and is very safe (until the downclimb, watch out). Oct 1, 2007
Kevin Hadfield
New Castle, CO
[Hide Comment] Went to climb the Martyr today for the first time. Freakin' sweet route!!! I got confused at the top of the first pitch and set up an anchor in the obvious belay seat... not the ledge... probably shoulda went there. At this point we left the route and climbed straight up the east/northeast face via a fingercrack with a fixed nut. Anyone know anything about that pitch? I found it to be about 5.10+ for the first 20 ft. and then pretty mellow to the top maybe 5.9-. So rad! Oct 16, 2009
Tim Stich
Colorado Springs, Colorado
[Hide Comment] There is a reason that this area has not been all that popular over the years. For one, the approach hike is through a maze of dead trees and nasty undergrowth. At times the "trail" completely vanishes, so bush whacking is de rigeur. The downclimb is actually a bit sketchy, too, as the ledges are all down sloping rather than horizontal. If it was wet from a quick shower it would be none too fun. In all, you have to work a bit to get the climbing in.

Compare that to any number of other S. Platte destinations like Turkey Rocks with it's excellent approach trail, wider variety of cracks, and you can see why the Aguille de St. Peter remains fairly obscure. And that's fine. I think it will continue to be a quality crag off the beaten path with it's quirks and limitations. Oct 20, 2009
  5.9+ PG13
[Hide Comment] Looking at the pictures, I see you can go to the right of the roofs on the first pitch. I went to the left and there was some great climbing up steep hand cracks and flake underclings with good situation.

The climb is generally straightforward until the 2nd pitch where you are looking up and can either go:

a) Up the lightning bolt crack on the left; this leads to the offwidth

or take one of the two dihedrals at the colt shutted belay and then:

b) Center towards the yellow wall and then left into a big hands/ fist dihedral (I think this is the route proper)

d) Up slightly right into a awkward but amazing hand crack with an obvious crux, then right up a overhanging roof right above a large boulder of the ledge past two old pins which can be seen from the ledge. (This is what we did yesterday and I think it was the higher up pitch of the Athenian Arete.)

Descent: If you left your gear at the base, have fun schwacking back. If not, there is a trail that goes generally between Pearly Gates and St. Pete's and save much time and knee ache. Jul 6, 2011
Colorado Springs
[Hide Comment] Everything I wanted it to be and more. Great sustained 5.9+ climbing. Makes you think and like the best granite crack ever. Shhhh! Anyhow, P1 anchors come sooner than you think just pull the mantle or the funky undercling. They are over there off the ledge. You can keep going going straight up and past, but you may end up with a funky belay situation and also gypping your partner out of their lead of the second pitch which is different than the first but equally as stellar. Do it!

See you at the top. Oct 3, 2011
Matt Jones
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] Felt much easier than a 9+, but the last place I climbed before this was Turkey Rocks. Jul 23, 2013
Longmont, CO
[Hide Comment] I really liked the route overall, though I got a bit confused near the top of the first pitch. Have others gone right up under the roof, or climbed just to the right of it? I climbed to the right a bit and got in some bad rock and ended the pitch on the grassy ledge. I didn't really enjoy the crux. Second pitch was much more straightforward and fun. Jul 28, 2013
Jordan Hirro
Colorado Springs/Carbondale
[Hide Comment] Absolutely amazing. I now know exactly why the description uses "gorgeous" to describe the cracks countless times. After jamming the finger crack, I headed up left to the handcrack underneath the roof (cslice) and followed that to the described undercling flake. From here, the climb takes a nice break from 5.9 for about 10-15 then finishes off back at a 9ish leanback/and or handjam flake. Here, I built a natural anchor on a small ledge (just left of the huge, very noticeable ledge. I chose to do so because pulling that arete move onto the big ledge seemed a bit sketch with my belayer 150ft down. (I never found P1 anchors). After this, it's exactly how described. Pick your poison of climbing to the great top out. Have fun!
SIDENOTE: If you are afraid of spiders, beware... I ran into dozens of MASSIVE daddy long legs in the hand crack jsut past the roof on P1. Definitely was not fun for me there.... Aug 2, 2013
erik rieger
Sheridan, WY
[Hide Comment] This is a route to be enjoyed many, many times.

Though there are three distinct ways to start, the best way up the first pitch is to step left at the ring piton and jam up a wonderful thin-hands crack on the arete, then climb the hidden open-book above until the step-over right. The second pitch is just pure fun. Many variations exist on this tower.

Please be respectful of the pristine wilderness and climbing in this zone. Nov 8, 2013
Dave Alie
Golden, CO
[Hide Comment] The "lightning bolt crack" option to start pitch 2 is great but encounters a couple extremely loose blocks about 15 feet off the ledge, at the top of the hand crack. It is possible to climb around them, but be careful. These would be good candidates for trundling, IMO. Sep 6, 2017
Adam Block
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] The right hand p1 option is a bit easier even though it looks harder. There's no #1 splitter like on the left, but the climbing is steep, athletic, and thought-provoking; with no nasty rope drag for your spooky last move! Bring a #4 for said move. Dec 19, 2017