Trip Report
Inverted Staircase Trip Report 9/7/07
Saturday September 8, 2007 3:43pm
Inverted Staircase Trip Report 9/7/07
In which Spyork and I discover we’re not ready to come out to play with the big boys and girls.

I’ve wanted to do this route for a long time. I’ve done the Regular route on Fairview a couple of times and Inverted Staircase seemed like it might be a second line to try that could be within my ability. It has a reputation as being a route that doesn’t get done that often with grass in the cracks. An old school adventure. I managed to talk Spyork into going with me even though our original plan was to do the EB of El Cap which is easier.

Here is a picture of the route. The topo is fine.

Here’s a picture of Spyork on the first pitch.
The first pitch is not hard technically but is a bit of a head game for the leader because of the moss and the pro being a little far apart and sometimes tricky to place. The second pitch turns a small roof maybe 5.8, which turns into about 20 feet of sustained thinish 5.9. You can see this going up and left in the picture above. The belay takes small gear, 5/8”, which I had already used so I moved up to the next ledge on the topo.

Here’s Spyork on the third pitch.
We had a moment of doubt on the direction of the fourth pitch but you just stay in the left corner of the big feature that is the first four pitches until it’s natural to move to the center.
The ledge at the end of this pitch is huge with beautiful views. The crack for the belay was calling out for a .75 Camelot but I had none. I ended up using a red TCU, a number 2 lowball, a 00 TCU and a “11 BD stopper. We bootied quite a few rappel anchors getting to this point. Probably that should have told us something.

Here’s a picture of Spyork moving out the dike toward the one bolt on the traverse.
He’s about 25 feet out from the belay, looking at a penji fall into a corner if he came off and I said “Are you in a good place? I should take your picture”. He’s like “Hell no, keep belaying”. I say “This could be the best climbing shot ever taken of you.”
“OK, Take it fast.”

He moved around the corner clipped the bolt and could not figure out the next moves. In the end I lowered him down to some small ledges he could cross and he made it over to the crack. He climbed the crack and then back cleaned so I wouldn’t take a bad fall while following. He then took a look at the technical crux of the route, some thin 10b face, and decided he wanted no part of it. He aided up it using the old pin, a small, now fixed, RP and the two bolts.
I followed across the dike to the bolt. The beta is that you step down a little and climb across. It was just really thin. I stepped down and then back up about three times. I just couldn’t see a sequence that looked probable. I’d look at the moves and then I’d look at the fall and swing I was going to take. The rope was coming down at about a 35 degree angle. I just haven’t taken very many falls, maybe that’s why I couldn’t imagine it was going to go well.
Eventually I used the 7mil haul line to lower myself across. I managed to climb the 10b and join Spyork at the belay. By now I was physically tired and mentally spent. I was impressed with Spyorks lead of this pitch. He just never gave up.

I started pulling on gear and was soon around the inverted staircase. I will say that every hold I grabbed seemed good and if you have gas in the tank when you get there this is probably some great climbing. I was getting close to the little roof at mid pitch when I started running out of gear and set up a belay. I thought this isn’t climbing anymore this is just BS. Maybe I hadn't eaten enough?
When Spyork came up I talked him into bailing onto the Regular Route. It actually took quite a bit of time to get over there because I’d set up a hanging belay in a vertical crack and setting up the rappel was a lot of messing around. We were at the bottom of the second pitch above Crescent Ledge. This is one of the best pitches on the climb. Corner to flakes to small roof with jug. Spyork had never done it so he led off. I couldn’t remember what happens after the roof but I knew it was easy. I couldn’t describe it that well. Spyork ended up going off route, straight up on cool 5.7/8 with some sketchy pro. Finally, we were done with the hard climbing. We did one more pitch and then simuled to the top. We even made it to the car with out breaking out the headlamps! Another great day. Thanks Steve.


  Trip Report Views: 2,763
About the Author
Zander is a trad climber from Berkeley.

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Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 8, 2007 - 03:59pm PT
Cheers and thanks for the report
Adventure is it's own reward, whether you keep it between the lines, or not!
Jerry Dodrill

  Sep 8, 2007 - 07:07pm PT
Thanks for the report. It's odd, but I did that route a few years ago and can't remember much about it except a raptor nest under the staircase pitch and there was water seeping out under the roof. Pulled on some gear on that part. I recall the traverse being sketch too. A serious undertaking. Have the bolts been replaced? They were horrendous when we did it, which added to the spice.


Social climber
  Sep 8, 2007 - 07:20pm PT
Thanks Zander. Sounds like an exciting day!
Karl Baba

Trad climber
Yosemite, Ca
  Sep 8, 2007 - 07:57pm PT
It's a good route but....

I had a friend take the whip seconding the slab traverse. I tried to set it up for him as best I could. It was a "whoopie!" moment but fortunately, nothing to hit.

That Inverted Staircase pitch is a long one that burns on you and rope drag is a big issue if you don't work it just right.

Thanks for the TR



Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 8, 2007 - 09:23pm PT
Good job guys!

Steve, you're a glutton for punishment on Fairview. I haven't gotten around to writing up our Lucky Streaks adventure from a few weeks ago... I still have a back-log of pics to upload from a prior EB El Cap adventure. But I will say this: I'm glad you were on the sharp end when traversing past the hole and raptor's nest on that route! I wasn't too thrilled following it either as I'm sure you recall!

And thanks for not leaning too much on the room-sized detached flake over my belay :)

God bless the Spyorks of the world.

Trad climber
it's all turtles, all the way dooowwwwwnn!!!!!
  Sep 8, 2007 - 09:27pm PT
hi zander!
so glad to know that you are climbing again!
(maybe that's old news? but not to be, so good on ya man)

my wife and i started it on saturday of laborday weekend, but we only got as far as the bolt on the traverse... =/

i put the 1st 4 pitches into 2 70m rope stretchers, but as it had rained quite a bit the day before, that entire start was 'not all that aesthetic'
(as in, when do the wet gardens end so we can get on with the ROCK climbing?).

i climbed out that dike and clipped the bolt, then looked around at the options-

seemed somewhat inobvious on lead, also seemed like it was gonna suck to follow.
(i thought going up and over looked just as promising as going down ad over)

as i was stab=nding there, thinking of how to make all that work out well, i looked up and saw the inverted staircase pitch was soaked, so as i pondered the fact that the wet climbing hadn't been too stellar to that point, and that the namesake pitch was also going to be gooey at best, my teeth started to chatter from the suddenly-more-fall-than-summer breeze...

and at that point i/we decided it wasn't likely to get any more fun that it had been to that point, and i climbed back to the pillar. from there we rapped, leaving 4 slings plus a couple of nuts that we had bootied on the way up.

(find those 4 yellow slings by chance? don't trust 'em, i am too cheap to leave biners or rings, so i pulled the rope through those suckers)

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
  Sep 8, 2007 - 10:45pm PT
It was either my first or second route with J. He introduced me to the fine art of following wet traversing underclings at (over?) my limit, and I showed him just how theatrically I can loose my sh#t when faced with a big penji. ;-)

I'm glad you guys had fun and you're back up to speed, Zander.

Social climber
  Sep 8, 2007 - 11:03pm PT
"and I showed him just how theatrically I can loose my sh#t when faced with a big penji. ;-)"

Do tell. Here, or at Wide Wednesday this week.

right here, right now
  Sep 8, 2007 - 11:29pm PT
Way to go Zander!
That's kind of a private place over there on that side of Fairview.

Went up there with Tim Sorensen, Tobin's brother, a couple fistfuls of years back; I remember the route being kind of stiff.

Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Sep 9, 2007 - 12:01am PT
I got two of your slings Matt, I will shitcan them.

Gear retrived 2 slings, 1 biner, 1 cordalette, 3 stoppers.
Gear left for booty: 1 stopper 1 cam (i think)
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Sep 9, 2007 - 12:14am PT
It's always fun to hear the story all the way through, from hatching a plan revealed at the WW sesh to photos on the rock.

Good job you guys... thanks for posting
Nate Ricklin

San Diego
  Sep 9, 2007 - 12:30am PT
I did (tried to do) that route last year. I also lowered out from the bolt on the traverse... it was thin! Improbable! We got past the inverted staircase part and then couldn't figure out where the hell the route went. There was no pro or bolts anywhere... left, up, right... so we rapped off a bolt down right to bail onto the regular route.

Anybody know how the route goes up there? As I recall it's at a part where there's a ramp leading up left then you're supposed to traverse back out right or something.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
  Sep 9, 2007 - 10:18am PT
Nice adventure/climbing report, Zander. You need to get Spyork to work on his aręte-climber-sky posing skills :-)

If you are looking forward to another great climb on Fairview, I think that 'Lucky Streaks' is stellar. Probably steeper than rock to the left of the regular route, but well protected and mostly moderate. I only remember one hard move and it is possible to pull through on it.

Best, Roger

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Sep 9, 2007 - 03:15pm PT
I don't have a camera and Spyork left his at home, so I'll bet he's going to be up for another run at Lucky Streaks before too long. It was spicier than I expected. The 10d section was more balancy than powerful, but I couldn't follow it without hanging while pulling gear. And instead of traversing left under the roof, we went up right, and the mental crux was definitely traversing back to the crack system. Steve was WAY out there on that part... if he would have fallen and his top piece blew, he was looking at a fall of legendary proportions to be caught by gear in the guillotine flake above my belay. Even when I followed, it was very delicate knob work looking at a huge swing.

And Zander, maybe early next spring we can bring some scuba gear and have a reunion on Royal Arches :)


Trad climber
Tunneling out of prison
  Sep 9, 2007 - 03:23pm PT
Umm, there was no gear in the Expando flake. I thought about
whipping and popping the flake then chopping nutjob and the party of 3 below...

Author's Reply  Sep 9, 2007 - 06:10pm PT
Spyork and I are swinging leads on this trip report just as on the climb! Here's the link to Part 2.

I think the route is a lot drier now. Go check it out. ;-)
I'm happy to be climbing again. I've got a ways to go before I'm back in top shape though.

Melissa, I was very glad not to take that Penji fall. Of course now I don't know if I would have climbed it.

One of Spyork's pictures shows the route above the staircase. A little right over that small roof and up the 5.9+ lieback.

I've been looking at Lucky Streaks for a while but all my regular partners have done it. Right now I'm thinking Fiddler On The Roof 10a *** as the next thing to try. In the old guide it had no stars, now it has three. Must have some good climbing on it! Anybody have beta on that rascal?

I've also heard that Royal Arches is too dry to be worthwhile now. I bought a bigger snorkel, though, so we might need to go back.

See y'all,
nick d

Trad climber
  Sep 9, 2007 - 07:22pm PT
Congratulations on your accomplishment! Also, thanks to both of you for your entertaining TR's!

Just my perspective, being an old guy and everything, but don't pay any attention to anyone that says 5.10 isn't hard. They are full of crap. Just because somebody else can climb five grades harder does not make any lower grades easier.

Maybe it is not such a big accomplishment in a climbing gym, but it is the real thing in the mountains. Most of the people who spout off about grades aren't climbing those grades facing real risk, carrying a big rack, etc...

Top notch, fellows!

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Sep 11, 2007 - 01:49am PT
When I did the route long ago, most of the bolt hangers were soft iron pitons with a hole drilled in the blade. Just imagine doing that one with a rack of pins and hard soled shoes! I did when clipping into the rusty old relics.

Trad climber
  Jan 16, 2011 - 06:22pm PT
Nother gem!

Thanks Zander,


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 18, 2011 - 12:58am PT
How did I miss this before?? Fairview is so bitchin'.....

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 18, 2011 - 01:24am PT
Patrick Oliver

Boulder climber
Fruita, Colorado
  Jan 18, 2011 - 01:24am PT
The line in that photo doesn't look like the line I took with
Kamps. Where your line drops down at a diagonal to the right,
well, unless my eyes are deceiving me, we went up and to the right,
at a strong upward diagonal, a really bold lead across that slightly
less than vertical wall/slab. Kamps was in his usual good form, on
difficult face climbing... I then got sick and we found some
variation to the final pitch, but I got a good sense of the route.
If you didn't do some major runout, on 5.10 face climbing or
at least solid 5.9, maybe you took a different route? Not to stir
up trouble here... just to wonder about that line...

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, CA
  Jun 11, 2012 - 07:57pm PT
Patrick is right. I did this route last summer, started late, about 2 pm, and topped out in dark w/headlamps @ 9pm. Underestimated sustained nature of route, and quite a bit longer than regular route, with much harder climbing throughout. The traverse pitch went upwards and right, to bolt, and then a little further up and right for another 10 ft or so past bolt, before delicately climbing down and right, then back up and right to flake. Burly 10.b moves through bolts, 2nd bolt clip was crux. The yellow line marking the route does not reflect this zig zagging up down up nature of the traverse.

Partner got rope stuck, on inverted staircase, I led to the top from there. (Led all but 2 pitches, including traverse pitch). I found the lower part of the upper 10a pitch (w/bolt right off belay, ridiculous clip for me at 5'7") to be as difficult or harder than the 10b pitch, and the 9th wandering 5.8 or 9 pitch was loose and scary in the dark. As Patrick says, quite a bit of run out terrain in the 5.9 and 10 range, harder than the rating compared to most of the other classics in Tuolumne in this range ie. Lucky Streaks, Crescent Arch, Cooke Book. Much more of an adventure. I was stoked to top out, pretty intense crux pitches, esp. the traverse pitch. Awesome, sustained route, a bit chossy at times, much more of an adventure for those inclined. You won't see any lines on this one.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Jun 11, 2012 - 09:14pm PT
Little nostalgia on the first ascent. In 1962 while Jeff Foott and I were making the 2nd ascent of the Regular route on Fairview, Wally Reed and Glen Denny were right next to us on the first ascent of the Staircase.

Seems so friggin amazing that the Reg was first climbed in 1958 and it was 5 years before anyone ventured back onto Fairview and then there were two parties on the same day.

Couple of shots of two very classic climbers from long ago:

Reed and Denny-first ascent Inverted Staircase 1962
Reed and Denny-first ascent Inverted Staircase 1962
Credit: guido
Inverted Staircase first ascent
Inverted Staircase first ascent
Credit: guido
Glen Denny first ascent Inverted Staircase 1962
Glen Denny first ascent Inverted Staircase 1962
Credit: guido

Social climber
  Jun 12, 2012 - 12:55am PT
What a great addition to this TR, Guido. Really appreciated.

And Patrick Oliver - I believe you are correct in this instance of access to your encyclopedic experiences. Perhaps the foreshortened shot of Inverted Staircase was too hard to scribe accurately in Photoshop. My memory is of a frighteningly-long rising traverse past the bolt to a pillar where you clipped a spinning leeper while stepping on a loose chunk that was the pointy top of the pillar's cone.

The photo of the traverse along the dike is PERFECT,showing how you cringe fearfully since you can see the rest of the lengthy runout where the dike ends and the crux commences. Quite the adventurous climb as the TR confirms. Thanks Zander.

stelex - partner got the rope stuck too and it pissed me off so bad I failed to clip in the back-up sling to the waist pack we were using as I started up to where he had to make a belay. Needless to say the pack and I soon parted company and I watched it bound down the slabs of Fairview, each contact with the rock sending it into ever greater flipping flights.

Incredibly it did not burst open and held on to its trove of keys, sleeves, wallets and trail shoes. And headlamp. We topped out to a glowing moon. After some searching at the base we found the mtnsmith butt bag, straightened out the key and thanked our Tuolumne lucky stars. Uber-bold route.

While a little less serious, Lucky Streaks is a bit harder to me. I blame Sharpe for getting me on both routes, though he only joined me for Lucky Streaks. See you in September, buddy!

  Jun 12, 2012 - 08:38am PT
Great TR's folks! TFPU!

Inverted Staircase was my first roped route in TM. I was HOOKED!!!!!!!!!!!

I.S. is a grand route! Everything about it fills that category. I don't know if I'd call I.S. Uber-bold for Fairview standards. Its one of the more tame long routes up on that dome in my opinion.

With that silly statement made I'd say its a bold route and deserves every bit of attention from the climbers, both leader and follower. Maybe Fairview is serious as a whole. :)

Give me a pair of felt soled shoes and see how I do. Ugh. (What kind of shoes did FA team wear? I can't tell in pics)) I'm sure my opinions of the route would change considerably after a quality old school experience like that.

stelex: we saw you up there last year remember? My buddy and I had a blast watching you guys tip-toeing in the days last light. I remember thinking you were up there late, but it seemed everything was moving just fine with some cruxes taking a bite as they do. When I spoke to you the next day it sounded like you all made it off with no real problems and successfully provided yourselves with a memory for LIFE. Jeez all these TR's are memories for life. THANKS

Great morning goodies.

Headed to TM TODAY!!!!!!!!!! Yeah!

Bob J.
Loose Rocks

Trad climber
Santa Rosa, CA
  Jun 12, 2012 - 10:44am PT
Sounds like a good adventure. We did that one last year and it was a blast. We were the only ones on it. There was the usual conga line on the regular route.

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, CA
  Jun 13, 2012 - 02:26am PT
Hey Bob, of course I remember. What I remember was your sly snicker when I asked you about the route in the first place! You and Corey were workin Captain Fairview, right? Which I heard you whoopin it up when you finally sent that blank pitch above the roof? It was nice to hear you guys hootin, when I finished pulling the the 5th of I.S. Now that I think about it, we started at 3 ish, but yeah, got down no problem. It was a memorable day. See you up there sometime this summer. I wish I was headed up, but more work in Josh to do.

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, CA
  Jun 13, 2012 - 02:45am PT
Gilroy - that sucks, at least you got stuff back, esp. the key! Not only did the rope get stuck, but as I was coming up, my end of the rope stack, fell, and a loop of my end got stuck on a flake 50 ft., below me.
I had to unty, and rap down slack loop I pulled from above, and batman back up to unfix where my partner's end was stuck from putting way to much gear in the extreme left side of the crack before first roof. We were flying up to that point, and then that shenanigan ate a good hour and a half on that pitch. Combined with late, start, were simulclimbing the last 300-400 ft. in the dark. Great times! Bob, I'll see you up there at some point - rip it up till I get there!
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