Fairview Dome, North Face (Regular Route)

By: Robin Weber | Climbers: Robin Weber, Mark Weber |Trip Dates: August, 1997

Photo: Gary Clark

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My son Mark and I had wanted to climb the Regular Route on Fairview Dome since we first saw the dome last summer. The day my RCS (Sierra Club Rock Climbing Section) newsletter arrived I noticed there were campsites reserved in Tuolumne, so I called Alice (the RCS trip coordinator) to see if they were still available. Alice gave me the good news so Mark and I booked the weekend and set our sights on the Regular Route. I planned an early get away from work so we could do a warm-up climb on Friday afternoon but as usual, work ate into my climbing time and we didn't arrive in Tuolumne until about 7:00pm. We scoped the approach and the route on the way to the campground. The approach is hard to miss, but I didn't want to try it with headlamps the next morning. At the base we met four climbers who were just starting the route ... yes, they planned to do it in the dark! We got unexpected beta and were psyched for the climb.

We drove to the campground, found Alice's name on the list and headed for the site to find it occupied! The squatters said that they had extended for a day and since the rangers were long gone we just camped in a corner and posted the notice on the bulletin board for late arriving RCSers. We cranked up the stove for whatever freeze dried entree was in the bottom of my camping food bag. I absolutely don't recommend the Mountain House Chicken Stew we had but a bit of curry powder and spike gave it some flavor and a couple Sierra Nevada's didn't hurt. Then we were off to bed with a 5:15 wakeup call.

We arrived at Fairview at 5:45 to see three cars in the parking lot and a pair of climbers heading up the trail ... could there be three parties ahead of us??? I didn't recognize two of the cars from the night before and as we were putting on our harnesses the climbers who gave us the beta walked down the trail, having spent an enjoyable night on the route, descending at first light! When we got to the base we were pleased to see that we were second in line. Within an hour, three more parties arrived.

One of the climbers at the base suggested that with our 60 meter rope we could link pitches 1 & 2 so we waited until the first party on the wall was well on their way up the 2nd pitch. The rope made it with about 15' of easy simulclimbing at the base. The crux is about two-thirds of the way up the 1st pitch and although the rock was wet and cold from the previous day's rain it was straightforward 5.9 climbing, protection was easy to place and there were no tricky or awkward moves. The 3rd pitch was the most enjoyable of the entire climb, with solid finger locks, excellent rock and the morning chill dissipating. We linked pitches 3 & 4 as well, with just a few feet to spare. Excellent ledges and lots of anchoring choices made for comfortable and safe belays throughout the day.

The 5th pitch followed the topo exactly with a short climb straight up past a lighter colored block. That was followed by a traverse right 30 to 40 feet to a belay ledge large enough for a comfortable bivy. We think we remember a fixed pin or two protecting the beginning of the traverse. The 6th pitch was an easy ramp, almost a walkup, leading left. At this point we were about halfway up the route ... we were climbing well and enjoying the day. Fairview was turning out to be all we hoped it would be ... we were psyched! Once above treeline, the vistas to the north and west were spectacular. At each belay the view changed dramatically as more peaks revealed themselves in the distance. We did notice a few large clouds building but they remained far to the north and the weather improved as the day progressed ... well, except for the wind!

The final two 5th class pitches were interesting. Pitch 7 is an arch with fun climbing leading to an overhang. It looks a bit intimidating from the belay, but is an easy crank with solid holds. Don't miss the fixed pin just over the lip of the overhang which would have protected the crux move a whole lot better than the manky cam my son placed in the hollow sounding undercling. Pitch 8 offers lots of opportunities for creativity because the traverse right is not obvious ... not to me at least. I climbed up for a few moves then began the traverse placing downward and horizontal cams. The line I chose gradually sloped several feet before moving back up again to the first mediocre belay of the day.

The topo says the rest of the climb is 4th class, but the exposure is significant so we stayed roped and belayed for the rest of the climb. There are many options for the final three pitches. The party below caught up to us at the beginning of the 9th pitch and we climbed parallel routes up and right for two pitches. For the final pitch we went left and they went right. We never saw them again, so I guess the option to the right worked just as well. At the end of the climb the wind was so strong that we couldn't hear each other so we worked out a series of rope tugs to communicate. Once on top, we congratulated ourselves and sat down for a breezy lunch of mashed-in-the-bottom-of-the-summit-pack apples and gorp. We were pretty punchy by that time so the whole scene seemed hilarious.

The descent was steep but uneventful. The rock was heavily textured and there were cairns marking the way to the base ... the wind was blowing directly in our faces so hard that we would have had a difficult time falling down. All in all, an excellent day on a totally classic climb.