Gypsum did not believe it for a second. After seeing the soft rock that betrayed the piton and the treacherous knob on the other side, he would not trust anything inviting that this fang of rock might present.
So when he tested the first rough step, at first cautiously and then with more weight, he fully expected it to break away. It did not. Even when he put his entire weight on it, while holding tightly to the rope secured by a piton and his brother, the rugged step held fast. As did the next one. He looked closely at the descent. The next twenty feet were presented with the convenient stairway.
Gypsum warned his brother to keep him secure. They would coordinate their descents. Gypsum never once trusted all his weight to any of the convenient notches in the rock without having a secure hold on the anchored rope. So he did not plunge thirty feet to a crippling landing or death when the step he stood on suddenly collapsed and all those below it smoothed into featureless bone-colored stone.
He scrambled and grabbed with his left hand at a jagged handhold that had been there only a second before—but was there no longer. He fell only a foot or two before spinning a short way from the rock face on the end of the secured line.
After regaining his stability Gypsum viciously drove two pitons about three feet apart and six feet laterally from the vanishing stairway. The spire seemed to shake a little, in frustration or resignation. The brothers made their way down the last forty feet without incident or difficulty, but with plenty of caution.
Then they rested, moved a hundred yards away from the rocky range, and made camp just as darkness took over the sky.