Dapper Canyoneering with Fossil Snails

The reason I met my life partner is because I was at a climbing meet up in cosmic leggings which gave the opinion I must be fun. This would not be the last time I wore bright colored leggings, costumes and even a wig climbing. I do this to express some flair and inject some fun in adventure sports that some approach very seriously. After the camp lightened up at 6:30am I brought smiles to my friends as they saw me in my gray three piece suit ready for a long day exploring a canyon filled to the brim with fossil snails. (Fossil Snail Canyon IV)


It was three miles into the flat approach, a mile past the dried ‘river’ when we started seeing fossil snails in dark rock. Some as big as my hand. Even though our smiling and jaw dropping faces slowed us down admiring these artifacts we still made it in good time (2hrs) to our ridge sitting between Fossil Snail (left) and Deep Six (right).

View from parking
Snail found about 3.5 miles from parking in wash

This first third of the ridge you could find dozens of fossils in a square foot of the sharp dark gray limestone.

Snails, snails everywhere

Up the mellow ridge I took a short wardrobe change out of my slacks into technical pants so I could high step a couple sections. At 10am we reached a cairn marking the descent into a gulley to bypass the ridge that supposedly got cliff’d out.

Looking up the gulley we descended into

At the top of this gulley it looked like the ridge was easily downclimbable but we didn’t see what it looked like on top. However, it was an intimidating deep view into Deep Six Canyon from the top of the gulley. From here we traversed left, rounded right and went slightly angled up towards a rock outcropping before dropping over and into our canyon.

Looking at the ridge we crossed over between two rock outcroppings in upper right.


At the top of the canyon, I changed back into my Canyon Formal Attire slacks and adorned my proper dinner jacket after having layered down to just my vest on the ridge. Fossil snails returned in force in this upper layer after petering out in the middle layers. After some snacks, we walked down carved water courses until we reached our first rappel.

Inspecting a cairn anchor before rappelling off it

The first three rappels we encountered fun potholes and carved water courses.

Rappel 2 past bright green algae pool in the mid-point carved section

At the top of R4 one of our more experienced members of the party went down first over a short drop into a shallow pothole and looked over the next edge. They called for more rope, and then more, and then eventually a 190’ of rope was out in our canyon which listed our longest rappel as 140 ft. 

I thought about what a party would have done if they had only brought enough rope for the expected longest rappel and appreciated the thoughtfulness of bringing three ropes for efficiency and also a safety margin. Luckily we had a 200, 240 and 120 with us so we easily overcame this unexpected obstacle. However, it’s true we could have built an anchor in the pothole to limit the rappel to 150’ but there was no evidence of a past anchor there.

For this rappel, we replaced a rock chock with a huge slung rock through a carved waterway which was pretty cool and confidence inspiring.

Bottom of 190′ rappel

Our remaining three rappels were in the 30-60 ft range off natural constrictions or boulders. With a couple downclimbs in-between. Soon we were at the mouth of the canyon at 2:30pm with plenty of sunlight for the walk out.

A natural constriction for 60 ft rappel
The 60 ft rappel


I was pretty tired from the day on my way out the four miles back to the car through the desert but I felt great about the day. The fossil snails really made this canyon and I loved walking in the carved watercourses. I can get intimidating by longer rappels and I felt mostly good about all these because they were less than vertical down shallow u-shaped rock features. It was a good day and adventure which left me excited for our next day of canyoneering.


  • Approach: 3 hrs
  • Canyon: 3.5 hrs
  • Exit: 2 hrs
A fire back at The Slabs camp