Mosaic Canyon – Hidden Fork

R3 – 80ft. Large foundational rocks, but very close to edge.

At 9am we started up the Mosaic Canyon ridge choosing the first descent option of Mosaic Canyon- Hidden Fork (3A III 11r 100ft) of the four off the ridge to try to beat the afternoon forecast of rain. It would be my first canyon breaking my 1-1 ratio of experienced Death Valley cannoneers to newcomers with just myself and Jaymie sandwiching our friends on either side throughout the canyon. After building well over 20 cairns from scratch last season, it was the first time I would be making all anchor decisions without a second pair of experienced eyes.

Approach (B+)

We started the approach choosing the middle gulley between the left rocky ridge and the rightward curved slaby rocks. Surprisingly for Death Valley, the rock was mostly high quality and attached, making the ascent very reasonable to gain the ridge. About 2/3 of the way up the ridge, it narrowed a bit giving a little feel of openness.

We could probably have traversed 2/3 of the way up, but instead followed up the GPX line up the ridge before a higher traverse to the start of the canyon. A short walk down and we reached the first mega-cairn that I saw in the Swany photos.

Descending into canyon after traverse


That Swany photo album showed a lot of good, dense anchor material and our ascent over the rock bands seemed to reaffirm his. It was descended in classic Swany style, setup for a fiddlestick to ghost off a middle bridge.

R1 – 40ft

Throughout the canyon I would see cairns in the classic Swany style, ghosted when possible and with heavily faded webbing from black to white on the sun exposed side. This gave me the feeling this was the second descent since it was first descended in ’21. 

After the first 40ft cairn rappel into the canyon and a long wash-walk, there were three 80-100ft rappels with undercut sections and bits of free hanging. R4’s 100ft rappel went over a large vertical roof hosting a large bird of prey nest 15 ft below making it very unique.

R2 – 90ft over several undercut ridges
R4 – 100ft. Large roof near the top, zoom in to see birds nest 15 ft below that.

It rained on us for three 20min sections but luckily didn’t intensify or continue longer otherwise it would have been a less fun outing. The rain did make the strikingly stripped rock really pop though. 

Downclimb with handline off meat anchor since it was starting to get wet

We ended our last rappel with a hero finish through heavily conglomerated rock into the commonly traffic’d Mosaic Canyon hiking trail. After some demonstrations of the Canyon Princess Instagram Pose and the innovation of the Canyon Crustacean form, we had a short hike out.

Last rappel into Mosaic Canyon trail


The day went really well. It was interesting to instruct every person on what to do for anchor observation, redundancy and failure situations before being first down. Also, it was pretty empowering to make all anchor decisions and have to feel good about them on my own. All that work last season rappelling fresh canyons that were washed out from the historic rains really prepared me for this next level of proficiency.

Technical Details


  • R1  – 40ft from huge cairn
  • Long wash walk
  • R2 – 90 ft from rebuilt, washed out cairn. Vertical with multiple undercut sections.
  • R3 – 80 ft off cairn very close to edge. 20 ft of free hang, lots of rocks on ledges
  • R4 – 100 ft from cairn. Get in on the lip with big overhang roof 25 ft down with a big nest 15 ft below that. Two boulders could be alternatively be used for anchor but you would use a lot of webbing and have a less clean rappel, missing the roof.
  • R5 – 25ft of big rock. Second stage is downclimbable or for 100 ft total of rope out
  • R6 – 25 ft off big rock, downclimbable 
  • R7 – 30 ft off cairn


  • Approach; 2hrs
  • Descent: 4 hrs
  • Exit: 20min