Sunday, November 08, 2015

Death Valley desert trek

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Map of the Route - Start: 1943m/6375ft | End: 145m/475ft 

Day 0 (29 Oct): Took the bus from Las Vegas to Beatty. There is then no transport to DV so I hitch hiked. It's illegal in Nevada but I had no other option... and I walked and walked in my F***** jeans and for 4 hours no one took me. At the border with California, finally... but no hourray as they dropped me at a turnoff still 19 miles from Furnace Creek. I has to walk another 2 hours before Chinese tourists took me. I'm now sunburnt :( Arrival in Death Valley Furnace Creek 4.20 pm so I got my CLIF BAR package. But arrived at 5.02pm at Farabees Jeep Rentals where they have perhaps an "expensive" solution to drop me at the start. I'll take expensive. I have to go.
I repacked and tomorrow I hope to be dropped North with a 1,5 day delay. Grrrr as the moon is not full anymore. The good sign is that the 6 hours of walking on the sealed road -in jeans- were OK with a good wind and I only had 1 liter to survive. Bad thing is I have a small blister and face sunburnt. One day at a time, one day at a time. Tomorrow evening, (so  Saturday morning in Europe) you should have the daily update written by Jeremy. I will call him every day at the end of my day on his mobile phone. 23.43... off to bed in my MSR Tent. The wind is very strong. The temperature is perfect.

Day 1 (30 Oct): 37°15'23.7"N, 117°37'04.9"W 
Jessie drops me at 1.30 pm. I film and leave at 2 pm. My aim is to pass the mountain and the deep canyon before darkness. What a pleasure to start walking in the desert. After the hurry of preparation and the difficulties to reach the starting point it is a really important to finally being immersed oneself in this great environment.
I crossed the Last Chance Range with no major difficulties (except few falls due to the backpack weight). Then I started to walk through the canyons.
As foreseen, after a short night I will start walking during the night thanks to the moon light.

Day 2 (31 Oct): 37°04'59"N, 117°29'13"W 
So far, so good. Typical trekking day in the Death Valley : hot (very hot) and rattlesnake (my first !)
Due to the sun and heat, I had to stop during 3 hours in the middle of the day. My only protection was the mirror canvas of OutdoorLogic. Works like Charms.
But the real bad news of the day was the discovering of a very small leak in one of my water tank. So I spend some time to fix it and split the water in the other tanks. Fortunately I succeeded rather well and everything is ready for tomorrow...

Day 3 (01 Nov): 36°52'10"N, 117°17'34"W 
Whatever the expedition, the third day is always difficult. You start suffering of strain, both physical and psychological. Moreover I feel a little bit sick due to a wrong mix of salt and water in one of my water tank and exhausted by the heat. I just can't cool down even at evening when it's only 10C. What's wrong with my body, my heart is pumping super fast. I thought several time to abandon and will decide tomorrow. I'll take time to have rest and think about my options.

Day 4 (02 Nov): 36°40'46"N, 117°9'29"W 
I decide to abandon, the salty water makes me not sweat at all so I am overheating and could die from a heatstroke. Fortunately, each day is different from the previous one ! After walking few hours, I decide to walk over a small dune to have a different outlook of the valley and my exit point at Stovepipe Wells. It was the best idea I had for a long time. Indeed, I saw close from my position small 3 small puddles of fresh -dirty and greeny- water due to the last (and unusual) extremely rain of last week. I replaced 10 liters of my salty water with the green water, mixed it all and added enough micropurs. The process took a lot of time an then I had to wait -and rest- for the water to get purified and drinkable. Twice a day, I remove my shoes and add bandage to locations prone to blisters. I'm ready for a "new" start, the morale is on top.
The second part of the day was marked by an extremely strong wind and little sand storms. Its power was really impressive but left no damages on my tent although it was made flat by the wind with me inside

Day 5 (03 Nov): 36°29'37"N, 116°58'24"W 
I progress slowly, too slowly but I keep my objective for the moment.The sunrise happens just at the mesquite sanddunes, the highlight of this trip with the 360 photo below. I was supposed to trace the dry river in the Valley, but the field is completely chaotic:  it's like an inextricable tangle of blocs made of mud and salt. Very hard to cross over. It's remind my island trek on lava field...
I have to turn back and join the shore of the "dry lake" near the mountain. Following the shore and its rocks during the evening darkness.

Day 6 (04 Nov): 36°11'20"N, 116°52'23"W 
Finally I reach a "good" field : almost flat and stable. Now I walk straight South with a good moral.
I think I should have enough water and food supply to make it. More news tomorrow...
The center of the lake is muddy at times but I only get max deep to my ankles at times. I have to learn reading the different colors of sands. White can mean hard or sink through it. Only cracked ground means dry and firm. I heard a story of this man walking across it and he went through the crust deep until the head. He couldn't move and died. I see a few tracks of people having crossed the lake East-West but I'm the only crazy (idiot?) going full South across.

Day 7 (05 Nov) : 35°55'14"N, 116°41'58"W
Good progression today. I really experience what desert and desolation means... : sand, bushes, and salt... This desert has 20+ various terrains. I keep walking !

Day 8 (06 Nov) : 35°55'14"N, 116°41'58"W
I'm close to the finish line ! The backpack is lighter than ever and it gives me wings. The field is definetly not a highway but it is better than yesterday. I take few risks by choosing to walk close to rocks field and small canyons during the dark with my tiny headlight but it paid. It was a gain of 4 or 5 miles of walking for the day. Next news at the finish line I hope.

Day 9 (7 Nov) : 35°37'48"N, 116°17'25"W
ARRIVED ! I succeeded in trekking the entire Death Valley unsupported.
9 calendar days but a Total time of 7 days - 23 hours - 40 minutes. Come on, 8 days.

Brief conclusion.
I am so happy to have made it. My last expedition was 2 years ago in 2013 and it was a failed one. That failed expedition will have a second attempt in September 2016. Today my feet are still in pain, I believe I have a small infection as my calf was swollen for the past days but it's better now. My right kneecap hurts, perhaps a small fracture but I wait a few more days before going to see a doctor.
DVNP is still possible in 6 days if you are an athlete and do the following:
* less water (25,5 l) and food (6,5kg) at the start
* go starting with a 85% coming new moon, so you have a full moon mostly all night long for all days. (I started with an 85% leaving full moon).
* Less camera gear, no tripod etc... to save another 5kg or so.
* Walk really 18-20 hours per day using the moon and headlight torch. I have an average of 16 hours per day with a 3 days where I didn't walk for about 2/3 hours.

Even a return trip unsupported is possible I think in 11 days with day 6 being a run to the end with no pack for 2*30 miles or so.
The last left big first in DV is to do my route during the summer June, July or August. It is possible but it needs a lot of back and forth moving loads of water.

Daily distances (real):
D1: 11,6km - D2: 24km - D3 : 31,6km - D4 : 25,4km  - D5 : 29,5km - D6 : 38,5km - D7 : 35,4km - D8 : 31,3km - D9 : 21km = 248,3km.

Thanks to:
Advisors: Ray Zahab, Marshall Ulrich, Régis Belleville, The DV Rangers.
Thomas de Dorlodot who let me use his Garmin GPS.
My home team and adventurer friends, friends: Jeremy Roumian and Guillaume Bruyr. Maud C. Mom, Dad, Sis, The Explorers Club,
Special thanks to Outback Logic to allow me to test their sunreflecting fabric.
People who took me hitch hiking: Employees of StovePipe Wells, a Chinese tourist couple, Linda from Sweden, JJ Graham -while we were driving she lost the brakes of her car, we could be dead- and Mark and his wife from Indianapolis. Special Thanks to Jared for the sandbuggy ride.
The people who took me hitch hiking: Linda, Mark & wife, Jessie, JJ Graham.

Gear Sponsors
Mountain by ExperienceLEKI carbon trekking polesMSR Thermarest Clif Bar

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Death Valley preparations and equipment

28 October
It is today I wanted to start the expedition but it is hard to find a way to get to DV (Death Valley). I take a bus Las Vegas (8am) to Beatty (Nevada) and then I'll hitch hike to Furnace Creek (DV) where my Clif Bar package is and where I'll meet the rangers. Normally in the afternoon I'll meet with Farabees Jeep Rentals and try to find a way to get to the start during the evening or early morning on Friday as I want to start at 5am.

27 October
I just flew from NYC to Las Vegas. What to do today? Shop for food, prepare the maps, read the GPS manual and insert GPS points. And find a way to get to DV tomorrow. Find also a way to be dropped at the Northern part of the National Park for the start at 5 am on the 29th.

26 October
I found and bought a 630gram and high tripod and visited the Freedom tower. At 8 am I called the rangers and at 6 pm I attended a lecture at the Explorers Club. Clif Bar just accepted to send me bars for the expedition and that is really great. Another company that believes making a difference in this expedition.

25 October
It's midnight in NYC and my day isn't finished. I spent the morning checking some info about the hurricane Patricia. During the afternoon, the sun came out and it was time for training: walking with a heavy backpack in NYC which is very enjoyable because I actually visited at the same time and walked in areas of New Jersey and Wallstreet. I took a ferry to Staten Island and back to see the statue of liberty. I entered a shop and bought some extra small electronics.

24 October
Finally some sleep. this morning I went to visit my cousin (works for OMEGA). He showed me his office and we talked expeditions, NASA, Bertrand Piccard and James Bond (all sponsored by OMEGA). During the afternoon, more preparations. Next shop in a pharmacy and buy a lightweight small tripod.

23 October
After a long night to prepare my pack and a 30 min sleep, my alarm clock told me it was time to go to Brussels airport and fly to New York. In big Apple my first stop was the Explorers Club where I got my packages arrived: tent, trekking poles, sleeping mat, satellite phone SIM card (activated successfully). No idea there was a drink for members on Fridays and a reception for Oceans protection and leading explorer Anne Doubilet, who I was happy to meet again. During the evening I was invited at a friend's place and my smartphone "died" again. No way to turn it off again. I think I know why and perhaps in 24h it will work again.

22 October 2pm.
I worked 19 hours straight yesterday. My brain was painful I had to sleep. Makes me understand I need more sleep and during the trek I'll need to sleep 6 hours the first 2-3 nights otherwise I will become a zombie -not being able to think properly- and make deadly decisions. Sleep deprivation is my biggest fear in this challenge. The accumulation of stress will be so intense.
I ordered/bought a new tent & sleeping mat. Thanks to a good discount from CascadeDesigns. A new MSR and a new Thermarest. I trust these products eyes closed as I have already older/heavier models used in all my expeditions Australia expeditions and treks.
I ordered an Iridium SIM card +75min and all my stuff should arrive in NYC (like me) tomorrow.
Hotels booked. Still need to find transport, a light tripod and to replace my stolen GoPro.
I'm off to buy new hiking trail shoes and socks. My parents come to see me later today.
I even had a job interview this morning. Seriously, I might be the only person in the world doing job interviews 24h before leaving for another continent. Crap. How am I gonna get to the airport by the way ?
I went to decathlon to by some small equipment including a new pair of trekking shoes. I'll use them in NYC.

21 October
My Millet equipment has arrived. To celebrate this here is a 360 photo of my room. On the table I'm like "what electronics and cables do I need?". Next finding a hotel, transport to get to DV and by socks and new trekking shoes. Re-contact several brands for more items and print maps. Another big day with a JCI event tonight to network and eat well.

20 October
LEKI USA was very reactive and will ship to me a new pair of carbon trekking poles. For those who never walked with (carbon) poles, well, if you find your own pace you can increase your speed a lot. In my case it's speed increase and safety. First the pain in my knees will be less but with a heavy pack, having a total of four legs prevents you many times per day to fall. And in the washouts, canyons and down the mountain at the start of the trek, it can just save my life. No LEKI, no go. Simple.

16 October
I received good news today Millet agreed to give me a PROLIGHTER MXP 60+20 backpack and a LTK600 (gram) sleeping bag. This weekend is the last one I will email potential partners to get equipment that is lighter to help in this Death Valley expedition crossing.

I just received a sample of fabric that a new company called Outback Logic. They are crowdfunding on Kickstarter for a new tent that is able to reflect most of the sunlight and keep you cool inside. See my test with light and laser beam below.

Friday, July 17, 2015

German adventurers in Friedrichshafen

EN: For my third time in at the Outdoor Show, I focused more on meeting people and and trying to find the best expedition gear for the next challenges. I saw the seakayak goddess Freya Hoffmeister and discussed with Joe Vogel.

FR: Pour ma troisième visite à l'Outdoor Show. j'ai mis plus l'accent sur la rencontre avec des personnes et la recherche du meilleur équipement pour mes prochains challenges. J'ai vu la déesse du kayak de mer Freya Hoffmeister et j'i discuté avec Joe Vogel.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Café de l'aventure Paris

EN: Like last year, I gave a small lecture about expeditions in Paris at the Zango bar but this time about potential future projects. The Heard Island Expedition 2015 is surely cancelled so perhaps 1 or 2 small 1 week expeditions to do in the next 12 months. My friend Simon Dubuis was also there talking about his long march in the Andes.

FR: Comme l'année dernière j'ai donné une petite conférence à Paris au bar le Zango. J'ai parlé de projets futurs. L'expédition sur l'île de Heard 2015 est annulée donc j'ai quelques idées de 1 ou 2 petites expéditions d'une semaine à faire sur les 12 prochain mois. Mon pote Simon Dubuis a lui parlé de son expédition dans les Andes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

KayaClean CSR Corporate Community day

EN: The Jane Goodall Institute Belgium organized another KayaClean (part of the Roots and Shoots program) action with a corporate company. I was present to lead and explain how the action started, why it was important and safety guidelines. The sun was present and participants did an excellent job, a real clean-up army! They clearly experienced the fact that removing trash out of the water isn't an easy task and that we only see the tip of the iceberg when paddling a river like the Lesse. It's when you approach the bank river and look closely that you find all the small trash lying in the mud or in shallow water. Trash is even found hanging in the trees. 

FR: Le Jane Goodall Institute Belgique a organisé une autre action KayaClean  (fait partie du prgramme Roots and Shoots) avec une société. J'étais présent pour mener, expliquer la génèse de l'action, pourquoi c'est important et des règles de sécurité. Le soleil était au rendez-vous et les participants ont fait un excellent travail, une vraie armée de nettoyeurs! Ils ont pu clairement expérimenter le fait que retirer des déchets de l'eau n'est pas une opération facile et quo'n ne voit que le sommet de l'iceberg lorsqu'on pagaie une rivière comme la Lesse. C'est en approchant les berges et en regardant attentivement qu'on trouve les petits déchets cachés dans la boue ou en eau peu profonde. On trouve même des déchets accrochés en haut de branches.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Long distance attempt across the Atacama desert

EN: I went to Paris to meet Charles Hedrich who will attempt a very long traverse of the Atacama desert on foot and unsupported with Sylvain Bazin. I gave a couple of weeks ago a few desert expedition advice and also a few comments (FR). It's very hard to determine the extend of the Atacama desert. My point of view is different (from the Guiness book) but for sure it's an interesting desert expedition to follow.
UPDATE: He went solo and did succeed but not on the entire distance he announced at the start.

FR: J'ai été à Paris rencontrer Charles Hedrich qui va tenter une longue traversée du désert d'Atacama en autonomie complète avec sylvain Bazin. J'avais donné quelques conseils il y a 2 semaines et aussi commenté leur trajet d'expédition dans le désert. Ce n'est pas simple de déterminer l'étendue du désert d'Atacama. Mon point de vue est différent (du Guiness book) mais c'est certainement une expédition intéressante à suivre.
UPDATE: I a été en solitaire et il a réussi mais pas sur la distance totale qu'il a annoncé au départ.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Difference between French and English adventure books

EN: I just noticed that a book from a French publisher was constructed in another way of the English ones. If you want to pile the books horizontally to read the title on the side of the cover, for an English book, the cover is facing up and for an French book the back-cover is facing up. Of course if you want to store your books vertically with the cover on the "right", then you'll read the direction of the title differently (bottom-top for French; top-bottom for English).

FR: Je viens de remarquer qu'un livre publié en Français était construit d'une autre façon qu'un livre publié en Anglais. Si vous empilez les livres horizontalement pour lire le titre de l'ouvrage, la couverture de devant du livre en Français est dessous et elle est dessus pour un livre Anglophone. Et donc forcément, si les livres sont montrés verticalement, on lis le titre en Français de la tranche de bas en haut et inversément pour l'Anglais.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Adventurers in London


EN: I went on Saturday and Sunday to the London Outdoor Show. I watched the talks of several speakers (David Hempleman-Adams, photo) and discussed with brands for future expedition ideas. In 2012, I had met Ed Stafford (walking the Amazon) and bought his book, now I quickly introduced myself to Levinson Wood who walked along the Nile. I'm wondering if in 3 years I'll buy a book called "Walking the Yangtze" ? I was recognized by Pete Casey who I'm in touch with since lake Titicaca with Cho Gadiel Sanchez Rivera. We spent several hours talking about his next expedition.

FR: J'ai été samedi et dimanche au London Outdoor Show. J'ai assisté aux conférences de plusieurs aventuriers comme David Hempleman-Adams et parlé avec les marques au sujet des expéditions futures. En 2012, j'avais rencontré Ed Stafford et acheté son livre "Walking the Amazon". Cette fois j'ai acheté le livre "Walking the Nile" de Levinson Wood. Vais-je acheter dans 3 ans un livre titrant "Walking the Yangtze" ? J'ai été reconnu par Pete Casey avec qui je communiquais depuis le lac Titicaca avec Gadiel Sanchez Rivera (Cho). Nous avons discuté longement de sa prochaine expédition.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Brompton factory in London


EN: I visited the Brompton factory, you know the best foldable bike in the world. I have an idea of a challenge to be done on a Brompton, reason why I visited them. I haven't done anything "adventurous" on a bike in 22 years since we toured the provence in France with the boyscouts so getting back on a bike is appealing. Above 2 of the very old prototypes / models.

FR: J'ai visité l'usine Brompton, vous savez le meilleur vélo pliant du monde. J'ai une idée d'un challenge à faire sur un Brompton et c'est pour cel que j'ai été les voir. Je n'ai rien fait d'aventureux sur un vélo en 22 ans depuis le tour de la provence avec les scouts. Revenir au vélo est donc assez attrayant. Voyez au dessus 2 modèles / prototypes du Brompton.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

ISPO new products


EN: For the fourth time I went to ISPO Munich to discover new outdoor products & hunt sponsors.
FR: Pour la quatrième fois, j'ai été à ISPO à Munich pour découvrir les nouveaux produits outdoor et chercher des sponsors.