Thursday, June 03, 2004

Death Valley Trek expedition

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is one of the most known internationally national park of the USA. The name makes it appealing to be curious about it. The park is also famous for its Badwater race that starts there an finishes nearby the highest point of the US lower states. It hosts the lowest point of the USA at around -86m.

It’s extremely hot in the summer and it get to freezing point during the night in the winter. The “flying” distance between the North and the South is 228km (143 miles). The terrain is diverse with shrubs, washouts, riverbeds, sand, salt flats and dry flats. It’s a beauty for any desert lover.

Objective
Walk solo and unsupported (no resupply of food nor water) the estimated 250km walking route from North to South. I will film myself with a small camera and make a FREE small 15 minute web documentary.

Why this Route?
Starting north is starting at a high elevation and finishing at a lower altitude. This means perhaps less effort than a S-N trek but the main reason is safety. The start involves indeed going into the mountains with a heavy backpack but after the mountain, the route is never "really far" from the sealed road. 

Finishing in the mountains would be at risk for myself and the potential rescuers. Finishing south is virtually not remote compared to my previous desert crossings were rescue is impossible. But Death Valley is not to be underestimated.

Done before?
The route has been attempted twice by an American using a desert cart. He failed because his cart always broke and he spent time doing repairs or carrying jerricans of water back and forth across difficult terrain –like riverbeds- until he could continue hauling his cart. I believe it’s possible to cover the distance in 5.5 to 6 days only on foot with hiking poles and by the way desert cart are not permitted.

How?
I will start all my water and food for the journey and of course a small tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. The total weight of the pack will be between 36-40kg (80-90 lbs). I will carry of course a GPS, satphone and perhaps a live tracke, a basic first aid kit. November is not very hot and the cold at night will not freeze my water thanks to the temperature inertia. The days are short but not too short. Also low precipitation. Because there’s less heat, there is also very little chance of stormy rains and hence flash flooding unless "El niƱo" but no one knows how it will be in 2015. I believe it’s the safest time of the year to trek.


Dangers & problems?
Potential problems that are of course obvious: dehydration, muscle injury, overheating, over exhaustion, backpack failure, water container failure, wind & salt dust, sun blindness, cold, frozen water, back pain, blisters. I will select equipment to minimize all this. Animals: Rattlesnake, scorpion, black widow spider, wild burro, coyote. 

Remarks
There is no cell / mobile phone coverage in the park except near the ranger stations and hotels. I have a philosophy of leave no trace when I trek. I take all my garbage with me.
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