Running in Death Valley

Death Valley done! Amazing experience to run in this desolated place, alone, without support, without mobile coverage and no race crowd.

Amazing sky in Death Valley (© A. Gatta)
Amazing sky in Death Valley (© A. Gatta)

I wanted to run in Death Valley for a long time but I never got an opportunity to do so. This time, when we decided to go to California to climb in Bishop, I took the opportunity to pass by Death Valley to run there. The first challenge has been to find a combination of trails to make something interesting and about 40+ kilometers long.

Badwater bassin and its Salt Flat (© A. Gatta)
Badwater bassin and its Salt Flat (© A. Gatta)

I finally found something nice; running from Badwater (lowest point in North America) to the top of Telescope Peak (3,366 m, highest point of Death Valley) and then down on the other side to Charcoal Kilns.

Early start from Badwater with the light reflecting on the Salt flat (© P. Gatta)
Early start from Badwater with the light reflecting on the Salt flat (© P. Gatta)

I left Badwater, at 86 m below sea level, just before the sunrise and immediately started to run on the salt flat. I brought with me four liters of water (which was not enough), a bit of food, a camera and a GPS.

Sunrise on Telescope Peak with the Salt flat in front (© P. Gatta)
Sunrise on Telescope Peak with the Salt flat in front (© P. Gatta)

I was worried about the 9 km of the salt flat as I had little information about it. Finally it was not too bad; very hard and sharp for the most part with a short muddy section at the end.

The Salt flat and Badwater are behind (© P. Gatta)
The Salt flat and Badwater are behind (© P. Gatta)

The Hanaupah canyon and the ridge up to 3,000 m were much harder than anticipated tough. These 21 km and +3,230 m were mainly off trail on rough terrain, scree, sharp rocks and aggressive bushes. The final 14 km, on the standard trail to Telescope Peak were much easier. Overall I ran 47 km with 3,650 m of elevation gain, mostly off trail.

High on the ridge looking back at the trail done with Badwater at the bottom of the range behind (© P. Gatta)
High on the ridge looking back at the trail done with Badwater at the bottom of the range behind (© P. Gatta)

I had a great feeling of freedom running without mobile, GPS tracker or support. I still needed Anna to pick me up on the other side of the range at Charcoal Kilns. Since we could not communicate, we agreed on a schedule and she was supposed to leave to call for rescue if I was not there by 5pm. The rough terrain and the lack of water slowed me down and I was behind schedule already at midday. I reached the meeting point 20 minutes after the deadline but fortunately Anna was still there.

Top of Telescope Peak in the clouds (© P. Gatta)
Top of Telescope Peak in the clouds (© P. Gatta)

Map of my Death Valley trail (© P. Gatta)
Map of my Death Valley trail (© P. Gatta)

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