Showing posts with label Death Valley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death Valley. Show all posts

Video: A Visit to Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is an amazing place. Despite its name, life actually abounds there if you know where to look. In this full-length documentary video, we travel to this spectacular destination and get a fist hand look of the landscapes that are found there. Best of all, if you're lucky enough to have a 4k monitor, you can see it in stunning ultra-HD resolutions. This is the next best thing to actually being there yourself. Of course, nothing actually tops going there, and after watching this, you'll know why. Grab a snack, pour yourself a drink, and get comfortable. You'll want to watch this from beginning to end.

Outside Gives Us 100 Reasons to Love the National Parks

As most of you probably know, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service here in the U.S. To celebrate, the NPS is holding a number of special events throughout the year, and visitors to the parks throughout the summer will likely see all kinds of signs reminding them of the centennial year.

A few months back I wrote a piece that offered 100 Reasons the National Parks Remain America's Best Idea.  Well, it seems I'm not the only one who had that idea, as Outside magazine has also published a similar piece, this time giving us 100 Reasons to Love the National Parks. Their list includes some of the same things that mine did as well, but there are plenty of unique items as well.

Amongst the reasons that Outside says we should love the parks is the way they inspire us to get outside and seek adventure. But other reasons range from the fact that there is an oasis to be found in the heart of Death Valley to the otherworldly views that can be had in the Badlands. The list goes on to highlight hikes, activities, locations, and a wide variety of other things that are linked to the National Parks in some way, giving us a good idea of just how important and influential these iconic places actually are.

Now that summer is here, the parks tend to get extremely busy. In fact, President Obama and his family are planning to visit Yellowstone next week. This will no doubt bring some complications for travelers, in a park that is already crowded. But despite those challenges, the national parks are well worth the effort. There are few places that can compare to these beautiful and wild places, and we should all be lucky enough to visit as many as we can. 

Video: Death Valley's Super Flower Bloom

It doesn't rain often in Death Valley, but when it does, an amazing scene can unfold. Hundreds of thousands of flower seeds sit dormant under the soil in the national park, and when they receive moisture, they'll explode into an amazing bloom that is rare but spectacular. This year, that bloom happened and was caught on video. Check it out for yourself in the amazing 2+ minute clip found below.

Death Valley Super Bloom from Hal Bergman on Vimeo.

Video: Trailer for Death Valley Trek - The First Unsupported Crossing of Death Valley on Foot

Back in October of 2015, Belgian adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke set out to complete the first ever solo and unsupported expedition across Death Valley on foot. It was not an easy journey to say the least, and there were times when he wasn't sure he'd make it, but after eight says in the wilderness, he was able to complete the crossing of one of the most notoriously difficult environments on the planet.

Now, we have a trailer for the film that will share his story with us. As you'll see in the two-minute clip below, Loncke set out with a heavy pack that would contain the supplies – and water – that he'd need to survive. And he needed all of it, as the environment in Death Valley is about as unforgiving as they come. I can't wait to see the full film.

Belgian Adventurer Becomes First Person to Cross Death Valley Solo and Unsupported

History was made in Death Valley a few days back when Belgian explorer and adventurer Louis-Philippe Loncke completed the first ever solo, unsupported crossing of that desert. Loncke made the journey without the use of roads, resupplies, vehicle support, or pre-placed food and water caches. In fact, he had never even visited the national park prior to his departure.

The expedition began back on October 30, with Loncke estimating that it would take approximately six days to cover the 150 miles (242 km) he would walk north-to-south through the park. That estimate proved to be too optimistic however, as it actually required eight days to finish the trek.

This isn't the first time someone has attempted to cross Death Valley in a solo and unsupported fashion. Explorer Todd Carmichael attempted the something back in 2010 and 2011. But Carmichael's approach was to drag a heavy cart filled with supplies behind him as he went. Loncke took a completely different approach however by loading all of his gear and supplies into a backpack. That includes all of the water he would need for his time in the desert. when he set out on the expedition, that pack weighed an incredible 95 pounds.

This approach proved to be crucial to his success however, as the terrain proved to be incredibly unforgiving. He discovered that not only was Death Valley incredibly hot, it is also very rocky, featured deep canyons, scorching sand dunes, and difficult washouts. That terrain also reflected back the heat of the sun, increasing the temperature even further.


The gear and supplies that he carried with him on the trek left him little room for error, particularly as his six-day journey turned into eight. At one point he almost abandoned the attempt as well, as the salt water he was drinking to help avoid dehydration prevented him from sweating as much as he should have. His body was overheating, and his heart was pounding, even in the overnight hours when temperatures dropped dramatically. Thankfully, Loncke found fresh water on his exit route, and after purifying it he was able to dilute the salt water enough to allow him to continue. From there, he was able to find his stride and complete the journey.

This isn't the first time the Belgian adventurer has crossed a desert on foot. In fact, he seems to thrive on those challenges. In fact, his previous "world firsts" include a traverse of the West McDonnell mountain range and the crossing of the Simpson Desert, both in Australia.

Lou-Phi says that he owes a debt of gratitude to Todd Carmichael, whose footsteps he marched in. He says that Carmichael was the inspiration for this trek, and studying his approach helped him to prepare for the Death Valley expedition. He reached the finish line on November 7, with a total time of 7 days, 23 hours, and 40 minutes for the traverse.

You can find out more about the journey, his preparation, and the challenges he faced, on Loncke's website. Congratulations to Lou-Phi on an amazing expedition, and showing us just what can be accomplished when you set your mind to a project. Well done my friend.

The 2015 Badwater Ultramarathon is Underway

The 2015 edition of the Badwater Ultramarathon got underway yesterday with 90 runners setting out from the tiny town of Badwater in Death Valley. The classic race takes endurance athletes across 135 miles (217 km) of some of the harshest environments imaginable as they run to the Mt. Whitney Portals in temperatures in excess of 100ºF/37ºC.

As with most ultramarathons, the distance is a big part of the challenge. But with the Badwater, it is also about the vertical gain. The race starts 280 feet (85 meters) below sea level, and rises to 8300 feet (2530 meters) above sea level at the finish line. Along the way, runners must negotiate their way across demanding desert landscapes, through difficult valleys, and up mountain passes. Those that complete the grueling run will end up with a cumulative vertical gain of more than 14,600 feet (4450 meters), with the fastest runners completing the run in less than 24 hours.

The runners departed last night in three different waves, with the first setting out around 8:00 PM local time. The second set of athletes took to the course at 9:30 PM, with the final wave hitting the road at 11:00 PM. Traveling at night helps to lessen their exposure to the heat, but today temperatures are expected to hit 113ºF/45ºC out on the course.

If you have followed the Badwater over the past couple of years, you probably remember that in 2014 the race was forced to take an alternate route because the National Park Service had implemented a bad on endurance events taking place within national parks while it evaluated safety requirements. This year, the Park Service allowed the runners back in, but mandated the overnight start to help mitigate the danger.

Some critics have said that this could put the athletes under more stress however, as now they'll be heading into the hottest part of the day already fatigued. In the past, runners would start fresh, but take on the heat early, with the cooler temperatures arriving just at the most opportune time to refresh the runners. That won't be the case this year however, as they'll now be 50 miles (80 km) into the race when things really start to get hot. How this impacts the results remains to be seen.

If things go according to form, the first runners should reach the finish line as early as this 7:00 or 8:00 PM this evening. Others will stagger in over the next day or two. As always, it'll be interesting to see how things play out in an event that has been called "the toughest footrace on Earth."

Badwater Ultramarathon Returning to Death Valley

One of the big stories from the ultrarunning world earlier this year was the news that the Badwater Ultramarathon had been barred from taking place in its traditional environment – Death Valley National Park. In an effort to increase safety throughout the park, a comprehensive review of all events taking place within Death Vally was conducted, which included a number of running and cycling competitions. While that review was taking place, the Badwater was forced to use an alternate route for the 2014 event, and for a time it looked like that route could become permanent. Last week however, it was announced that the race will return to its traditional route in 2015, with only a few minor changes to operations.

In August, a report on the findings for the safety review in Death Valley indicated that sporting events taking place in the month of July – when the Badwater traditionally is run – could be permanently banned. That's when the temperatures in the park are at their hottest, and conditions are most dangerous for those participating. At the time the report was released, the future of the ultramarathon continuing in Death Valley looked grim, and it seemed it wouldn't even be able to start in the small town from which is garnered its name.

But now it seems the Park Service has granted the Badwater a reprieve, and the event will take place more or less as usual. The 2015 edition of the race will be held July 28-30, with a route that begins in Badwater Basin, 86 meters (282 feet) below sea level, and ends at the Mt. Whitney Portals located at 2530 metes (8300 ft). Along the way, it covers some 217 km (135 miles) through one of the harshest, driest environments on the planet.

Race officials indicated that the Badwater would have a three-wave start, with runners setting off in the evening. They indicated that participants wouldn't notice any other significant changes to the event, although behind the scenes there has been more bureaucracy and expense taken on by the AdventureCORPS team that puts on the race. Other than that however, it is business as usual for the ultra-event.

It's good to see the Badwater return to its traditional home and route. The event was never in danger of going away, but for decades it has been run along the route from the basin to Mt. Whitney, and it is nice to see it able to continue along that path. I commend the National Park Service for taking safety seriously, but the AdventureCORPS team has been running this race for a long time, and they have proven time and again that they know what they are doing. Safety remains a chief concern of all involved, and will continue to do so as long as the Badwater continues to operate.

Video: Accelerated Moments - Timelapse Landscapes From the American Southwest and Beyond

Shot over a two-year period throughout Arizona, Utah, California, and Hawaii, this video captures beautiful scenery in spectacular timelapse fashion. Locations include Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Mt. Whitney, and Monument Valley, just to name a few. The imagery is transfixing, with some fantastic shots of some of the most visually stunning landscapes found anywhere in North America.

Accelerated Moments (Timelapse) from Sean Goebel on Vimeo.

Badwater Ultramarathon Banned From Death Valley

Update: It has been pointed out to me that this ban is leveled at events that take place in Death Valley during July, and isn't for every event that takes place in the park. The text below has been updated to reflect this.

The Badwater Ultramarathon is one of the toughest races on the planet, thanks in no small part due to the fact that much of its 135 miles (217 km) length crosses through the desert in Death Valley National Park. For years, the race started in the town of Badwater and ended at the Mt. Whitney Portals, drawing some of the best endurance runners from around the world to compete. But now, the National Park Service has banned the event from taking place inside the park altogether, changing the very fabric of this iconic event.

The news of the ban came a few weeks back, creating disappointment within the ultra-running community, even if it wasn't necessarily a complete surprise. Earlier in the year, the Park Service instituted a temporary ban on events taking place within national parks in order to evaluate them for safety. That forced the 2014 Badwater Ultra to create a new route that didn't put race organizers and runners in conflict with the NPS. When this year's event took place back in July however, there was still hope that the ban would eventually be lifted. This new ruling – signed by Death Valley National Park Superintendent Kathy Billings – makes it permanent.

The primary reason for the ban is concerns about safety issues. Death Valley is one of the hottest locations on the planet, with temperatures in the summer routinely exceeding 110ºF/43.3ºC. Prolonged exposure to that kind of heat can put any visitor to the park in danger, let alone athletes attempting to cover more than 100 miles during the hottest time of the year. There also appeared to be some concerns that the Badwater would take part at night, when visibility was low and there were fewer park service staff members on duty to deal with potential issues. Responding to calls for assistance could be greatly delayed, raising the questions about overall safety even further.

It should be noted that this ban isn't just leveled agains the Badwater Ultra. Death Valley has hosted between 10 and 14 sporting events each year, and any of them scheduled to take place in July, when the heat is at its worst, will not be allowed to take place. Of those, the Badwater is probably the most well known, but others could be affected by this ruling too.

This year, the race started in Lone Pine, and followed the edge of Death Valley towards the regular route up Mt. Whitney. The new route added some further challenges with more climbs, but the spirit of the race remained the same. It is possible that this route will now become the one that is used moving forward. The race will likely continue to keep its name, even though it will no longer begin in Badwater as well.