Route: Death Valley N-S Crossing (CA)

Location
California, US
Distance
160 mi
Vertical Gain
1,600 ft
Description

This route takes you from the northern most point of Death Valley National Park to its southern most point. No trails, no roads. It is about 160miles long and run the length of the Death Valley. The route proposed here is the one Roland Banas followed, but you are encouraged to make your own. Only the start and the end points matter. This route was first done solo, unsupported and unassisted by Louis-Philippe Loncke in 2015 in just under 8 days and done again by Roland Banas in 2018 in just under 7 days.  The crossing can be done all on trails, but for an unsupported summer trip using a cart for water, that wouldn't be possible.

The route starts on Willow Creek Rd, about a 1.5 miles NE from Last Chance Canyon. Lat: 37.349741 Lon: -117.683353
The route ends at the Harry Wade Monument at the intersection of Death Valley Road (127) and Saratoga Springs Rd. Lat: 35.632850 Lon: -116.290683

A detailed trip report is on Explorer Web: https://explorersweb.com/2019/01/07/solo-dv-crossing-report/

Louis-Philippe Loncke described the strict unsupported ethic he followed:

To qualify for an FKT unsupported and unassisted, the hiker must carry all his/her food and water supplies from the start and will leave "no trace" (carry out all the trash as well until the end). It is not allowed to receive support from anyone else (navigation, weather, carrying equipment, filming or photography, etc.). The hiker has to feel/act as he/she is the only one on the planet. No pre-placed food or water caches allowed.

All rules of the DV NP must be followed. Please ask for the latest rules. It is not allowed to camp on the Badwater Salt Flat area. It is not allowed to haul a desert cart as it would damage the fragile ecosystem.

It is fair game to use natural elements found in the park (as long as authorized in the park): resupply of water in a remaining water pool, for instance. The use of a satellite phone, distress beacon or GPS does not constitute support.

Any time of the year is allowed. The hardest would be in the full heat (mid-July) of summer. This would be the last remain challenge of DV. The first traverse in mid-summer unsupported, unassisted and off track or called cross country. 

GPS Track
Images

Comments

Super Psyched that Saramoira just started at 11:22am today 1-8-2020 with goal of beating the overall mens time :) THIS IS BIG! AND BRUTAL!

Good call out.  Death Valley is amazing - lots of hidden (and some not so hidden) gems there.  The N-S Crossing is ... Jason said it!  Way too hard for me.  "Salt to Snow" OTOH is reasonable (Badwater to Telescope Peak).

Super excited for you Ashly! ~165 miles of desolate, rugged Death Valley...solo, unsupported!!!
This is huge and brutal! Glad I could help with some beta (read:mistakes) from my attempt!
and...After 2 attempts coming up short on this just this year, I really hope it goes for you :)

temps up into the 80s now...those reflective salt ovens will be hot!!!

with all the stoke!!! get it girl!

Hey FKT community,

These routes have special history. It is very important to note the difference in route and ethic between the summer route and the winter route of this Death Valley Crossing. 

The non-summer (standard) variation has followed a very strict off-trail ethic (no walking roads or trails) and a very strict "use nothing man made" ethic...as such one must carry all their water in a pack because wheels aren't allowed through some of delicate desert wilderness areas. This is what makes this effort so unique and so brutal to master. To soften on this would be to change the whole nature of the effort from the original records. The tab should perhaps be named "strict off-trail route" to better capture this expectation. 

Then, it is important to note, the "July-August Variation" is the exact opposite in that it exclusively follows roads so that you can pull a cart in order to meet your ridiculous water needs during the insane heat. This tab should perhaps be named "July-August Road Variation". It is important to note that in this road variation the unsupported ethic is still very strict against refilling water or other resources from any man-made structure or faucet, even publically available ones. To use these would be self-supported in this instance, do to the style of prior attempts. This is because the water and weight issues are what make this effort so enormous. To change that is to deviate from both the aesthetics and logistical challenge originally faced in conquering these experiences. 

Perhaps there could be a "non-summer road variation" tab as well for those who want the M-S crossing experience without the brutal, strict off-trail or the summer heat.

With stoke and humility,

Jason Hardrath (Follow on IG or FB)

Hello FKT community!

I wanted to formally announce here that I will be attempting the Death Valley N-S crossing starting at first light on December 26th in the style that Louis-Phillippe Locke describes above: solo and unsupported, carrying all my water and supplies from the start, adhering to LNT ethics, and acting as of I am the only one on the planet (an easy feeling to achieve in Death Valley.)

After my last go-round with this route, I'm feeling confident in my ability to finish, however, the weather forecast is calling for rain... Death Valley is prone to flooding, so that could make things interesting!

Live tracking link: https://maps.findmespot.com/s/P88T

Much love 🧡 and stay wild! 🔆

Ashly

Hello!

I'm planning a self-supported attempt starting Feb. 21st, weather permitting. I've been hiking the sections, tweaking gear, practicing water/food caches. I'll post a tracking link when I know for sure. I'd welcome any advice from those who completed or attempted it. Also, still working on transportation to the start. I can't imagine carrying all that water! Thanks in advance!

Sarah

I am going to attempt an unsupported North-South traverse this coming Sunday, March 7, 2021 at dawn.  Consistent with the original description, I will hike solo and unsupported, carry all food and water* from the start, obey leave-no-trace principles, abide by the rules of DVNP (e.g., no sleeping on the valley floor), and avoid all contact with civilization and other people (no trails, no roads, no entering campsites, etc.). 

After exhaustive research and on-site investigation, I have identified a few natural surface water seeps (i.e., shallow, salty, mud puddles) at strategic locations through the park that I am hopeful will be able to provide me with additional water periodically along the way, about every 40 miles.  This is entirely consistent with Loncke's original description, where he himself resupplied water from a shallow puddle near Mesquite Dunes.  These water sources are not in restricted areas (e.g., Lower Vine Ranch closure, behind the fences at Sand Spring), and after having spoken to the DVNP hydrologist, I have confirmed that I am not breaking DV rules by consuming a small amount of water from them, if extracted in a careful manner so as to not disturb these delicate ecosystems.

I will be carrying a Garmin inReach device which will broadcast my location live to: http://share.garmin.com/skywalker .  I will also carry a camera and try to document this as best I can. See you guys on the other side, hopefully!

Hey everyone.  I've been fighting off some sort of illness the last 2.5 weeks.  I thought I was over it, so I headed to DVNP as planned on Saturday, but I felt like complete garbage that day and evening.  I postponed a day hoping that I'd feel better and I went to get a second covid test in Pahrump to confirm I didn't have covid.  I still felt bad Monday morning, so I drove home and postponed to next week.  I got the test results back Monday night as negative, and I have a doc appt to get to the bottom of this ailment.  I'll update here when I know what is up, but right now the plan is to give this one last shot this season next Monday if I'm well enough.  Sorry for the false start--I thought I was ready to rock, but I don't want to begin this effort when I'm still feeling lousy, or I'm afraid I won't be able to successfully complete it!

Hi everyone, I just replied to an email from a person who is planning a thru hike and asked how to get the permit. To avoid breaking privacy, the initials of the person are R.S. so i case we would see comments coming we'd know the person is getting info from this site as well.
PERMITS: As DVNP. Search "deva_permits@nps.govto find the websites mentioning about the permits that might change. I'm not aware of the rules after 2015 as only visited DVNP once.

* Happy to see more people are going for a challenge in DVNP. I'm sure more people will have speed records in the future. So let me comment on this.

First the seasons (Astronomical): Winter: 21/12 - 20/03 / Spring: 21/03 - 20/6 / Summer: 21/6 - 20/9 / Autumn: 21/09 - 20/12.
My crossing was "exactly" mid-Autumn. Roland's crossing during early winter. It makes a lot of difference in terms of heat and exposure to the sun as it is less hot and it has way shorter days in the winter. I'd love to see someone doing an attempt mid-Autumn as well to compare. I obviously would love an attempt in the summer. I've been trying to simulate a trek starting with around 500 liters of water and moving each day the water further doing back and forth days for up to 3 months. Yes indeed to do in in the summer, we have like max 90 days to do it. So it's about knowing our prolonged tolerance to water scarcity,effort heat and mental and heat exhaustion. The last remaining challenge in DVNP is a mix of body+mind+mathematics.

UNSUPPORTED

For the winter. I think it is possible in 4-5 days so shaving off 2-3 days to Roland's record.
For the autumn/spring: no idea as I gave my best but I think it can be done in 6-7 days. I was also heavy with a tripod, camera, mic, large 360 camera, satphone+GPS. Now a garmin tracking would just replace all that and just a tiny gopro with 2 batteries would do for souvenirs. A lighter tent of bivybag could do.

SUPPORTED or SELF-SUPPORTED

Winter: No much difference when you can almost imagine not carrying more than 3-5kgs. Running / Jogging it and it's possible for an athlete to do it in less than 48 hours. Probably running during the night, walking and sleeping during the day. Autumn : 3 days max really (Ray did it in 4 days+ in summer)
 

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I agree that the supported and self-supported can be done much faster than I did it. Most of the first 60 miles is runnable, as well as much of the last 30-35 miles. Almost as soon I was done I wanted to do it again! 

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Profile picture for user Robyn Scott

Hi All!

I’m new here (Louis-Philippe referred me). I’d like to announce my attempt at a N-S unsupported crossing of Death Valley this coming fall. My plan is to start October 17. I am currently training and would love to hear how everyone is preparing/has prepared for this trek! 

I'm excited to follow your trek this fall! I only did it with a light pack and my training was just running and hiking, including sections of the crossing to become familiar with it and know how much water I would need. Carrying all your water sounds horrible to me, but it will be an epic accomplishment!

Fellow adventurers!

My name is Sam Kottoor, and I will be attempting the N-S solo, unsupported and unassisted crossing of Death Valley on Saturday, March 27th, in the manner described by Louis-Phillippe Locke. I will be carrying all my food and water in my pack, following the principles of Leave No Trace, and adhering to park rules, such as avoiding the Lower Vine Ranch area, and abstaining from camping in the region between the Mesquite Sand Dunes and Ashford Mill, as advised by my conversation with a ranger and thorough research on the website. I have a water filter on me as a backup, only to be used at permitted locations.

I will be hiking predominately at night with my headlamp and will be sleeping during the day to avoid the heat. I will not be using trails and will be acting as if I'm the only human in the solar system. 

Thank you to all who have put out information about your attempts. After three months of thorough training and research, I feel prepared.  

You can track me at this link: https://share.garmin.com/samkottoor

I'll be using a Garmin inReach MINI to upload my tracks, with send intervals of 20 minutes. I plan to start at approximately 1 PM on Saturday. 

Email me with any questions at samjkottoor@gmail.com

We'll see you then. 

 

Hello everyone! 

I am safely back from attempt #1. An absolutely unforgettable experience. Due to two main mistakes, I realized soon I would not be able to complete the journey, and so I opted for Stovepipe Wells instead. 

It was the most brutal 112 hours of my entire life. Through it, I gained an extensive amount of knowledge about Death Valley, adventuring, and life itself. I hope to attempt again within the next two years. I believe I now know how to approach this journey differently to be successful.

I will post an in-depth trip report here later for all those interested in reading it!

What a life!

- Sam

 

I thoroughly enjoyed your trip report, Sam. I did not write the death valley crossing message in the dirt. It was fresh when I did some recon February 13th and had been driven over when I started on February 20th. I also followed some fresh shoe tracks in the snow and saw those tracks from time to time along at least the first half of the route. They were from larger feet than mine and I wear a men's size 9. Epic birthday trip!

Great Report. I enjoyed it. Brings up memories... and still need to film time to edit a self-shot film about it.