FKT: Cameron Hummels - Cottonwood Marble Loop (Death Valley, CA) - 2020-02-23

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
5h 2m 39s

Photos on Strava.

A few years ago, I ran this loop and set the FKT (or maybe “only known time” because I don’t think anyone had really run it before; it’s just a long backpacking loop). I didn’t write it up on the FKT boards because it’s pretty remote and there’s significant route finding on the backside, where if you cross the wrong pass, you’re basically screwed as you’re in a remote section of DV with no road access anywhere near. I didn’t want someone to go out on trail with just a gpx file and no real research hoping to set the FKT and find themself in a bad spot if things went south. But a couple months ago, someone wrote it up as an official FKT based on the route I took in my activity from before, so I guess the cat is out of the bag. A few people have beat my time in the last few months since it's been "official", so I’ve been wanting to get back to it and give it a shot where I wasn't dinkin around so much.

I was in the neighborhood this weekend helping out at the Death Valley Dark Sky Festival and teaching people about SPACE, so I figured I’d give this trail another shot before it gets too hot. I ran it CCW this time, going up Marble Canyon and coming down Cottonwood, which I think makes it a bit faster. What’s more, it wasn’t 100F like last time, and I knew a little bit better the terrain and the route (last time I didn't have a GPX file, but I had a map and had done a lot of research beforehand). There isn’t strictly a formal trail for much of the route, and you have to do some route finding over some passes and through a swamp. That said, I got lost twice even though I’ve been on the route before--damn that swamp! Hahahah. The only other problem with going up marble canyon is you have to climb a 9’ dryfall, but it ended up being easier than I thought. It’s probably like a little 5.7? I dunno.

Anyway, it rained yesterday, which meant it was nice and cool, but super humid for the first half. Water was running at both Dead Horse Spring and at Cottonwood Spring, for water refills. After I got out of the swamp, I just cruised out the last ten miles or so. It felt pretty good, except my hip flexors just about went on a mutiny in the last two miles. Anyway, I feel pretty good about this effort given my condition right now.

I love DV--it's always such a treat to visit this place. If you're ever in the mood for a nice remote loop up in the hills, this is a great one. Just make sure you know how to find your way through it.

WHOA! Looks like someone else [Cordis Hall] was out on the loop a few hours after I was and beat my time by about 20 minutes! I'll have to train up again and try to retake the crown at some point soon. :)