FKT: Jessica Johnson - Cottonwood Marble Loop (Death Valley, CA) - 2019-12-11

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
9h 26m 16s

Trip report:

  • Marble Canyon/Cottonwood Canyon Loop in Death Valley in a day. Solo, unsupported, 9:26:16. Funny yesterday was international mountain day and I spent all of it in motion in canyon af canyons. I don’t normally write out play by play trip reports anymore but the fkt site wants one so here ya go! ⁣

    Woke up at 4:30 in the back of my truck from an almost nightmare. Started at 5:55 in the dark, not sure if I’d use up all the daylight in the day, but prepared for night. Def would advise to start in the daylight bc following the road at the start was not easy by headlamp. Sun rose as I was entering the first constriction. ⁣

    Man! The best part about this day was I just felt really fucking great the whole time. Type one fun all day long. I was just chill zone 1-2 slow running the whole day, taking time to walk through the slot canyons and stop for the petroglyphs and look at cool plants up close and all. ⁣

    I decided to go counterclockwise so I could climb the dry falls instead of descending, and so I’d have more downhill miles. If I hadn’t been climbing the past few years the falls would have been a major obstacle but I have been so despite holds being a little sandy it was chill. I went straight up from where the two sticks are pointing together. I kinda can’t believe normal ass hikers do this with full backpacks but it’s a popular loop so they do! ⁣

    The route is very gradually uphill for the first half, the kinda grade where you can’t really tell you’re going uphill and it’s very runnable, if you’re used to running in sand. There is maybe one steep mile coming up dead horse canyon and then it’s a same gradual downhill for 4,000 ft but over like 16 miles so you can’t really tell you’re losing elevation. Wonderful. ⁣

    I filtered water at cottonwood springs and there was very much water running as of 12/11/19. It had snowed last month and I guess it all melted into the streams. Watch your gps closely when going through any of the cottonwood groves. I ended up on the wrong side of one accidentally and they are pretty impenetrable in the middle, had to backtrack. ⁣


  • Ended up finishing feeling strong and I definitely could have kept going. So cool to feel so much physical progress compared to say my first 50k race a few years ago where I cried and felt like dying, haha. Now I can just run an unsupported 50k myself and it’s chill and fun and nbd. Wild. I’m still real slow compared to most ultrarunners but idc bc celebrating your own successes and progress is more important than comparing yourself to others. :) Working on speed the next few months to hit a fast (for me) supported 50k in April. P stoked.
    I had one toe blister, minor chafing, and my hip flexors were displeased at the end but those were so minor they didn’t really matter. Ran out of water right at the finish. Perfect. I finished with daylight to spare and decided to just drive right home so I could eat cheap frozen pizza for dinner. Cool to live so close I can do DV as an overnighter.
    I saw some cool plants and a tarantula and kangaroo mice and scared a hare, and a crow followed me for a few miles through a slot canyon announcing my presence the whole way. Really really cool varied geology. I love canyons! Def recommend this loop. Very beautiful!