Friday, 14 August 2015

Training Below Sea Level at Death Valley, California

Wednesday, August 5

Two days after the 7,000ft highs of the Grand Canyon we found ourselves two hundred feet below sea level in the furnace of Death Valley.

The temperature on the dashboard of the Dodge edged over the 100 degree mark as we drove through the high desert from Vegas to the Valley. Stepping out of the air conditioning for the first time at Dante's View was like walking into a hair dryer. We marvelled at the salt deposits at the bottom of the endless valley surrounded by steep Toblerone ridges.

Another stop at Zabriskie Point on the way to the Ranch at Furnace Creek revealed the start of interesting trail - the Badlands Loop. The terrifying sign at the trail head said it was a two-and-a-half mile loop through a mountain pass via the Gower Canyon but should not be attempted after 10am due to the extreme, life-threatening heat.

So we hatched a plan to get up at 6,30am and jog around the trail a couple of times before the sun was barely above the top of the mountains.

A bold idea and it started ok. Big Joe and I jogged from the car park to the edge of the rocky trail and descended at dawn into a spookily deserted gully. The silence was eerily deafening. It wasn't long before we stopped even trying to jog through the rocks and concentrated on just finding the sign posts that marked the scary route through the arid terrain. It was unusual and intimidating to be devoid of directions.

After about a mile we reached a post that had two arrows pointing in opposite directions - clearly the start of a loop. But at that point we turned round and retraced our steps. Without a map and when everywhere looks the same - sand, rocks, desert - the last thing we wanted was to end up lost in the valley as the sun was doing its worst.

A few days later I found this comment on hikespeak.comI managed to get lost on this trek. Ended up down there for 3 hours on my own and ran out of water and almost hope of ever finding my way back. Was close to death…literally..:-(

I'm glad we turned back. It was a memorable experience but no jog. I changed the status from "run" to "hike" in Strava later that day. We headed back for a buffet breakfast at the ranch and the long drive to Yosemite.

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