Loncke Completes First Unsupported Death Valley Traverse

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Loncke Completes First Unsupported Death Valley Traverse

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    Eric Vann


    Companion forum thread to: Loncke Completes First Unsupported Death Valley Traverse

    Louis-Philippe Loncke, a Belgian explorer completes an 8-day, unsupported, solo trek through some of the harshest conditions and terrain on the planet.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Here’s a map of his route.

    I’d suggest that someone carrying much less food and stuff, though only slightly less water, and doing the route in Jan-Feb could cut his time in half without much difficulty.

    Terry Sparks


    Locale: Santa Barbara County Coast

    I’ll be thru hiking DV next month

    starting about the 19th and walking from the northern boundary to the south, right about where he finished his hike. I’m in full agreement with you David regarding the water and the reason I’m hiking the valley in the winter. ¬†I’m looking at hiking it more as a tune up winter hike in about eight days- with water cached.


    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    It’s ballsy to do an event like this in a place you’ve never been to. ¬†Not smart, but ballsy. ¬†And in October? ¬†A few months later and it would have been so much cooler. ¬†An LED headlight (to make up for reduced daylight) weighs FAR less than the extra liters of water.

    I do like his timing it for a full moon Рthat has been really helpful for some of my stupid-human events.  Not so much the small savings in lighting weight, but for the greater situational awareness and the simply my enjoyment of the trip as being more than just the 10 feet in front of me.

    If this becomes a FKT thing, someone will go much lighter, with a bail-out option if they aren’t able to replenish water mid-trip, perhaps keeping a flexible schedule and being ready to go when a storm track is pointed towards DV.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Maybe a BPL group trip is in order

    Alex H
    BPL Member


    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    I agree with all the above.  Here is a down the valley walk I did last December.  Not as long as his, for the reasons I list.  Very easy to cache water or food and very easy to bail out to a road if it all goes south, in fact to me one of the draw backs to a Death Valley walk, you can almost always see a car somewhere, especially at night.

    Louis-Philippe Loncke
    BPL Member


    Hi all, I’d like to comment, correct some interpretation and be even more accurate.

    1. At the end, nope, I never ran. Taking a shortcut (in distance) accross rocks etc… I gained 4-5 miles compared to my planned route. But this doesn”t mean I was doing 4-5 miles per hour. I might have done on day 8 (in duration day 7,2) something like 4-5 km/h max.
    2. My idea was to do a desert trek and it usually means hot. The purist badwater people will not recognize my trek as for them DV in only in the summer so June, July, August. My way of seeing things is well, let’s not take care about the seasons, the idea is to do this: completely unsupported (no caches etc…), no vehicle support or people to help in case I have a problem, doing DV National Park boundaries from top North to Top South. Avoid dirt and 4WD roads, tracks, sealed roads. Of course I can’t jump above so for a few meters I had to cross some :)
    3. WINTER? Indeed it’s colder but perhaps the water might freeze it too cold. End October, it’s not too warm, not too cold so I had a light sleeping bag (for above 5C), no cooking stove, no gas etc…. so in the winter you save on water but need warmer clothes and perhaps you wanna eat warm.
    4. I under-estimated the hard terrain. Remember the distance seems only +-150miles but you zigzag between bushes, rocks, go up and down many washouts.
    5. The heavy rain (like biggest in decades) hit DV 10 days before I arrived. Massive Flooding & lots of damages. The sealed road North destroyed. Luck : found many super salty (don’t drink that) pools at the end, and yes, got lucky to find 4 small pools with fresh water that i purified with micropur. I removed 10 liters of my salty one, and replaced with 10 liters of fresh one. The process took some time and while I did that the level of water went down of about 4 inches due to evaporation. These pools were probably completely dried out 2-3 days after my passage so even before I finished my trek. On the bad side, the whole badwater salt flat got wet. You can see where I crossed, and I got into the mud and slow. Sometimes the mud I got into was deep to my ankles. I had to learn reading what was soft or hard ground. That afternoon was really hard and a surprize to cross a few times a “resurrected” river or stream with water in it but way to salty to drink. So why did I only replace 10 liters ? not all I had ? and why didn’t I take a bit more ? Simple: I had enough water and not enough micropurs anyway to take more. And of course I wanted to keep a good level of salt in my water.
    6. Dehydrated the first days ? No, absolutely not. The salt made my body salty and hence my blood etc… Advantage : loose less water as you don’t sweat much. Not sweating is also good as less risk of blisters on the feet and the waist (yes blisters on the waist as the belt of the backpack is super tighten that you almost vomit the content of your stomack if you eat/drink too much). It’s the only way to try to carry the weight on the hips and not half the weight with the shoulders. Disadvantage: You don’t sweat. This means you don’t evacuate the heat fast enough. So I was overheating, couldn’t cool myself down and reason my my heart my beating fast to try to loose heat/sweat/water and I guess also trying to filter the salt with the kidneys asap. Lesson learned, next 2 deserts in 2016. Still salt but even less.
    7. World first ? well it depends on the facts: unsupported, borders of DV: probably done. But on the full length, north-south axis : no. On top I went off-track of course. No reason to walk on the sealed road that’s for athletes.
    8. Really first then? Yes as considered also in the desert. With known water resupplies at streams in the winter or melting snow, there is nothing hard. This person has done so. He claims a first but to me not valid or to be proofed as (a) his planned route follows some route/tracks (b) planned route doesn’t start top north or end bottom south¬†and (c) if you read his account he bailed out¬†via Panamint City and ended in the town of Ballarat (google map it). I’m in touch with him, I wrote to him in September, he never replied. He emailed me a few weeks ago and never mentioned “I’m first, you’re not”. He asked for my GPS tracks (Anyone interested email me, more data than the GoogleMaps I provided, you can derive times between points to estimate speed) which I gave. I asked his (I wanna see where he passed) but he told me he was actually on a 500mile trek.==>My trek was planned without resupply and it would be luck to find water (how could I predict heavy rain…that actually helped on one side but slowed me down later). He counted on taking water every day and stop at camps. To me this is support. I consider (I believe you will agree) I’ve done the purest route and trek possible in terms of being off-track and unsupported. And anyway he didn’t do the full “length” but I still want to see his tracks.
    9. Going faster than me? Please do! That would mean I set a standard :) As said, it’s possible in 6 days if you are more disciplines, lighter (I had an old nokia style phone, smartphone, BUBLcam, Panasonic camera, gopro, GPS (not really needed except for taking points every 20min or so), microphone and a set of cables charge all that Way too much.
    10. I have 2 hours of video rushes, I plan to do a trailer this weekend of 1-2 minute and put a free full film (you can’t sell photos or video taken in the park) on Youtube (MeetExplorers account) or via
    11. What’s left to be done in DVNP ? Well to do the top north, bottom south crossing completely unsupported, off-track like I did but… in the heat of the summer. July or August. Impossible? of course not. Just “extremely hard”. How? One should carry gallons and gallons right ? No one can carry like 25 gallons of water + gear+food? Indeed! But you can carry MORE than that if you move smaller weights back and forth. So the idea is to spend I think 3-4 weeks moving 100 or 150 gallons of water mile by mile, back and forth on the same mile, until the last 2-3 days where you’d have enough with 6-8 gallons for the remaining 3 days and these 3 days might mean a distance of 50 miles, like 1/3 of the distance. It’s all mathematics :) stamina and knowing how much water you exactly need per day in the hell of the summer. Will I attempt this ? perhaps. If someone if ready to give me several thousands of USD, I could try next summer :)
    12. Happy to read your comments or answer questions.
    Louis-Philippe Loncke
    BPL Member


    Comment on cutting the time in half (so 8 to only 4 days). I don’t know if it’s possible. I’m not telling it is impossible. But Ray and his friend RAN in 5 days with a vehicle support so supported all the way with massage, drinks, food, camp set etc… ! OK in the summer of course

    So RUNNING was done in 5 days. Walking in 4 ? Not so sure. Perhaps if you can not sleep at all.

    Louis-Philippe Loncke
    BPL Member


    I released a new Death Valley map where you can visually see the daily progress (each color yellow/blue is a day) AND each PINK CAMERA icon brings you to a 360 degree photo of the place (click on the icon). Enjoy


    William S
    BPL Member


    Locale: Eastern NC

    Wow!  Looks like a grueling, intense, and solitary, but fun trip!  I really enjoyed the map with the 360 degree photo links! Thanks for sharing that.

    Louis-Philippe Loncke
    BPL Member


    Finally the Death Valley Trek trailer video. Now I still need to find a job, get money, write the story of the film, find and pay an editor and do a 20 min film or so. I’ll communicated the film (FREE on Youtube) on my website / / and related facebook Meetexplorers¬†and LouPhi pages and twitter @LonckeLph¬†& MeetExplorers accounts.

    Follow to get it as I might forget to post here in a few months.

    Edgar H


    I’d love to do something like this, ¬†and am nowhere close to being able or willing to do any such in current real life.

    But I’ve sure thought about it though, ¬† crossing desert regions. ¬†Traveling at night by moonlight and by 18650 Li-ion powered headlamp, ¬†digging in during the day to sleep, and using a double layer tarp with an air gap to block heat, ¬†the inner tarp opaque and the top tarp white. ¬† It seems like traveling at night would have efficiency benefits, staying warmer by exertion, ¬†reducing bedding weight to what was needed to stay comfortable during the day, ¬†and the pleasure of navigating while watching the stars. ¬†I imagine that an ultralight, relatively low efficiency CIGS panel could keep an 18650 charged with the hours of desert sunlight available while resting. ¬† There are 4 oz., 3 watt CIGS panels¬†and 4 oz. 5 watt Sunpower panels available for 30-40$. ¬†Using 3 liter wine bags for light weight water containers, ¬†filled by siphoning with a tube, the tube serving double duty for siphoning or sucking water from difficult access water holes that might be found along the way.

    I’m amazed and impressed all around, and encouraged. My armchair criticism is that it sounds like the salt was added to the water ahead of time, ¬†which didn’t allow for correcting the salinity…



    Edgar H


    Regarding salt, this is over my head but it may be useful:

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