Death Valley Solo: The Expedition is Over

If you’ve been following Todd Carmichael’s progress on his Death Valley Solo Expedition, you no doubt have already been wondering how he was going to make it across the 430 mile course that he had planned for himself. Today we got our answer, as his latest dispatch indicates that he is headed home, defeated not by the oppressive heat or the length of the course, but by impassable terrain made all the worse by an endless series of bad washes.

Todd set out, on schedule, last Friday, and immediately was beset with troubles. In his first dispatch, he noted that that it was slow going thanks to the terrain and the heat. He encountered soft ground which made pulling his cart, nicknamed the Pig, very difficult. Todd was forced to offload some of his gear and water, shuttling between two points, effectively covering the same ground twice, in order to make progress.

The sand and silt hampered progress, as did the 115º F temperatures, which caused Todd to fall behind his schedule early. But anyone who followed his Antarctic expedition knows that he is not one to give up easily, and he continued to soldier on through the desert, battling the elements and pesky horse flies that swarmed in when tried to take shelter in the 100º F shade, and wait out the heat of the day.

Finally, today, Todd made the decision to go home. In his most recent update he had this to say:

There is only one way to know if something is possible – and that is to try it. Since crossing Anatarctica I’ve wondered if “man hauling” Death Valley was possible. Today I found my answer. Not for the furnace like heat or the distance or the snakes and such, but for the endless maze of washes blocking the path. Hundreds of them every mile, feathering from the main wash, all lined with melon sized stones and cliffs on either side.

Unwilling to accept the obvious, I continued to cross wash after wash, unloading, crossing, reloading – like an ant. Now I find myself walled on all sides – ahead an amazing dry fall, either side 25 foot walls and behind me the ugliest terrain I have ever crossed. Stuck, I scaled the wash and found the surface outside to be impassable – a bed of large stones as far as the eye can see, broken every 35′ with wash after wash.

Manhauling this desert? along the road yes, but not open land.

It is not always easy to ask these sorts of questions, for they require pressing the limits – and all too often the limit is this side of accomplishment.

For now , it is time to go home, back track through that fierce terrain, onto the road, and some 40 miles to Baker California – with my answer.

They have an A&W there – I fancy a root beer float.

Rock on!


Enjoy the root beer float Todd! You’ve earned it. We’ll look forward to your next adventure!

Kraig Becker

4 thoughts on “Death Valley Solo: The Expedition is Over”

  1. Well said Jim. It sounds like it was very trying conditions out there. I have major respect for Todd and I know we'll be seeing him off on another great adventure soon. 🙂

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