Way back at the start of December I shared the story of French hiker Roland Banas who was about to embark on an attempt to cross Death Valley on foot, something that had only been done once before. At the time, Banas indicated that he had made a few other attempts at completing the trek, but had come up short in his efforts. But this time he felt like he had dialed in the proper approach he would need to complete the journey and was confident that he would be able to complete the journey. Unfortunately, the weather and surface conditions in Death Valley weren’t very cooperative and Banas once again had to pull the plug on his trek. Not satisfied with his efforts however, Roland returned to DV once again, this time making good on his promise of finishing what he started.
Roland shared a complete trip report for his Death Valley journey on Explorers Web, providing excellent details for each day of the hike, plus plenty of photos from the journey as well. The trek took him from the northernmost point of the national park to the southernmost terminus, and even though Banas knew very well what he was getting into, it still proved to be quite the challenge. Day 2 proved to be a fairly straight forward walk, but by day 3 things started to get tough. Day 4 turned out to be a watershed moment for the adventurer however as he was able to surpass the location where he had quit on three previous attempts. At that point he knew the expedition wouldn’t be easy, but confidence was certainly on the rise.
All told, it took Roland a little less than seven days to complete the entire walk across Death Valley, covering 266 km (166 miles) while en route. That’s actually a pretty quick pace considering the terrain and conditions that exist there, which are incredibly difficult even during the winter months. Cooler temperatures help make DV a bit more bearable during that time of the year, but even now it is a mostly unforgiving environment.
It should be noted that Roland wasn’t hiking across the desert simply because he wanted to become the second person to traverse Death Valley on foot. He also used his trek as a fund raising effort for the Mustard Seed School in Sacramento, California, which serves homeless children who normally wouldn’t get an education.
With this successful expedition behind him Banas joins Louis-Phillipe Loncke as the only two people to complete a Death Valley expedition on foot. As impressive as that feat is however, I think his determination and unwillingness to give up are just as inspiring. After four failed attempts, most of us would have just packed our bags and gone home. Instead, Roland used those previous hikes as fuel to send him back more determined than ever. Fortunately, the fifth time was a charm and he was able to finally finish this epic undertaking.