<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Evanescent Light : Badwater


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: fleeting, transitory
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Badwater 135 Ultramarathon - 2014
The "World's toughest footrace"


Death Valley to Mount Whitney



Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA, the Badwater® 135 is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. The start line is at Badwater Basin, Death Valley, which marks the lowest elevation in North America at 280’ (85m) below sea level. The race finishes at Whitney Portal at 8,300’ (2530m), which is the trailhead to the Mt. Whitney summit, the highest point in the contiguous United States.

I had previously completed the race 9 times in 2002 through 2011, and returned several times later not as a runner but as race staff photographer. Over those years the race changed considerably. The cutoff time for official completion was reduced from 60 to 48 hours in 2011; in 2014 the Death Valley National Park imposed a moraorium on sporting events so the course was re-routed to include climbs to Horseshoe Meadow and Cerro Gordo; and from 2015 onward the race has started in the evening rather than the morning, so runners are no lnger exposed to the fyll daytime heat of the hottest place on earth.

Click HERE for the Badwater 135 website.

Click on the links below for photos from other annual editions of the Badwater, and for the years (2002-2012) when I was runnng Badwater.

Badwater 2021 Badwater 2019 Badwater 2015

Badwater 2014 Badwater 2013 Badwater 2002-12

Return to Badwater home page

 

 

 

BADWATER 2014

July 20-23rd:   Badwater 135 Ultramarathon

I completed the Badwater Ultramarathon nine times between 2002-2011, and for the last two years returned in the easier role of staff photographer. Historically the race has run between Badwater Basin in Death Valley (the lowest point in the Western hemisphere) and the portal to Mt. Whitney (the highest point in the contiguous 48 states). This year, however, the National Park authorities placed a moratorium on athletic events in Death Valley (see HERE), necessitating a change of route. The 2014 edition of Badwater thus included only about one half of the original route, retaining the finish at Whitnel Portal, but substituting  two new extreme climbs up to Horseshoe Meadow and Cerro Gordo ghost town in place of the extreme heat experienced through the 42 miles below sea level in the bottom of Death Valley. Photographically, this eliminated the spectacular arid desert scenery of Death Valley, but in compensation provided sweeping vistas of the Sierras and Owen's Valley, together with the historic relics of Cerro Gordo.

Dawn on the Sunday morning, before the runner check-in, brought thunderstorms over the Sierras and some beautiful light above the Alabama Hills. As a photographer I hoped these conditions would continue throughout the race, but likely to the relief of the runners the storm dissipated by mid-morning and the skies remained largely clear for the following days. 


 

Portraits of runners and support crews during the ascent to Horseshoe Meadows


Karla Kent and John Radich

Wide-angle shots

and telephotos

Phil Nimmo was supported by the most energetic and extrovert crew...

 


Walt's Point at about 9,000ft elevation up the Horseshoe Meadows road is a 'mega-classic jump off point' for epic cross-country hanglider and para-glider flights. Several hang-gliders were lined up and took off as the runners passed by.

 


Some nice clouds developed as the runners were descending back down to Lone Pine

After the 6,000 ft elevation change to Horseshoe Meadows the route alongside Owen's Lake offered level running, but also increased heat and blowing dust.

At mile 59 the runners detoured from the highway to ascend the steep and rugged Yellow Grade Road to a turnaround at Cerro Gordo ghost town.


Beyond the water station at mile 67 the road exits the canyon, opening up wide vistas across the valley to the Sierras. But only the lead runners reached here before sunset.

The historic American Hotel in Cerro Gordo served as a time station and turnaround point. Most runners arrived here during the night and saw little of the ghost town, but the floodlit hotel must have been a welcome sight during the final, steep ascent.

Stray light from the floodlit American Hotel gave an opportunity for long-exposure shots of abandoned buildings and machinery in Cerro Gordo, balancing as the the blue light of twilight faded to allow the Milky Way to shine through.


The last runners reached Cerro Gordo at dawn after about 24 hrs of continuous running and walking: only half-way to the finish line yet the lead runner had already finished.
 


   


 

 

IanParker
1146 McGaugh Hall
University of California,
Irvine, CA 92697

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