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


evanescent
: fleeting, transitory
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Badwater 135 Ultramarathon
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 2019
July 13-17 : Badwater Ultramarathon

This was my 15th year at the Badwater Ultramarathon, the "World's toughest footrace"; eleven years as a runner or pacer, and four helping on the race staff and as a photographer. My approach the first year I came to photograph the race was from the perspective of a landscape photographer, aiming to place the runners in context of the spectacular scenery of Death Valley and the Eastern Sierras. This year I shifted gears, and also took on the mindset of a 'street'/portrait photographer, concentrating on the runners and their support crews. Badwater offers a photographic challenge of capturing the emotions of a group of very special people pushing themselves to the limit in an extreme environment. Moreover, the runners and their support crews are friendly, like having their pictures taken, and in any case have all signed waivers permitting the taking and publishing of photos!

The images below are a selection from many hundreds of shots. Click HERE for links to to numerous other photos from the 2019 Badwater Ultramarathon.

   

 


I drove out to Death Valley on the Saturday evening (July 13), and camped out in the higher, cooler mountains for the night.

 


The pre-race meeting was held at Furnace Creek on the Sunday afternoon.
The thermometer at the visitor center showed 124 F.


 


The race started on the Monday evening, with three waves at 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00pm. For many years previously the race began in the morning - much better for photography as the intitial 40 mile stretch passes through the most spectacular scenery.

   

 


   

While the runners continued through the night I drove up to Chloride for a few hours sleep at a cooler 4000ft altitude, and caught up with them at daybreak near the sand dunes (Mile 40).


 

The thermometer at the Stovepipe Wells store read almost 100 F at dawn, with temperatures rising as the runners ascended Towne's Pass to make the first mandatory cut-off at the 2000ft level by 10 am Tuesday.


Rest stop at the "oasis", just above the 2000ft contour.



And onward, over Towne's Pass and down into the Panamint Valley


   


Crossing Panamint Valley and beginning the climb to Father Crowley's viewpoint


 

 

A rest stop at Father Crowley's Point (but still 1000 ft of ascent to the summit)

 


Five miles beyond Father Crowley's Point runners leave Death Valley National Park

 


I backtracked to Father Crowley's Point to photograph the full moon rising at sunset over Telescope Peak.

   

   


On Tuesday night I got a few hours sleep at a pull-out on BLM land along the Saline Valley road, and caught up with the runners before dawn of their second night as they descended into Owens Valley.


After a long journey through Owens Valley and passing through Lone Pine the runners begin the last half-marathon, with a 4,500ft climb through the Alabama Hills toward the finish line at Mt. Whitney trailhead.




 

 
 

 

 
 


 



Michael Coutu - finisher
Badwater Ultramarathon 2019


 

 

 

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

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