Longtime Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet has done it again. The Catalan successfully summited Mount Everest this week in 26 hours without the use of additional oxygen or fixed ropes. Alone, in a single climb, Jornet has reached the summit of the world's highest mountain (8,848 meters).
The climb sets a new "Fastest Known Time" of 26 hours from the Everest Base Camp (5,100 meters) to the summit. Due to stomach problems, Jornet didn't complete the descent to the Everest Base Camp and is currently recovering at the Advanced Base Camp (6,500 meters).
"Up to 7,700m I felt really good and was making progress as planned, but then I started to feel unwell, probably from stomach virus,” Jornet said. “From then on I made slow progress and had to keep stopping to recover. I finally reached the summit at midnight."
He completed the climb from Everest Base Camp at the ancient Rombuk monastery to the summit via the traditional route up the north face. Jornet began the challenge at Everest Base Camp on May 20 at 22h local time (+5: 45 GMT).
At 12h15 local time he was back at the Everest Advanced Base Camp, where he confirmed reaching the summit at midnight. In general, expeditions take four days to reach the summit from the Advanced Base Camp. Given his stomach virus, Jornet decided to end the attempt at the Advanced Base Camp instead of descending to the Base Camp, near the Rombuk monastary, as he’d initially intended.
The climb forms part of the Summits of My Life project, which, since 2012, has seen Jornet travel around the world to try to establish records on the planet’s most iconic mountains. He began with Mont Blanc in the French Alps in 2012 and since then has scaled other mountains in Europe (Mont Blanc and Cervino), North America (Denali) and South America (Aconcagua).
During the Everest challenge Jornet was accompanied by the expedition’s mountain guide and video cameraman Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, another Salomon athlete. After meteorologists forecast a window of good weather on May 20-21, Jornet decided to make May 20 the day to begin the challenge and left the Base Camp at 5,100 meters by the ancient monastery of Rombuk. The aim was to get to the summit in a single climb, without oxygen or fixed ropes and with minimal equipment. Finally, after reviewing the conditions for the different routes, he opted for the traditional one.
When Jornet set off at 10 p.m. local time (+5: 45 GMT), ahead of him lay 15.2km of glacial moraine before he arrived at the Advanced Base Camp (ABC). This part of the climb took 4h35 and he arrived at ABC at 2:35 a.m. He rested for two hours before continuing.
"It’s important to be fresh when you reach 8,000 meters if you want to reach the summit. I knew that in the first stage, I had to conserve energy for the final stretch," Jornet explained.
After leaving some of the technical equipment at the ABC, he set off for the most technical part of the climb at 4:30 a.m.
Leaving the ABC, he climbed to cross Field 1 at 7,000 meters. It was 6:30 a.m. and he’d been on the move for eight hours. From there he climbed to Field 2, between 7,600 meters and 7,800 meters, where Seb Montaz was waiting for him. Montaz was there to film him during the ascent and then return to Advanced Base Camp to report on the situation.
Meanwhile, Jornet continued to climb. At around 7,500 meters he started to feel weak and had a bad stomach ache. As a result, he decided to rest for 15 minutes in Field 3 (8,300 meters).
"I didn’t feel well and I was making slow progress. I had to stop every few meters and I had cramps and was vomiting. In spite of everything, I felt all right at altitude and decided to continue," he reports.
From there, Jornet climbed the highest section and arrived at the summit at midnight. It was a clear night, without clouds or wind.
"Reaching the summit of Everest without fixed ropes isn’t something you’d do every day. I saw a fantastic sunset and finally reached the summit at midnight. I was alone but I saw the lights of expeditions setting off on their ascent both on the north and south faces. I started to descend right away so as to get to the ABC as soon as possible," he said.
However, he rested again in Field 3 before beginning the final part of the descent and arrived at the ABC at 12h15 local time, 38 hours after he began. As he felt unwell, he decided to end the attempt at the Advanced Base Camp rather than descend to Base Camp, near the ancient monastery of Rombuk, as he’d originally intended.
The video cameraman Seb Montaz had followed Kilian Jornet during some of the challenge. Montaz left Advanced Base Camp at 3h20am and climbed to 7,500 meters to wait for him and film his ascent through the high fields of Everest. Montaz would then climb to 8,020 meters to film. From there he descended to the Advanced Base Camp to wait for Jornet, climbing up to 7,000 meters to meet him. It was another handful of hours on the mountain for this guide-turned-cameraman. Jornet and Montaz are currently at the Advanced Base Camp recovering from this titanic effort.
Before Everest, Kilian Jornet had spent two weeks on another 8,000m mountain, Cho Oyu (8,200 meters). The aim was to be well prepared for Everest and also to try out a new type of acclimatization.
"In four weeks we have reached two 8,000 meters summits so it seems our acclimatization has worked. We had been training in hypoxia for a few weeks before and we went to acclimatize in the Alps before coming here. It seems that this type of express acclimatization works and the body tires less and as a result we’re stronger when it comes to the challenge," Jornet said.