What Record for Kilian Jornet and the Everest?

Kilian Jornet successfully completed his last “Summits of my life ” climbing the Everest (8,848 m) with his minimalist approach: no assistance, no fixed rope and no oxygen supply. Jornet via his press agent announced to have the FKT (Fastest Known Time) from Rongbuk monastery to the summit, with a time of 26h. Is it really a new record ?

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Stomach pain slowed down Kilian Jornet on his ascent

Starting the ascent from the Everest Base Camp at 5,100m on May 20th at 10pm local time, Jornet reached the summit 26 hours later at midnight on the night 21-22 May. He severely suffered, however, from stomach issues from 7,700 m, which drastically reduced his progression, having to move slowly and “stop his record attempt” on his way back to the advanced base camp at 6,400m, i.e. not going back to the start location. His starting point was the monastery Rongbuk at the end of the official road, 3km south of Rongbuk. This point is what the operators call EBC for Everest Base Camp. This is not what the alpinists name Advanced Base Camp (ABC) which is higher at 6,400 m.

Therefore, Jornet started his ascent with an extra 15km from 5,100m to 6,400 m that he covered in a record time of 4h35min, which is phenomenal. Once he reached the ABC at 2:35am, he rested 2h to optimize his energy for the final ascent. At 4:30am, he left ABC for a non-stop climb to the summit. He met his friend and photographer Sebastien Montaz on his way between 7,600 and 7,800m. Montaz filmed him up to 8,000m. Jornet started to suffer from stomach pain at 7,500m. “ I did not feel well and I was moving very slowly. I had to stop every few steps, but I was fine with the altitude so I decided to continue” said Kilian who decided to rest for 15min at 8,300m. “I saw  a beautiful sunset when I finally reached the summit at midnight. I was alone and I saw all the headlamps of the different expeditions from both north and south sides. I started the descent right away” said Jornet, safely back to ABC 38h later at around 12:15 on May 22nd.

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What are the current records of the Everest?

If we look at the ascents without oxygen, there are only few contenders. On the Nepalese side ascent, Marc Batard climbed in 22h29min. From the Tibetan side, same way as Jornet did, there are two records recognized by Guinness Book hold by Hans Kammerlander in 16h45min in 1996 ABC (6,400m). In 2006, the Austrian Christian Stangl established a similar time in 16h42min still from ABC to summit. These two alpinists covered, however, a significantly shorter distance than Jornet. From this point of view, Jornet has the record from Rongbuk and he is the only one to date to have attempted the ascent from that far. If we look at the times, Jornet took 19h30min to 20h to reach the summit from ABC (excluding his rest time at ABC), an extra 3h than the previous record from ABC to the summit explains Rudolph Popier, a specialist of Himalaya and member of Himalayan Data Base.

Interestingly, during his training period, Jornet established a new record of the best progression above 8,000m. He climbed up to 8,400 meters from ABC in less than 6h. That’s 350m/h for a 2,000m elevation gain. Only Denis Urubko did 298m/h on 2,235m during his record of Gasherbrum 2, while few Sherpas matched this vertical speed.

Therefore, Jornet did not establish an official record, but he did his own record his own way like he did for the Mont Blanc when starting from the church of Chamonix or Courmayeur. Up to 200 alpinists climbed Everest without oxygen, which is already a huge accomplishment. A witness at ABC, Adrian Ballinger said that Jornet may consider another attempt…

Article adapted from Wider magazine article

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