Six-time Skyrunner World Series mountain running champion, Kilian Journet, has achieved what must at least rate as the endurance feat of this millenium by reaching the summit of Mount Everest at 8,848 metres within 26 hours – unassisted and without oxygen or ropes.
The 29,029-foot Everest has already claimed five lives this spring. Experienced mountaineers using fixed ropes, oxygen and Sherpas as guides normally require up to a week to tackle the highest peak on the planet. Journet's latest feat, completed just after midnight on Monday (22 May), marks him out as almost superhuman but even he came close to the limit in the attempt.
Journet had to stop every few yards in the final hours due to severe stomach cramps and as a result was forced to descend only as far as the Advanced Base Camp for treatment, which prevented him from claiming the up and down record for the full climb from Everest Base Camp in Tibet.
The 29-year-old Catalan was born in Sabadell, Spain and is the author of the aptly titled book 'Run or Die'. He is the son of a Pyrenees mountain guide and aside from dominating the annual Skyrunner World Series is a former winner of America's most prestigious ultra-marathons, the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100.
However, Jornet is most renowned for his 'Fastest Known Times'. He scrambles up, and often down, the world’s tallest and most precarious peaks with the alacrity of a mountain goat. He currently holds FKTs for ascent and descent of the Matterhorn (14,692 feet, 2hrs52mins), Mont Blanc (15,774 feet, 4hrs57mins) and Denali (20,236 feet, 11hrs48mins). As for pure ascents, Jornet rocketed up Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, in 5hrs23mins.
After recovering from his latest conquest, Journet said: “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. Up to 7,700 (feet), I felt really good and was making progress as planned but then I started to feel unwell, probably from a stomach virus. From then on I made slow progress and had to keep stopping to recover.”
Image courtesy Kilian Journet