Ski mountaineer and ultrarunner Kilian Jornet set a new record for the fastest known alpine ascent of the world’s highest peak in the early hours of Monday morning, having climbed 11,429 feet to the top of Everest in a mere 26 hours.
The 29-year-old Spaniard ascended via the North Face in a single climb, without using oxygen or fixed ropes, according to a statement issued by his team. He left base camp (elevation 17,600 feet) around 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, and summited around midnight on Sunday, technically finishing Monday morning. Seb Montaz, an experienced mountaineer who is making a film about Jornet, climbed to approximately 24,600 feet, where he filmed part of Jornet’s ascent before before turning back to report on the situation.
Jornet said he felt strong until he crested 25,200 feet, at which point he began suffering from stomach cramps. (Any elevation above 26,000 feet is considered the “Death Zone,” where air becomes too thin to adequately support human life for extended periods of time.) “From there I moved slowly, stopping every few steps to recover,” he said after descending to Everest Advanced base camp (elevation 21,326) and rejoining Montaz. “However, I made it to the summit at midnight.”
Several speed records have been established on Everest, but Jornet claims to have set the fastest known time without the use of ropes or supplemental oxygen. In 1986, Swiss alpinists Jean Troillet and Erhard Loretan ascended Everest via the North Face without the use of ropes or oxygen. It took them 43 hours to go from Base Camp to the summit and back. In 2004, Pembra Dorji, a Nepalese Sherpa, reportedly climbed Everest in 8 hours and 10 minutes, using supplemental oxygen and ropes.
Jornet’s record is the latest for an athlete renowned for such feats. He has also set speed records on Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Denali, Aconcagua, and Kilimanjaro as part of his “Summits of My Life” project, in which he’s attempting to establish fastest known time records on some of the world’s most notorious peaks. Jornet is also one of the world’s most accomplished ultrarunners. He is a three-time champion at the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) race, and he is the reigning champion and current course record-holder at Colorado’s Hardrock 100, a race he has won three times.
Outside profiled Jornet In 2014, when he was just setting his sights on Everest. “You need to be humble. This sport is about improving, not winning,” he told Outside. “You never learn from victory.”
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