On May 27, ski mountaineer Kilian Jornet summited Everest in just 17 hours, according to his Summits of My Life blog. He left advanced base camp, on the northern, Chinese side of the mountain, at 2 a.m. and reached the peak at 9 p.m. This was just five days after he set a fastest known time up the mountain from base camp, completing the journey in 26 hours.
Let’s start with this: Kilian Jornet is a freak of nature. Compare his ascent, which was made without the use of fixed ropes or supplemental oxygen, to that of climber Adrian Ballinger, who summited on the same day, also without oxygen. Ballinger is a talented mountaineer. This is his seventh summit of Everest and he has six other summits on 8,000-meter peaks. Ballinger left advanced base camp on May 24th and it took him three days to reach the summit. That’s not because he’s weak—he’s an extraordinarily strong climber. (It takes many climbers four days to make it to the summit.) That’s just to say that Jornet is absurdly gifted.
Jornet’s most recent attempt isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison of his initial climb, which left from base camp rather than advanced base camp, a difference of 4,265 vertical feet. Even still, he just barely missed setting the fastest known time from advanced base camp to the summit, a record held by Hans Kammerlander, who did the route in 16 hours and 45 minutes in 1996. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Jornet just ran 8,000 vertical feet up the world’s highest mountain—a mountain on which it’s hard to breathe, period, for the last third of it—in less than a day.
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Correction: This article originally stated that Jornet's 17-hour summit was a fastest known time, when in fact Hans Kammerlander, whose name was misspelled, still holds that record. The article has since been updated. Outside regrets the errors.