Kilian Jornet – Aconcagua – Summits of my Life

Image copyright ©kilianj ©summitsofmylife

Image copyright ©kilianj ©summitsofmylife

“Winning isn’t about finishing in first place. It isn’t about beating the others. It’s about overcoming yourself. Overcoming your body, your limitations and your fears…. To find out whether we can overcome our fears, that the tape we smash when we cross the line isn’t only the one the volunteers are holding but also the one we have set in our minds? Isn’t victory being able to push our bodies and minds to their limits and in doing so discovering that they have led us to find ourselves anew and to create new dreams?” – Kilian Jornet, RUN or DIE


December always provides me with a little more spare time (not much) but certainly more time than the past 10-months when I have been on the road, travelling from race-to-race, recording images, writing stories and podcasting on the weekly and monthly action of mountain and ultra running.

I like to look back, soak in my experiences and one-by-one highlight key moments.

Although I plan to do this in the coming weeks, Kilian Jornet’s imminent ‘Summit’ attempt on Aconcagua has made jump ship and write a post about the Catalan himself.

What a year Kilian has had…

In a face-to-face interview in Zermatt earlier this year, I remember asking, “I think it’s topical we are speaking mid season. I believe the Kilian Jornet today is a different person to 1-year ago. For me, you seem to be in perfect shape. I don’t think I have seen you so fit and strong. Would you agree?”

As one would expect, Kilian looked away from me a little embarrassed by such a direct question that basically said, ‘you are the best!’

However, he replied with a smile and a twinkle in his eye that confirmed my thoughts, “This year I feel really well. I don’t know why? I started the season in Colorado in the winter doing plenty of high altitude meters. I was great in the ski season. It was my best season in regard to my condition. I was not tired after skiing so it was a big bonus. I have raced the same number of races but I seem to be recovering so much better. I am climbing more meters and doing fewer kilometers.”

I smile at his honesty and his genuine analysis of his form. You see 2014 has been the most impressive year not only in Kilian’s short life but arguably the most impressive in relation to any sportsperson.

We can argue all day about the pros and cons of distance, speed, difficulty and complexity of Kilian’s year but look at the simple facts:

  • Denali – Summit record (11-hours 40-minutes)
  • Hardrock 100 course record
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Vertical Kilometer
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Sky distance
  • Skyrunner World Series Champion – Ultra distance

Is Kilian THE most rounded athlete? I am biased but I like to think impartial and I have to say, with all things considered, yes! VK to 100-miles, Ski mountaineering and climbing. The Catalan is off the scale.

We have heard the stories of how Kilian says in RUN or DIE, “I enjoyed a normal childhood… I have never been one for being shut inside and was lucky that my parents lived in a refuge, which my father managed, 6500-feet above sea level.”

Kilian may well consider his childhood as normal, for him it was, but many would agree that right from aged two he was being nurtured step-by-step to be the perfect outdoor person.

“By the age of 3 I had already climbed Tossa Plana, Perafita and La Muga. By the age of 6 I had completed four Aneto summits and at the age of 10 I crossed the Pyrenees in 42-days.”

It’s an inspiring and intimidating thought process. At 10 years old I was a naive and inexperienced kid, in contrast Kilian was already on a path of greatness. It may not be a path that was pre determined, however, as we look back we can see that Kilian has not stumbled on this ability, this career, this destiny. With the passing of each year, he has created a legacy and should Kilian stop now at the age of 27, his list of records, results and palmares would quite happily last him to the end of his days.

“I have lost count of the weeks I have spent away from home, of the countries I have visited and the beds I have slept in. I began to compete 10-years ago and it has been 10-years of seeking to relive again-and-again the emotions and sensations that take me to the peak of ecstasy and make me live life at a pace more suited to a rock-and-roll musician.”

December is here and as runners all over the world slip into recovery and hibernation in preparation for the new-year, Kilian departs for the Andes and his attempt to set a record on Aconcagua.

In 2000 Brunod, Pelissier and Meraldi climbed from Plaza de Mulas in 3-hours 40-minutes to the summit and Carlos Sa did 15:42 from National Park Horcones. Two records, I wondered which Kilian would go for?

“I will go from the entrance and I will try to achieve both records. Also, Emelie Forsberg will try a female record too,” Replied Kilian to my question. “Aconcagua is easier than the Matterhorn. It’s rocky but not steep. Altitude is the big issue. You can get sick and have problems so the challenge is different. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the western and southern hemisphere at just under 7000m.”

The first attempt to reach the summit of Aconcagua by a European was made in 1883 by a party led by the German geologist and explorer Paul Güssfeldt. Bribing porters with the story of treasure on the mountain, he approached the mountain via the Rio Volcan, making two attempts on the peak by the north-west ridge and reaching an altitude of 6,500 metres (21,300 ft). The route that he prospected is now the normal route up the mountain.

The first recorded ascent was in 1897 by a British expedition led by Edward FitzGerald. The summit was reached by the Swiss guide Matthias Zurbriggen on January 14 and by two other expedition members a few days later.

The youngest person to reach the summit of Aconcagua was Tyler Armstrong of California. He was nine years old when he reached the summit on December 24, 2013. The oldest person to climb it was Scott Lewis, who reached the summit on November 26, 2007 when he was 87 years old.

See Kilian Jornet on the UK’s Channel 4 News,AAAAAEabvr4~,Wtd2HT-p_Vh4qBcIZDrvZlvNCU8nxccG&bclid=0&bctid=3915483972001

Pushing boundaries is what Kilian does. It is his DNA and as an appreciation and acknowledgement for his contribution to our sport, Kilian was voted: ‘Peoples’ Choice Adventurer of the Year’ by National Geographic.

As the coming days unfold, Kilian will test himself once again. He will push his own boundaries and he will ask questions of himself and those around him. To document the journey, Seb Montaz will once again record the action as it unfolds. We get to see the Catalan’s endeavors and achievements through the brilliance of Seb’s eyes. Believe me, as a photographer I not only appreciate the craft of a man at the pinnacle of sports imagery but also as climber and sportsman himself. Remember, Seb is on the mountain, often side-by-side with Kilian, matching his strides, following his movements and in doing so he captures moments that we can look on and savor. We are able to experience the brilliance of two pioneers.

We will see less of Kilian in 2015. A return trip to Hardrock 100 is almost certainly on the cards. After all, why wouldn’t he want both course records? But ultimately, Kilian will focus on Everest and the ultimate challenge that this mountain will provide.

“It’s completely different, it’s very high, 9000m. It’s very long and this is the biggest problem, to go all this way without oxygen and fast. The route is technical. I will start on the north face to prepare. It’s quiet so I will have no problems with people. I will need to prepare. I will go in spring, autumn and maybe the following spring. As per usual with all mountains, any attempt will be weather dependent. I expect to have several attempts.”

I am unsure what Kilian will do in the future… I think maybe even Kilian is unsure?

Aconcagua is a priority for now and then focus will shift to Everest; the big peak in the Himalayas.

Everest will dominate the mind of the Catalan. It will consume him and with meticulous preparation and he will conjure a plan… a plan that will take him to the top of the world!

Credits 'RUN or Die by Kilian Jornet, Wikipedia and Seb Montaz


Follow Kilian and his team in the Andes @kilianj @sebastienmontaz @summitsofmylife

Summits of my Life HERE

Kilian Jornet HERE

My interviews with Kilian:

The Human Carabiner – HERE

The Matterhorn Summit – HERE

You can also listen to Kilian Jornet on Talk Ultra podcast HERE


all content ©summitsofmylife

Dec 19th – 1:56pm

Today is the day!!! Kilian is right now trying to be the fastest person to climb up and down the Aconcagua!!! C’mon Kilian, you can make it!!! Gooo!!!‪#‎SoML‬

Dec 19th – 2:27pm

NEWS FROM ACONCAGUA: Kilian was not able to reach the summit on his attempt due to strong wind. He could reach up to 6.500m but 90km/h winds made the attempt completely impossible and he had to turn back. In Kilian’s words “I will try again soon” ‪#‎SoMLAConcagua‬

December 20th

“I consider this failed attempt like a big training in altitude” said to me kilian after running and climbing from Horcones ( 2950m) to 6200 m and back ( about 14h) with crazy 90km/h wind in his face.
Emelie and Kilian will be stronger for the next attempt!

December 21st

When things do not go as expected, you go fast back at the start point and you try it again (soon ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬

December 23rd


Aconcagua 2nd Round!
Kilian is on his way trying to achieve another dream!!
You can see the long road to the Summit! Go Kilian!!!
We’ll Keep you posted! ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬

December 23rd 

Kilian passed Plaza de Mulas, Aconcagua’s Base Camp at 4.300m. He is feeling well because weather is good and not too windy. Let’s push him up to the summit!!! GOOOOO KILIAN!!!


December 23rd 

BREAKING NEWS: Kilian reached the summit of Aconcagua and is back to Plaza de Mulas Base Camp. He feels well but still 25 more Km to go. Enjoy it and goooo!!! ‪#‎SoMLAconcagua‬


William Sichel 2nd at Monaco 6-Day


Orkney-based ultra marathon runner, William Sichel came second overall (first over 60) with 533.57 miles over the 8 Days run around the harbour in Monaco.

William will claim eight Scottish and one British age-group records achieved during the race.

Over 9100 runners took part in the whole event which raised almost 300,000 Euros for children’s charities.

The race was halted on the Monday night when Cyclone Cleopatra hit the port area of Monaco wrecking part of the course. When a tower collapsed, crushing a row of toilet cubicles and a car, the authorities moved in to halt the race as it was unsafe to continue.

“It was a bizarre situation as when the race was stopped we had no idea when it would resume.  We went back to our hotel and awaited news of a re-start which came the next morning.”

William lost 12 hours of the event which completely altered the race and ruled out chances for any World Age-Group Records.

“I had to re-assess my goals for the event so that I knew what I was doing.”


The race was subsequently hit by torrential rain which rendered part of the course almost impassable, due to flooding, for some hours.  There were also major issues with the computer system at the race which meant that very few distance updates were available to runners during the race.

“All in all a very difficult and unusual race!  Finishing 2nd to Didier Sessegolo, for the the third time, is no disgrace, as he is a worthy World No 1 for this year.  I should hang on to my overall World No 3 ranking which isn’t bad for an over 60 year old!”

William now has a short break before heading across the ‘pond’, just after Christmas, for a very competitive Phoenix 6 Day race in Arizona.

William is just starting in which he will attempt to have set 165 ultra running records before his 65th birthday on October 1st 2018. These records will be at World, British and Scottish level, including age groups, in certified races on road, track or indoor courses.  Amongst William’s current records he holds seven world age-group records including the fastest time to run 1000 miles.

Who is William Sichel?

I was told I “might be an ultra runner” in 1994, following some success at ‘ordinary’ marathon running but reporting that I “wasn’t exhausted at the finish”.  I enjoyed instant success, winning the Scottish 100km (62 miles) Championships in July of that year.

I went on to get my first Scottish vest in 1995 and my Great Britain call-up in 1996 and represented GB in all European and World 100km Championships through the 90’s. I also won the British Championships and the World Age-Group Championships at the 100km distance.

During the early part of the 2000’s I focused on 24 hour races, being ranked in the World Top 10 for two years.  I had outright 24 hour wins in Switzerland, the USA and the UK.  I also tackled some classic ultra distance events including the Spartathlon (twice) – 153 miles from Athens to Sparta, setting a Scottish event record and the World’s hottest race, the Badwater Ultra marathon, through Death Valley in California, setting a British event record.

In 2006 I had a winning debut in my first 6 Day race, in Monaco and became the overall World No1 in that event, for that year. Since then, multi-day races, up to 1000 miles in length, have become my specialty.

In the November 2011 Monaco “No Finish Line” 8 Day race (which had over 6,000 participants) I won the event outright, set a new course record and became the first person to cover more than 1000km during the 8-day race.  

For some years I have been engaged in Project 60@60 in which I was attempting to have set 60 ultra distance records, at World, British and Scottish level, including age-groups, before my 60th birthday on October 1st 2013. The two 1000km records, achieved in Monaco in November 2012, marked my 59th and 60th records thus achieving  my target 10 months ahead of schedule. Full details are provided HERE. was announced in September 2013.

I run a very active blog, which has had almost 1 million hits over the last 2 years and receives visitors from 91 countries.  I also actively promote my performances and my sport via social media.

The Scotsman newspaper described me as a ”role model for the middle aged”.

Kilian Jornet – Summits of my Life – Mont Blanc

Image ©kilianjornet ©summitsofmylife

Image ©kilianjornet ©summitsofmylife


Mathéo and I synchronised our watches, switched on the stopwatch and gave each other five for luck before starting to run. It was 4:50 am, and it wasn’t cold in the church square in Chamonix. We were in shorts and thermal T-shirts, but nerves and excitement probably did not let us think about anything other than the challenge ahead. Mont Blanc, as majestic as ever, was just waking up and, from the square, we could spot the headlamps of those who had spent the night at the mountain refuge and were now preparing to reach the summit.

We are ascending well, within the estimated time. Upon arriving at the crack of Grands Mulet, we rope together for safety reasons as large amounts of snow have accumulated there this year. Halfway up, we spot Seb and Vivien, who have come to give us support and to film us. The sun is barely rising and the scenery is breathtaking. We are both using sticks to help us to climb and move faster. The marks we gouged into the ground a few days ago have lasted, and we follow them, so we can move fast and carry on with the ascent.

Read the full report HERE


A day with the Matterhorn



After the exploits of Kilian Jornet yesterday, I needed my own time with the trails and the Matterhorn. It really is such a beautiful and incredible thing… how Kilian ran up and down that in 2:52:02 is beyond me!

Today I was on the other side of the mountain, I approached from Zermatt and covered 6 hours of trails, all part of the Matterhorn Ultraks race route.

Amazing how one mountain can look so different!

Kilian Jornet breaks the unbreakable

Today, Kilian Jornet made history!

In 1995, Bruno Brunod set a record for the Matterhorn, a time of 3:14. A record many said was impossible to break, even Kilian himself.

However, on AAugust 21st 2013 Kilian Jornet set a new mark of 2:52:02.

Without doubt Kilian is the most incredible and rounded athlete of our time.

We salute you Kilian!

Image copyright Kilian Jornet/ Seb Montaz


The Matterhorn – Kilian Jornet

Image taken by Kilian Jornet, Friday Aug 2nd w/ Emelie Forsberg at the summit of the Matterhorn copyright: Kilian Jornet

Image taken by Kilian Jornet, Friday Aug 2nd w/ Emelie Forsberg at the summit of the Matterhorn copyright: Kilian Jornet

“It is a technical mountain. Bruno Brunod has a record of 3:14. It is a technical route that is not difficult BUT if I fall, I will die! I need to know the route very well, I need to spend time on the mountain, and I need to learn every step.” Kilian Jornet, July 2013.

Monte Cervino (Italian) or Mont Cervin (French) or Just the Matterhorn is a mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy. At 4,478 meters (14,690 ft) high, it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. It consists of four steep faces, striking above the glaciers that surround it. Overlooking the town of Zermatt it is an iconic mountain and possibly ‘the’ most photographed mountain in the world. It is a mountain that dreams are made of. Kilian Jornet is no different, “I have been dreaming about this record since I was 15”.

Ironically, the Matterhorn was one of the last great Alpine peaks to be climbed and the first ascent by Edward Whymper in 1865 brought an end to the ‘Golden age of alpinism (The period between Alfred Wills ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Whymper’s ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, this period saw many peaks in the Alps have first ascents)

Since 1865 to 1995 it has been described as one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps, over five hundred lives have been lost in this 130yr period. I guess the first ascent in 1865 showed us the danger potential when four climbers fell to their deaths on the descent.

The Matterhorn has two distinct summit, both situated on a 100-metre-long rocky ridge: the Swiss summit with a height of 4,477.5 meters (14,690 ft) on the east and the Italian summit with a height of 4,476.4 meters (14,686 ft) on the west. Their names originated from the first ascents, not for geographic reasons, as both are located on the border. Each summer a large number of mountaineers try to climb the Matterhorn via the northeast Hörnli ridge, the most popular route to the summit.

Small patches of snow and ice cling to the faces of the Matterhorn, but the faces are steep and regular avalanches occur. Snow hurtles down the four sides and accumulates on the glaciers at the base of each face.

Four main ridges separate the four faces of the Matterhorn and therefore it offers four distinct routes.  The least difficult technical climb and by far the most popular is the Hörnli Ridge, which lies between the east, and north faces and it faces the town of Zermatt. The Zmutt Ridge (west), between the north and west faces is, according to Collomb, “the classic route up the mountain, it’s the longest ridge and also the most disjointed.”

The Lion Ridge, lying between the south and west face is the Italian normal route.  It is the shortest route on the mountain and has fixed ropes in place but many think it to be a far superior climb, particularly when compared to Hörnli Ridge. Furggen Ridge is the final offering, it is the hardest offering and in good conditions is not too difficult, however, it has a reputation.

J.J and J.P Maquignaz made the first ascent of the Italian ridge as it is climbed today in 1867 but Kilian Jornet has his eyes on Bruno Brunod’s record set in 1995 when he did Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn summit and back in an astonishing time of 3:14:44. In addition, Bruno also has the record for climbing the Matterhorn, again from Breuil-Cervinia in a time of 2:10.

Back in 1995, Skyrunning president, Marino Giacometti and Executive Director, Lauri Van Houten were not only present but also helped finance Bruno’s attempt. Lauri still says how the thought of it, “brings shivers down my back”.  Lauri and Marino both acknowledge the danger and undertaking that Kilian has given him self. “I remember standing in the square in Cervinia and about 3 hours ten had elapsed. There was a real buzz and noise and then somebody shouted, he’s coming! We all ignored it; we thought it couldn’t be possible… but minutes later Bruno appeared. It was a magical moment, one I will never forget”, says Lauri.

Bruno is very much considered the father of Skyrunning. His exploits, to this day seem to go beyond human limit. Without doubt, Kilian Jornet is in the same mold and in real terms, Bruno has lead the way for what Kilian now wants to achieve with his Summits project.

Bruno attempted Everest (the final summit for Kilian) he however gave up when at a height of 8.200 mt (26,900 feet) due to very hard weather conditions.

Bruno’s passion and time is now focused on his construction company, however, just recently he joined Kilian on the Matterhorn as he prepared for his Matterhorn attempt, I wonder, will we see a comeback!

Bruno’s records:

  • Matterhorn uphill and downhill from Cervinia in 3:14
  • Monte Rosa uphill and downhill from Gressoney in 4:45
  • Aconcagua uphill and downhill in 5:57
  • Kilimanjaro uphill on the Marangu Rout in 5:38
  • Monte Elbert uphill in 1:54
  • Three times winner of the Becca di Nona skyrace (2002 – 2003 – 2004)

August 21st 2013 at 1500 hours from the church in Cervinia, Kilian Jornet will depart on what I, and many others consider to be his ultimate challenge. The history books will show if his attempt was successful, ultimately though we want Kilian home safe. It’s about being on the edge and deciding what ‘your’ summit is, at this current moment, Kilian’s summit is Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn summit and back in less than 3:14:44.

God speed Kilian!

Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

The GR20 is very topical at the moment, particularly with Salomon athlete Julien Choriers‘ imminent attempt at the course record set by Kilian Jornet in 2009. Read HERE

However, earlier this year, Emelie Lecomte broke the female record. Unfortunately this didn’t get much coverage outside France, however, Niandi Carmont actually was trekking on the GR20 route when this attempt took place and later caught up with the new female course record holder. Here is what she had to say:

Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

Corsica is affectionately known by the French as the “Ile de la Beauté” (Island of Beauty) and Nicolas Hulot the well-known French adventurer and journalist aptly said even the most beautiful islands in the Pacific cannot compare with this French island in the Mediterranean South of France and off the West coast of Italy.

The GR20 in Corsica is arguably Europe’s greatest and most spectacular mountain trail. In French G.R. stands for “Grande Randonnée” (great trek). Over a distance of 200 km of crests, pinnacles, rocky mountains, pine forests and snow-capped peaks the GR20 crosses the island from Northern Corsica to Southern Corsica. It is traditionally divided into 15 stages and takes an experienced hiker about 2 weeks to complete.  With 14 500m of positive incline it is also considered Europe’s toughest trail and its spectacular scenery  and free roaming wildlife are only accessible to experienced hikers  who are prepared to do some serious rock climbing and looking for a physical challenge.

The GR20 was created in 1971 and since then has been the playground of many an experienced athletes looking for personal challenges and setting records. It is here that Kilian Jornet astonished the ultra community by setting a new course record of 32h54 in 2009.

But today all the focus is on 32 year old French female trail runner Emilie Lecomte, a Team Trail Quechua sponsored athlete, who smashed the previous female record held by Corsican Stéphanie Samper knocking an amazing 9 hours off the previous record to finish in 41h22.

I happened to be hiking in Corsica when Emilie set the new record and the day before I finished my hike she literally flew by me towards victory looking fresh as a daisy.

Emilie is not what you imagine a tough ultra trailer to look like: feminine, nymph-like with big blue eyes she exudes an aura of calm and self-control. But make no mistake this girl is immensely talented, tough, focused and determined.  Modest and generous too Emilie was very excited about sharing her experience with UK readers.

Can you take us back to your beginnings in trail running? What motivated you to start sport seriously only 4 years ago and especially trail running?

I started trail running in 2009. The Raid de la Réunion (160km, 9000m+ and 9000-) was my first ultra. My partner got me interested in sport. Before 2007 I did some cycling. When I started cycling 12 years ago I quickly developed a passion for endurance and adventure sports. Then in 2007 I started multi-sport events. The notion of pushing yourself to your limit was an eye-opener and suddenly there was new meaning to my life. I work in sales so I can relate to the idea of competitivity. You have to work really hard to achieve your goals. . Having said this today I identify more with the values in sport than in the working world – basic values – like sharing emotions and achievements.

What made you decide to set the GR20 record?

It’s a long story. 12 years ago before my passion for sport I hiked the GR20. It felt great to be in Corsica in the mountains. It was amazingly beautiful – a bit like being on another planet- back to basics. Also it’s the toughest trail in Europe. I returned 12 years later to hike the GR20 in 7 days, then in 5 days –that was last year. It was obvious to me that the next logical step would be to do it non-stop. What I was interested in was the sports challenge – a challenge against myself – a personal challenge. I was competing against time. Would I be able to cover 180km non-stop with more than 12 000m+?

What makes this so different from an ordinary race is the team work. I was seconded and assisted by a team of close family members including my partner, mother and friends from the Marseille Trail Club.

This was not about claiming a trophy it was about sharing a challenge with my team.

How did you train for this?

Like you would train for any other ultra mountain event. What’s important when preparing for this kind of challenge is managing your race.  Race management is key – you need a good combination of physical training and race management to succeed.

When I saw you on the course you were with Stéphane Talotti – what was the role of your seconds?

The seconds ran mostly behind me – they were not ‘pacers’ but more like ‘guardian angels’ – giving advice, protecting me. Pacing was OK on the fast runnable stretches but I set the pace.

In your blog you mention your ‘Dream Team’. Tell us about them.

I wanted a small close-knit team of people bonded by mutual trust. I met the Marseille Trail Club in 2009 on the GR20 – we hit it off immediately and became very good friends. They have done a fantastic job. They gave up their time in preparation for the challenge, during the challenge and after the event. They had to carry 12kg ruck-sacks in the mountains to provide me with food and water. Most of them had to take holiday leave and go through white nights.

Your partner Franck was on the course too – what was his role and was it difficult to get the timing right?

There were 8 refreshment stations. I drew up a road-book with a pacing chart to help my seconds. What made things complicated was when I was delayed or when I was ahead of schedule. On the GR20 there is hardly any mobile network.  When I was delayed the seconds worried I might be injured and when I was ahead of schedule the whole seconding chain had to recalculate the check point times so that they wouldn’t miss me. I needed seconds who could react quickly. Franck my partner was at 6 of the 8 refreshment stations which were accessible by road and he was responsible for liaising with and coordinating the seconds. The key to success is preparation. I couldn’t decently expect of my team to be available for me if they couldn’t count on me to be organized and prepared.

You started on Thursday morning at 4am and arrived on Friday at 21.30pm. How did you manage to run on this steep, rocky and very tricky course on mountain crests, with via ferrata and tricky dangerous descents at night?

I didn’t find it any harder at night. On the contrary I prefer running at night!! You are so much more in symbiosis with the elements. We had very good frontal lamps and on the technical stretch I was paced by the fire fighters from the Fédération Française de Montagne – all mountain experts.

What was the hardest bit?

I had 2 hard patches. The first was when I stopped at Vizzavonne for 15 minutes. It was 3 in the morning. When I started running again it took me a while to get back into it. I’m not so sure the break was a good idea.

The second was just before I got to the Col de Bavelle – it was like an oven – I was boiling hot – there was no shade – it was 42°C and the sun was beating down on us.

Friday was hard going on the mountain crests with soaring temperatures, lack of shade, forest and wind.

Your mum was with you on the course. What did this mean to you?

I really wanted her to be there. I needed her moral support.

In your blog she writes ‘Emilie is excessive in all respects as much in her energy, will-power, pugnacity, and stubbornness as in her affection, love and generosity towards others’ One really gets the impression that she’s 100% behind you.

My mum finds it much easier to express her emotions in writing – she wrote that straight after the GR20 –I felt she was very proud of my achievement and it was very touching to feel all that love. Even though she worries about me she will always back all my projects even the craziest ones!

Is it hard to juggle with your professional life and your training?

It’s really hard. A project like that is very time-consuming both in physical training and conception. It4s really hard juggling your professional life and your life as an elite athlete especially for someone like me who holds a full-time job in sales.

Do you intend to go back to Corsica to try and beat your record?

Not for the time being. To be honest I was aiming for sub 40 hours. I’m not disappointed just a little frustrated. Why not in the future? Right now I’ve got too many other projects and challenges in the pipe-line.

How do you see your future in trail running?

I’d like more recognition of the sport whether it is at a national level or with regards to the Federation. It’s an extremely demanding sport. Nowadays sports like football are disproportionately lucrative. If you consider the investment in terms of training I feel long distance trail running doesn’t get enough recognition considering that it is one of the few sports that conveys essential basic values to the younger generations.

Any future challenges?


I do a lot of multi-sport adventure events, mountain-biking and road-biking.

Any role models?

I admire athletes who share the same philosophical values. For example Myriam Lamare (Boxing) or in sky-running Corinne Lefavre. She’s an icon. And also Derwa Sherpa not because he’s part of the Quechua Team but because of his way of seeing things – I can identify with that.

Last question Emilie – do have any advice for young women out there who would like to take on a tough challenge?

Don’t hesitate. Dreams enable us to move forward. Don’t be afraid of getting involved in a project. Women are genetically programmed to be tough and resistant – it’s our way of compensating for not being as physically powerful as men.


Emilie Lecomte


2011    1st female du Grand Raid 73

             1st female Andorra Ultra Trail

             3rd female Trail du Ventoux

             3rd female l’Ardechois


2010    1st female Trail des Aiguilles Rouges

             1st female 6666 Occitane

             2ND female Grand Raid 73

2009    1st female Grand Raid de la Réunion

             1st female Drayes du Vercors 


Objectives 2012:


Winner L’Ultra trail l’Ardéchois – 98km, 3930m + in 12 hrs31

The  GR20 female record  in 41h22 beating Stéphanie Samper by 50h52

L’UTMB August 31st – 168km, 9,600m+

La Diagonale des Fous La Réunion 18th to 21st Oct 

Sandes in the Canyon

Ryan Sandes has just set a new record for the Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Ryan had to abandon his Fish River Canyon Trail Run record attempt in 2011 due to heavy rains. The record for the 85km trail run was originally set on the 13th of July 1990 by South Africans Ronnie Muhl and Bruce Matthews – both seasoned Comrades runners – in a time of 11hrs 42min. It was then beaten by 3 Namibian locals Russell Paschke, Charlie du Toit and Coenraad Pool on the 16th of August 2003 in a time of 10hrs 54min.

Not liking to be beaten, Ryan decided he would have another go at the record in August 2012.

Charlie du Toit is quoted as saying  “This canyon is not for the faint hearted and an attempt to run it should not be taken light heartedly”.

Ryan had this to say:

“I know this challenge is going to extremely tough, especially coming off the back of my running the Western States 100miler in the USA at the end of June, but I can’t wait to get back into the canyon. The record attempt will be filmed by the African Attachment / Wandering Fever so I will keep everyone posted on where and when you can watch it,” 

copyright Ryan Sandes

The Fish River Hiking Trail starts at Hobas and ends 85 kilometres (53 mi) further south at Ai Ais. The trail has no facilities and hikers usually fast pack through in 3 to 5 days. Ryan completed the trail in an impressive time just sneaking under 7 hours with a time of 6:57.

Due to flash floods and high summer temperatures which frequently exceed 45°C, the hike is only open in winter. The season starts 1 May and ends 15 September (winter time in the Southern Hemisphere).

Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is located in the south of Namibia. It is the second largest canyon in the world and the largest in Africa, as well as the second most visited tourist attraction in Namibia. It features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km) long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 metres deep.

The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river usually floods in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is situated.

Upstream the river runs through horizontal dolomite strata. These strata formed part of the canyon about 650 million years ago when plate movement cracked the earth, the first process in the formation of the Fish River Canyon.

Lower down, a granite complex system is exposed to form a characteristic river bed that results in forms like Fingerspitze. In this area, a fault runs north-south, which accounts for the gorge-like channel and the presence of hot sulphurous springs.

You can read more about Ryan here

You may like to listen to Talk Ultra and our interview with Ryan here

The African Attachment who have documented Ryan’s career and are making a film about him can be checked out here

Information on the Fish River Canyon is available here