Salomon S-LAB ULTRA Shoe Review

It has been a while since I slipped on a Salomon shoe for my daily runs. No particular reason, sometimes when testing shoes, I find a real winner and then that becomes my shoe of choice. I wrote last year how I loved the Nike Wildhorse 4, I still love them, and they go everywhere, I would say that they are my ‘go to’ shoe that handles a little of everything with loads of comfort, security and all in a great looking shoe. 

I have always been a fan of the Salomon S-Lab Sense both in normal HERE and SG HERE (soft ground) versions, however, for me, they are just a little too minimalist for everyday running and longer runs.

The S-LAB ULTRA is a shoe that may well be a game changer for Salomon. 

To clarify, Salomon fans are already happy with the Sense shoes and its variants, however, I cannot tell you how many times I have had messages asking me to feedback to Salomon the need for:

  • Wider toe box
  • Higher drop (8mm)
  • More cushioning
  • And all the same goodies that made the Sense such a great shoe.

Well, the S-LAB ULTRA is the shoe! 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

It’s that classic red colour that Salomon utilize so well and at first glance you know it is a Salomon shoe. It’s a good-looking shoe, the fade between red at the front and a darker colour at the rear is ‘sexy,’ if a shoe can be sexy?  

The first thing you notice are two straps on either side of the outside of the shoe. It makes the shoe look a little heavy and somewhat over engineered. This is a protective Skin guard – more on that later.

 The toe box is visibly wider, beefier and well protected.

 

The cushioning is visibly deeper both at the front and rear. This is, as Salomon says: “Energysave® foam insert in the forefoot adds long-lasting cushioning and protection from rocks and rough ground, while ENERGYCELL+ foam in the bottom unit ensures a smooth, consistent ride.”

The grip looks pretty classic for a Salomon trail shoe. It’s red, with a standard trail lug that is not too aggressive. So, this shoe is obviously not designed for mud, it is a hard trail shoe that can be used on a multitude of surfaces, be that wet or dry. It is, “an all-new Contagrip® outsole, with premium wet traction and reverse lugs on the heel area, delivers confident grip, especially on the downhills.”

At £160 a pair, they aint cheap!

On Salomon’s website, they say the usage is ‘Racing Only’ but I have to disagree, this is a brilliant day-to-day comfy shoe that can handle pretty much anything with comfort, road too! Maybe this advice comes based on the price and they would recommend another similar Salomon shoe for day-to-day and keeping the S-LAB Ultra for special occasions… nah! If they are that good, use them I say! But the Salomon Sense Ride has an 8mm drop with 19/27mm cushioning and a similar outsole and they are £50 per pair (£110) cheaper. So. It is worth considering a training/ racing combo? – HERE

THE SHOE

 

Cushioning is excellent with 18mm at the front and 26mm at the rear, this provides an 8mm drop which for me is the perfect drop for longer runs. It’s a light shoe, but not super-light. A UK8 comes in at just under 300g. In a UK 9.5 (my size) it weighs 340g which is exactly the same as the SCOTT KINABALU HERE – there actually is a great deal of similarity in these shoes. My Nike Wildhorse 4 though are 290g in the same size, so, if I was a weight freak, the Nike’s win hands down!

I always say this about Salomon shoes and two things always stand out:  

The lacing with the storage pocket.

ENDOFIT internal sock liner.

 The ENDOFIT is just so awesome, it hugs the foot, holds it, secures it and keeps it protected. It is perfect. Other shoes come close, but I think Salomon ‘just’ win each time. Nike Wildhorse 4 has something similar, it is awesome and, in all honesty, why I love the Nike shoe so much. The other shoe that is similar is the VJ XTRM HERE. Actually, the ‘new’ reinforcing on the outside of the new S-LAB Ultra does a very similar thing to the Fitlock on the VJ.

 

The new straps on the outer of the shoe are significant, there is four of them, two on each side. Two lower, two higher – the laces pass through them and when you pull the lace tight, they bring the shoe in tighter in four key points, in addition with the sockliner, the foot is held firm in one of the most reassuring and comfortable grips I have experienced. 

The laces are classic Salomon. You pull them tight, slide the toggle down and then stuff the excess in the little ‘garage’ at the top of the tongue – so simple it is ingenious.

The inner of the shoe is pretty much seamless, so, if you wanted to go soulless you could. 

The heel box is plush, padded, really comfortable and holds the foot firm.

The toe box is wider and has an excellent toe bumper to protect against the terrain.

This shoe has been designed with a great deal of influence from Francois D’Haene and you can see why. He runs long, and he needs a shoe that can handle long hours on his feet, provide comfort, toe splay, cushioning and grip without losing many of the aspects of what has made the ‘Sense’ range so popular. 

The upper of the shoe is a breathable mesh with Ortholite Impressions which add structure and reinforcement to the shoe.

Midsole is cushioned and really is excellent on longer runs. Combined with the 8mm drop this is a great shoe for those who are running 80km and beyond. The combination of compressed EVA and Salomon’s EnergyCell make them very comfortable but not spongy. At all times, the S-LAB Ultra feels firm on the ground, allowing you to feel the ground but still run with precision.

 The outsole is classic Salomon. However, the S-LAB Ultra has a ‘new’ Premium Wet Traction Contagrip that works really well on a multitude of terrain, wet or dry. There is a Profit Film in the chassis of the shoe which protects against rocks and sharp objects – it is rock plate! 

IN USE

Slipping the S-LAB Ultra on you immediately notice how comfortable they are, the ENDOFIT just does its job perfectly and you can use them around the house without laces, they are that comfy and reassuring. Pull the laces and you feel your foot held in one of the most comfortable and tight embraces. It is so reassuring. I do not like sloppy shoes and my foot moving around inside the shoe – no chance of that here. BUT the laces are had to adjust, it’s all or nothing! However, I find this system preferable to the BOA system which adidas are using – at least I can pull my laces really tight in the Salomon. 

At the front end the additional room is very obvious in comparison to a pair of Sense.

The cushioning is also noticeable, you get that wonderful slightly bouncing feel when walking around.

On road they provide great comfort and grip and for sure, if I had to run large road sections in a race or training, I’d have no worries using this shoe. On hard pack trail they do a great job providing feel for the ground but not at the compromise of protection. The outsole is aggressive enough to grip when it is required. In mud they are pretty useless, the lugs are just not aggressive enough so keep that in mind. On grassy banks going up or down, they were great. On wet grassy bank in the wet they did slip once or twice – nothing crazy and I never fell over. On rock, grip is excellent in the dry but just a little compromised in the wet. In comparison to the Nike Wildhorse 4 in the wet, Salomon’s grip is superb, the Nike’s are a liability! 

The S-LAB Ultra is a solid all-rounder – be that road, trail, rocks, sand or whatever. It does nothing brilliantly and nothing bad. It’s a solid shoe for the long game, hence the Ultra title. To provide a scenario, I would say a S-LAB Sense is a Formula 1 car for shorter, faster and more aggressive races, whereas the S-LAB Ultra is better for Le Mans 24-hour race.

CONCLUSION

The S-LAB Ultra is for those who require a shoe that can handle a little of everything in a cushioned 8mm drop shoe that has great looks. ENDOFIT is just brilliant but I am well aware that not everyone likes it; I love it! The laces do the job brilliantly, again, not everyone like this type of lacing because of the lack of adjustment. The lugs are middle of the road and for some, may not be aggressive enough and despite the ‘wet traction’ name, the Contragrip is still not 100% in the wet. For example, inov-8 has the new Graphene and Sticky Rubber outsole and that really works. At £160 they are expensive, which is maybe why Salomon recommend them for racing? There is a great deal to like in the Salomon S-LAB Ultra and they have been used regularly by me as my ‘daily’ shoe for my 8/9 mile run as I have a whole mix of terrain that includes 2-miles of road, canal tow path, forest trail, gravel path and a little mud – the S-LAB Ultra handles all this superbly. I travel a great deal and these shoes provide me a simple solution as to what shoes to take as I know I can pretty much do anything in them. They are solid shoes and recommended. 

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Kilian Jornet – The Matterhorn Summit Interview

Kilian Jornet ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet ©iancorless.com

Kilian Jornet – The Matterhorn Interview

August 25th, Zermatt, Switzerland.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1080830

Translations

Czech HERE, Italian HERE, Spanish HERE, French HERE

It’s the day after the Matterhorn Ultraks and just four days after Kilian Jornet’s successful attempt on the Matterhorn Summit record attempt from Cervinia. It has been quite a few days for this iconic mountain and although Kilian has excelled on both occasions, we all know, the mountain is still the boss.

Kilian arrives with Emelie Forsberg looking relaxed and fresh after a late breakfast. I congratulate him (and Emelie) once again on topping the podium at the Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks race and ask him how he feels, ‘I am a little tired but feel good. I was certainly tired in the race but I didn’t push too hard. I just did what I needed to do to win the race’.

Our conversation turns the TNF UTMB and we discuss how the race will unfold for the men and women. Kilian and Emelie are animated at the prospect of Julien Chorier, Miguel Heras, Anton Krupicka and the other contenders going head-to-head. Emelie gets excited at the thought of Nuria Picas in the ladies race, it’s her first 100-mile race and of course Emelie knows the Catalan well. We could talk all day but eventually I settle down with Kilian in a quiet corner and we discuss the Matterhorn.

IC: It’s the day after the Matterhorn Ultraks, firstly Kilian, congratulations on your win! Another great race with Luis Alberto Hernando but maybe what is more impressive is that it comes just a couple of days after your Matterhorn Summits. How are you feeling?

KJ: I feel good. It was a super good race with a great atmosphere. To run with Luis Alberto Hernando was super nice. I was very tired before the race, particularly the day before. I used a strategy for the race to take it easy and take the win in the last kilometers. Yes, I think I was much more tired than in other races this year.

IC: We spoke in the Dolomites and we discussed then that your next Summit would be the Matterhorn. You travelled to Cervinia and you lived here for weeks to train. You had the utmost respect for Bruno’s record of 3:14:44. The Matterhorn is a dangerous mountain. You said you needed to learn the mountain, to understand every step. I think in that time you went up and down the mountain multiple times. Just before your attempt you said that the record was in your grasp… what is it like to look at something that is perceived as being an iconic record, a record from 1995, you said in a quote that it was a record you had dreamt of. Something from childhood that you wished you could achieve. It is a massive undertaking. For you it is more than a record, it’s your life.

KJ: I remember it well; I was 13 years old. I entered into a mountaineering center; I was talking to Jordi, the trainer. I said at the time that the record was impossible. I spoke to Jordi recently and he reminded me that I was dreaming about the Matterhorn all those years back and about the record. I thought it was the ultimate expression of our sport. It’s a beautiful summit. It has a logical line. It is a hard record, it is push running and climbing, so, it was in mind for many years… more than Mont Blanc and all the other records. About five years ago when I started to think about Summits of my Life, the Matterhorn was my goal. The other summits were really preparation for the Matterhorn and Bruno’s record. For me, it was the most difficult record in Skyrunning and mountain running. For example, Pikes Peak is not Skyrunning. I was really afraid, not of the mountain as I was climbing a lot but of the time. I summited the Matterhorn nine times before the ascent. The first time you climb you become aware of what is possible. You go up and down and say, wow, this is the time I need to beat. After going up and down nine times I think okay, I know the mountain, I am not going to fall, I know this mountain well. I was aware of where I could go hard and where I needed to go easy. However, the morning of the attempt I was nervous. I thought to myself, will I do this record or will I do four hours?

IC: A few people asked why you made the attempt at 3pm; it seems quite logical that the Matterhorn is a busy mountain so I assume the mountain would have been less busy?

KJ: Yes for sure. It is a busy mountain when conditions are good. When I climbed nine times I saw hardly anyone, just two or three teams. I was alone. The week of the attempt we had good days with warm and dry conditions and everyone was on the mountain. Over one hundred teams! So, I was talking with all the guides and the helpers. We asked the question, what do we do? So many people on the mountain and it would have been impossible. My first idea was to start between 7-8am but it would have been crazy to pass people. We decided to start later. It was the perfect decision. It was warm at the summit and I wore just a t-shirt and nobody was in the way. Everyone was going down or in the hut. I just had the safety guides to help. It was perfect!

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

IC: In the build up to the record, you actually met up with Bruno Brunod. Did he go on the mountain with you or did you just talk about your attempt?

KJ: Bruno said he never climbed the Matterhorn after his attempt. We met in Cervinia and discussed his record. What conditions he had, how he prepared, how he was mentally and then we discussed the rope, the short cuts and how he made time. It is funny, Bruno stopped running in 2003 but last year he started running again and he is now preparing Tor des Geants. He never ran long distances; he was afraid. I said, c’mon man, you are strong, and you can do well in these races.

IC: So, Bruno has gone from no running to doing one of the longest races on the calendar, I guess when you are Bruno Brunod you don’t do things by half. When you go on the mountain to learn and understand, what process does that involve? Do you have several options to attempt the summit and therefore you try them or do you have a defined route and then you put that route in your mind so that you know every step. You know you can push in one place and you won’t slip in another place?

KJ: It’s one route. The Lion Ridge is the classic route and the fastest. It is the historical route and the same as Bruno used and those before him. You work out the differences but it is a thin ridge, you have several places that you can pass but yes, it is about planning. It is about knowing where to put your feet, knowing where to push and when not. I think you need to understand the mountain. You have parts in the west and north face and they are thin in the ridge and you can have ice. If you go in the morning you will have ice. If you go after 10am then this will be water so you can go there. You need to spend time to understand how it works, to understand the mountain and its life. Always in the north face it was icy, so I was aware I needed more care. On the west side I could push harder as the rock was warm and the rubber of my shoes would have better grip. It is important to spend time and understand that exactly. For example, if it is cold or windy, my shoes don’t grip the same as a warm day. I need to know this so I know exactly where to go. It is super important to understand the mountain and how the weather conditions are.

IC: On the face of it, people look at you and think you are very relaxed and casual. I know, I have seen you work and I have seen you study a mountain, you know the history, you go into in depth research to make sure these attempts are correct and that you know what you are doing. It is obviously very important. You have mentioned a simple thing like shoe rubber. Did you have special shoes?

KJ: Yes I tried different rubbers. I always used the Salomon Sense but I had different soles, different grades of rubber. For the attempt I used a softer rubber for grip. In the snow any shoe glides. You just need the technique of a flat foot and the ability to push.

IC: What is great about these attempts in comparison to Bruno, for example, in 1995 I guess Bruno stood in the square in Cervinia and just a few people were around probably having a beer, but Marino Giacometti and Lauri Van Houten were instrumental in Bruno’s attempt. They helped finance it, they arranged the safety, they arranged a helicopter and of course they got involved in your attempt. Fortunately for us we had the opportunity to have Seb Montaz follow the process, for those who know Seb, he is like your self a master of his craft. We have had some great glimpses of your summit; short videos are already on YouTube. Clips of you running a ridge jumping a crevice, or sliding down snow. It brings what you do into perspective. We can talk about you going up and down the Matterhorn but it’s easy to think, ok! But we may not have an idea of the difficulty or danger. These videos convey this. It is an important aspect. Is it a way to record you achievement but is it also a way to attract people to the mountains and also let people understand the beauty and danger?

KJ: It is the second for sure. It is not about my achievement. When I stop it will be in my mind. It is more a learning process. It enables the people to join us in the mountain and it enables everyone to understand. It’s beautiful, it is nice but it is also very difficult. It takes preparation, we do take some risks but the videos help motivate and inform. The way I go the mountain is possible but you need to learn. For me, my summit was the Matterhorn; I understood my capacity, my ability and my technical skill. I accept the risk. For everyone else it may be here or close to the home. We want to show and share that you can be light in the mountains and hopefully more people will understand. I go naked to the mountain.

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

IC: The actual record. You started 3pm from Cervinia. You are in Salomon Sense, shorts, T-shirt and a jacket around your waist. You look like you are going for a run… of course that is what you are doing! You start and in the early stages it is easy and then it becomes tricky, technical, you have ropes, ridges, faces to ascend and so on, how do you process the attempt in your mind. Did you have specific targets, so, did you know what time you wanted to be at a certain place or do you go on feel? I know in the early stages you only had about 3 minutes on Bruno’s record, it was maybe a little too hot but once past a certain point you really opened up time. Of course on the descent you came down super quick. You did 2:52:02 instead of 3:14:44. I believe Bruno predicted 2:52! Were you surprised?

KJ: I was really surprised. When Bruno said 2:52 I said, no way.  I was thinking, I might break the record by 2-3 minutes maximum. Maybe 3:10 would be a good time? During my practice runs I never ran fast because in the hard parts you don’t want to go hard. It’s like a lottery and taking numbers… you leave taking numbers for race day! The only time I went faster was the second day when I trained. I thought, wow, maybe I can beat Bruno’s time. If I am close to Bruno’s time then I can go faster. I spoke to Seb Montaz on the morning of the attempt, he said if you are at the summit within 2 hours it will be so good, you will have time for the downhill. I said, yeah I will be so very happy. When I started the summit attempt it was the afternoon so this was good at the top because it was warm, however, it was warm in the valley too. I don’t like warm. I started with a good pace but it was hard to find the strength. I saw lots of people and friends. Bruno was shouting at me, ski friends shouted, guides from Cervinia, Nuria Picas was there and so on… they gave me energy. I said to myself, I must keep going, I must push. I had Bruno’s time in my mind but I had no prediction of what I could do.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

I was close to Bruno’s time until the Leone Col then the ridge starts and then I came into my own. It is where I love to run. It’s technical, you need to climb and you need to push. It is exposed. I love to be exposed on the mountain. From here I was not moving fast but fluid. This is the way to move in this terrain, if you go fast and you go more than you can you will have an accident. Moving fluid allows me to move quickly. I started to gain time all the way up to the summit. I looked at my watch and I saw I was almost 12 minutes in front of Bruno’s time, I said to myself, wow, this is incredible. It is possible! Okay, I said, I can do it. I was happy but I could not disconnect. It is a long down hill to Cervinia; I needed to be sure of every step. The boss of the guides in Cervinia said to me at the summit, you can do it! I started down in deep concentration. I was enjoying it so much; I love to run the technical sections. You don’t push with your legs; you push with your mind. Where to put your feet, where to put your hands, when to glide, when to go faster, when to stop, this is what I love, I was enjoying it so much. When the most technical part stopped, I realized I was almost 20 minutes in front of Bruno; so, the last part was just pushing to the finish.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

IC: Myself and many other people were very worried about the Matterhorn. We respected the mountain and we anticipated that you would push; pushing brings danger, so when you got to the summit and you knew you were ahead of Bruno’s time did that mean that the descent was easier, you took less risks than if the time had been very close.

KJ: Yes of course. If I had been at the summit in 2:10 I wouldn’t have come down at the speed I did. I would have taken more risks. I also think that this doesn’t work! Many people who saw me said that I was going down very fast, they said I looked really fluid and that I wasn’t taking risks yet I was very fast. I think this is the way to go down the mountain. If you take risks the body position is different, you can’t glide as well and so on. You lean back and this slows you. If you feel confident, you can go fast. I think maybe I could have gained 6-7 seconds by taking risks. It’s nothing! These 6 or 7 seconds may have been my life… I knew the route very well and I had no need to take additional risks. I just wanted to be confident. My mother was on the mountain and she had bad memories of when she climbed the Matterhorn for the first time but if you climb again and again, you know it’s risky but it isn’t necessary to take risks, it is about being confident.

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

Kilian Jornet ©laurivanhouten_ISF

IC: When you arrived in Cervinia, it was like the end of a race. It was incredible. The barriers were out. It was almost like the race finish here in Zermatt. Did this surprise you?

KJ: Yes, I was completely surprised. I was in Cervinia for three weeks sleeping in my van in preparation for the attempt. I was surprised by the reception by everyone. For example, the first day I climbed the Matterhorn I was with Emelie. We climbed with running shoes and when we reached the top, the mountain guides said, ‘wow, you are going with run shoes. Congratulations. Do you want to try the Matterhorn record, can we help you? Tell us the day, we want to help you’. There is not another place that is like this, we usually get the response of, ‘What are you doing here in run shoes, this is ridiculous’. Not in Cervinia, they wanted to help us right from the start. Every time I climbed it was so open, the support was great. I was always asked, ‘tell us what day you go and we will help. We want to be on the mountain to help and support you’. It was the same for the hotels in Cervinia, they offered me showers or they said if I needed anything such as Internet that I could use the Wi-Fi. It was an incredible ambience. People were happy that I was in Cervinia to do the record and they got behind me. I think this was the most beautiful part of the record. I went just with my van, I was alone to climb but everyone was supporting the team and myself. It was so easy then to do the record. The day before my attempt, I made a call to the mountain rescue and said, ‘Tomorrow I go’. He replied, ‘Okay, how many people do you need? We will put people in the mountains for safety in case you have a mistake’. He called the mountain guides and they said, okay, we will put people here and here. The guides had finished work at midday on Wednesday and then they returned to the mountain to support me. It is unique. The reception was so fantastic.

Great video here on YouTube ©Martin Mikloš

IC: It was incredible the level of support you got. Knowing you, you would have quite happily got out of your van, started in the square and returned with no fuss. Marino Giacometti made a very good point, these record attempts do need to be verified, it does need an element of proof that you do go to the top and do come back down. Of course we are not questioning your honesty. But for future records a structure needs to be in place. I guess if we set a standard for the future it can only be a good thing. Does that mean for future attempts such as Elbrus in Russia, will you start to incorporate this system.

KJ: Yes, I know I need someone to do the chrono and I am aware I need someone at the summit. For Mont Blanc, I had people from the Tourist Office to confirm my attempt and I had guides at the summit. I also have the gps files on my Suunto. At the Matterhorn it wasn’t an issue, we had everyone in place and it was almost taken out of my hands. For example, Marino Giacometti did the chrono in Cervinia but the guides etc. were fully behind the attempt and they verified the route. My chrono was radioed to all the guides on the mountain so my progress could be monitored. It is important to be true. It is just like doping control… it is about integrity, my intentions are 100%, it is important to do a record in the correct way. I am aware that many ‘FKT’s have no control, I personally believe in the people but when you see the world and see the problems, I am aware of the issues of how people can not be honest.

IC: What was great about this attempt, because you had a team of people up the mountain, we had time checks back that meant that we could Tweet and Facebook times to the world. This was so exciting. Social media became alive following you. I think we stopped so many people from working. They wanted to follow. It is interesting from my perspective because it is what I do, but I guess the concept of someone running up and down a mountain and that message being sent around the world, some may think, why is that interesting? But it is so exciting; the updates had people glued to your progress. Can you relate to it or do you just think about the mountain?

Video courtesy of Seb Montaz ©sebmontaz

KJ: When I am on the mountain. I am 100% focused. I need to be in my moment and think about where I put my feet, how fast do I go. If my mind wanders I will loose time or maybe my life, so I was super focused on moving as quickly as possible. It is just the mountain and I. The social media and the photography I leave to others. For example, Seb was in the helicopter but I never saw or heard it even though he was so close. This is because I needed to be 100% committed. I think this is nice. In racing I think for the last three years I have managed my effort and therefore I don’t need to focus as much but this was completely different. It was like the first time I raced ten years ago when I was super focused. It is a super nice feeling.

IC: Certainly social media has made what you are doing so accessible which is great for us but it is also great for you and everyone else involved. I guess now your energy focuses on Russia and Mt Elbrus?

KJ: Yes, I need to relax a little first…

IC: You said that to me last time, when I interviewed you in the Dolomites. You told me you wouldn’t race for a month and then you went to Sierre-Zinal.

KJ: Ah yes, I was close to Sierre-Zinal, it was just the other side of the Matterhorn, so it was good training. Plus it was the 40th edition. Now I take a couple of weeks with no racing but I will train a lot, I love that; I need to do it to be alive. I will train but not race until UROC in the US. I will focus on Elbrus for the next few weeks; I want to go to Russia before UROC, maybe the 15th September. I will plan around that date and train at altitude.

IC: So does that mean you will do the Elbrus summit before UROC?

KJ: Yes, I think so. After UROC I have Skyrunner World Series, Limone Extreme and the then Diagonale des Fous, so, after this I want a break.

IC: You say a break, does that mean ski mountaineering?

KJ: It means one week of no training and then I will be in the mountains for November and December but I won’t race.

IC: Okay, we will follow you and see if you do race… Kilian it has been fantastic for you to give me so much time to talk about the Matterhorn. It’s great to get such an insight. Finally, when are we going to see the full edited Seb Montaz movie of this year or the recent summit?

KJ: We are working on it and of course we will work more after Elbrus. November and December will see much of the work being done in edit, so we hope before the end of the year. Maybe late December?

IC: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time.

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

Kilian Jornet-iancorless.com ©sebmontaz all rights reserved

The Matterhorn – A history and perspective

“It is a technical mountain. Bruno Brunod has a record of 3:14:44. 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 mad 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, and it does however have a reputation.

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1000082J.J and J.P Maquignaz made the first ascent of the Italian ridge as it is climbed today in 1867 but Kilian Jornet had 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 just to the summit 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 had given himself. “I remember standing in the square in Cervinia and about 3 hours 10 min 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. Kilian’s final Summit will be Everest. Bruno himself attempted Everest; he however gave up when at a height of 8.200mt (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. Two masters together discussing the mountain. Without doubt, Bruno played a big part in the successful attempt by Kilian and ironically he predicted a time of 2:52:00. Maybe Bruno knows Kilian better than Kilian?

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 Route in 5:38
  • Mount Elbert uphill in 1:54
  • Three times winner of the Becca di Nona SkyRace (2002 – 2003 – 2004)

See ISF recognised records at skyrunning.com

The Matterhorn ©iancorless.com all rights reserved

The Matterhorn ©iancorless.com all rights reserved

READ THE KILIAN JORNET INTERVIEW, pre MATTERHORN HERE

CREDITS:

Firstly, a big thank you to Kilian Jornet, for his time, his patience and his inspiration.

Interview conducted by Ian Corless ©iancorless.com no reproduction or quoting without prior permission, all rights reserved.

Images provided by: iancorless.com, Lauri van Houten (ISF) or Seb Montaz – all protected under © copyright. No reproduction without permission.

Video ©sebmontaz

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200896714474535

Kilian Jornet – An Interview

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As another day draws to an end and the sun creeps behind the mountains, I catch up with Kilian Jornet outside his hotel on the outskirts of Canazei in the Dolomites. Looking fresh and relaxed he is on his iPhone, no doubt tweeting and replying to many of the messages he will have received congratulating him on another stunning win in the ISF Skyrunning Dolomites Skyrace. Just forty-eight hours earlier he had also won the Dolomites Vertical Kilometer.

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Kilian needs no introduction. He is without doubt the leading example of everything that is great about our sport, not only on the trails, but also off them. He is the superstar of the sport. Always in the limelight, always in demand, I have been fortunate to see both sides in close quarters for some time now. It’s not just racing! Kilian has so many demands placed upon him, that it is miraculous that he can perform at the consistently high level that he does.

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After our chat he must prepare for a long drive to Switzerland the following day for a four-hour meeting. Returning the same day to Canazei he will then leave for Verona, attend a meeting and then depart for the ISF Skyrunning Trans D’Havet ultra, he will attend three stores to do signings, photos and maybe go for a run. It is a hectic, full on, non-stop life. Despite all this, despite all the pressures placed upon him, I have never witnessed him say no to a photograph or an autograph. His dedication to the sport, his fans and al those around him is remarkable, so, when I ask to take up some of his valuable time for a chat it is always with a sense of guilt… I, just like you, want to hear what he has to say; I want his thoughts and his input. But at the same time, I also want to leave him, let him relax and just find some downtime away from the buzz that his ability as a runner attracts.

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So, when I chat, although I would love that full hour with him so that I can go deep, ask about his life, talk through his progression I don’t. I set myself a fifteen-minute deadline, conscious of the fact that when I ask in the future, I hope, Kilian will always say yes!

Racing at the Dolomites Skyrace just hours before he had a close race; just three seconds…. Not many people can push Kilian to the line like that!

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IC – Another great win Kilian and this time you had a real battle on your hands with your old adversary, Marco De Gasperi. You won by just three seconds, an incredible race!

KJ – Yes, a hard and incredible race. It’s always great to race Marco and today was very hard. During the race it’s hard and then it is beautiful afterwards. This is how we like it.

IC- Many people think that when they see a start list with your name on it, that you are automatically going to win. However, when we see Marco’s name, it’s great because we know he will push you along… Luis Alberto Hernando can do this too. Do you relish the opportunity to race these people so that you are pushed?

KJ – I think people think I am going to win but in my mind it is not like that. When I see Marco or Luis is in a race I think, this is going to be super hard. For sure, it is motivating. I relish competition. For the last three weeks I have done many races, for example the VK I have just done and the Skyrace when competition is tough that is what I like. I knew here at the Skyrace it would be tough against Marco. He likes short distances and I knew that he would go hard from the start. I needed to push myself. It may be easy from the outside to look in and think I am going to win but it is much harder than this.

IC – I agree, we all know your ability. Your skill in the mountains and your skill as a runner are without question. It is unfair to assume that you can race Ice Trail, the VK, The Skyrace and then go to Trans D’Havet and for us all to assume that you will win… when you approach a race like the Dolomites Skyrace and particularly this year with lots of snow, you must think that plays to your advantages, is that correct?

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KJ – I know this race. I know the route quite well. I have raced here twice before. The snow wasn’t great for racing this year. It was soft, so not ideal to race fast. The snow wasn’t an advantage this year, however, it was more of an advantage to know the route. When I started with Marco I pushed on the uphill, at the top I had 20 seconds so I thought, we will do the downhill together. The downhill you need the correct line, so it was important to get the best line and if you are in front or if you have someone in front it is easy to follow, so, it would have been impossible to drop Marco. I was sure we would finish together. For me, I thought Marco would be stronger uphill. I thought he would start fast. But when I was with him uphill, I knew it would be a race to the line.

IC – Now Emelie Forsberg keeps tweeting about sprint sessions and interval work. The last time I spoke to her, she told me that she was going to make you do some speed work! After that VK finish when you sprinted from third place to take the win and then in the Skyrace finish you won by three seconds, does that mean you are not telling us something?

(Laughs)

KJ – I am improving in my sprint for sure. I am not a sprinter, in SkiMo I am a bad sprinter, but yes, I always have a little speed for the last meters. It is something I never train so I need to work on this, it’s good for me to train and work on this. Sometimes when you follow someone it’s better… last week we tried to catch Chamois, it was impossible but good for sprint training.

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IC – Well it has worked! I mentioned the VK. The VK here is a tough course, very steep. I actually went up myself, boy it was tough and steep. Watching you three race up, I am guessing you placed yourself in third so that you could surprise the others. Did you have a race plan to use this tactic?

KJ – It’s a very particular VK, I have raced here three times before and I never felt good. So I was a little afraid, not afraid, I mean not confident. For all three races, (VK, Sky and Ultra) the VK is the race I was less confident about. It is a specialist race and it suited runners like Urban Zemmer. I was thinking before the start that I needed to relax and then when I saw that I was in good shape I tried to follow Urban, he is the best at this discipline. I was following and in the steep parts he was super strong, it was really difficult to be in touch with him. When it was less steep I could run and I felt better. It was okay. I needed to make sure I didn’t loose time or contact. When I saw the finish, I thought it was perfect for the sprint.

IC – It was an impressive sprint. I watched a clip on YouTube, you put your poles together, you went down the outside and then that final 50m is a wall. You have to grit your teeth and get up as quick as possible. Now one thing that many were interested in, is the fact that you used poles. Not something that you use a lot, the VK here is so steep that it would be foolish not to use them. What advantages do they bring?

KJ- I don’t use poles often for running but in SkiMo I use them everyday! I am extremely used to them. For years I used them everyday for 6-7 months. It is a particular exercise that you need to work on. On a VK like this it is like having four legs because you have the arms and upper body and you can really push. So when it is really steep it makes a big difference.

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IC – Canazei is over and in 5-6 days you will race at Trans D’Havet*, it is the third event in the European Skyrunning Championships, you will be up against Luis Alberto Hernando, he will be arriving at that race fresh. You have lots of racing in your body, how do you think this race will be go?

KJ – It will be a great fight, I haven’t seen the list of other racers but I am sure it will be quality. I am in good shape. I am strong. Mont Blanc Marathon a few weeks ago was a fast race, Ice Trail Tarentaise was like a long training session and then the two races here makes it hard but I am good. I hope I can keep this shape for one week and then I will rest. Yes, it will be hard, Luis is strong this season and of course he hasn’t raced recently, he is focused on Trans D’Havet it is going to be hard but the hardest part of the race is the 0100am start… that is horrible.

(Laughter)

*Kilian and Luis Alberto raced head-to-head at Trans D’Havet and both crossed the line together in what will be seen as a defining moment of the sport, read my race report HERE

IC – You flippantly talk about races such as Mont Blanc and Ice Trail. Particularly Ice Trail, you said it was easy but everybody else thought it was super tough… you are here now for the VK and Sky but you have missed your Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix record… super impressive! A fantastic achievement, many look and find it difficult to comprehend how someone under human power can do something like this. What is it in the Summits project that has illuminated the fire within you to push to new depths?

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KJ – Summits it is about pushing in the mountains. It is about being light. It is more than records, a record is nice but it is about being light and moving fast. How light can I be in the mountains? If you are light you need to be fast to be safe. Mont Blanc took a lot of time. We had too much snow early season, I attempted  ‘CMBC’ after Mont Blanc Marathon but it wasn’t the correct time. The snow wasn’t correct. The week before my attempt I was in the mountains everyday to form an opinion on when was the best time and when the best day would be. It was all about timing. It is not like a race. Here you need to be in the mountains, to understand. Every mountain is different; you need to understand how it works how it breathes. I had perfect conditions for my attempt and the perfect day. I was with Mateo Jacquemoud for all the uphill and most of the downhill so it was just pushing, pushing each other. (Note – Mateo fell on the downhill and insisted that Kilian carry on)

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IC – You mentioned a couple of great points. The one I concentrate on most is the need of understanding the mountain. It is very easy for people to follow Talk Ultra, websites or blogs and look at what you do and think, Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix, I can do that! But it is a real risk, a real understanding of the mountain is required, you make it look easy, I know that it is not. Do you feel you have a responsibility to those who follow you?

KJ – I saw Alex Honnold do soloing in Yosemite, I saw Ueli Steck doing the north face of the Eiger, and it is not because of this that I would do an attempt. It is inspiring but it is important not to follow. We can all have our goals, our own summits, but of course when we do these things, we have a responsibility. Chamonix is accessible, many people climb every year, and I am not dangerous but every year people die. That is because of rock falls, avalanches etc… you need to know the mountain, you need to know yourself and you need to know your limits. We take risks when we go, of course, but we accept those risks based on our ability.

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IC – It is about your personal summits and about you understanding what risks you can take, about how light, how fast you can go?

KJ – Yes, it is about knowing each persons capacity and knowing the conditions, the mountain conditions change daily. Maybe one day you have the capacity and conditions but the next day it changes. I know people who climb a mountain and then they say it was easy… It is not like that! Today they climbed but another day maybe more wet, cold, snowing and everything changes; it is no longer the same mountain. Nobody is stronger than the mountain. You need to understand that, you need to take time, spend time in the mountains and understand them.

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IC – The Matterhorn will be your next summit?

KJ – After Trans D’Havet I will take a break. I plan to stay more than one month without a race to recover and then prepare for the Matterhorn. 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.

IC – And the process? Will it be going on the mountain everyday, working routes and understanding how the mountain adapts to the weather?

KJ – Yes I will be in Cervinia (Italian side of the Matterhorn) with my van and I will stay for at least a month. I know many guides in the area and I also know that it has too much snow at the moment but during this time I will go up and down, up and down etc… I need to know everything. I think Bruno climbed thirty times before the record attempt; so, I need to go up 10-15 times at least.

IC – And your attempt, will that come before or after the ISF Skyrunning Matterhorn Ultraks?

KJ – It depends on the weather? I planned Mont Blanc for May but snow made it impossible… I actually did it in June! I have planned the Matterhorn for late August or early September, however, the mountain will decide.

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

IC – Kilian, thank you so much for your time. I wish you all the very best for the coming months.

KJ – Thank you so much Ian, see you at the Matterhorn!

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1080586You can listen to this interview on Episode 40 of TALK ULTRA – HERE 

WANT TO WIN A SIGNED BOOK BY KILIAN JORNET?

PLEASE GO HERE AND ADD YOUR ANSWER TO THE QUESTION.

LINKS:

  • Dolomites Vertical Kilometer HERE
  • Dolomites Vertical Kilometer IMAGES HERE
  • Dolomites Skyrace HERE
  • Dolomites Skyrace IMAGES HERE
  • Trans D’Havet HERE
  • Trans D’Havet IMAGES HERE
  • Kilian Jornet HERE
  • Summits of my Life HERE
  • Salomon Running HERE

Philipp Reiter – wonder kid !

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Philipp Reiter makes me laugh… he makes me laugh lots! 21 years old, the world is ahead of him and he embraces each day as though it was his last. His passion for life and running is matched by his appetite for the ‘buffet’ at our hotel. Boy can he eat!

In 2012, he emerged on the ‘world’ stage by clocking up a series of top 10 places and wins that only a fool could ignore. He won the Salaomon Four Trails ahead of Thomas Lorblanchet and Francois d’Haene. He teamed up with teammate, Iker Karrera at Trans Alpine and won. He suffered a little at Transvulcania, ran strong at Trofeo Kima and dug deep at Cavalls del Vent.

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After Trofeo Kima I asked him what his aspirations are for the future….

“I want to be the new Kilian” he replied.

Today, just before we headed out on to the beach to take the photos that you can see in the post, I questioned him again. His answer today?

“I want to beat Kilian”

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He has just spent the last two to three months ski mountaineering and this weekend he lines up at the 83km TNF Trans Gran Canaria to take on a competetive field that includes teammate, Ryan Sandes. With no running in his legs is it possible to perform over 83km on tough trail? Philipp thinks so.

On the trails yesterday, Philipp flew off like a man possessed. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t run… no small stops to ease himself in. No, not at all. He bounded and leaped down the trail as though some binding shackles had been removed.

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“When you take the skis off and run, you feel so light. It’s incredible. It’s a joy to run” said Philipp in my 30+ min interview scheduled to be aired in episode 30 of Talk Ultra on March 8th.

“The break from running freshens the mind, it’s a good thing, I love sport, I love cycling, I love going to the gym, I love variety. That is what is so exciting about what I do”

You can see the logic. Look at his peer group; Kilian Jornet, Nuria Picas, Emelie Forsberg and so on… they all turn from trails to snow in the winter months.

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This coming weekend will show us how Philipp’s form is after months of no running. But ultimately the 83km on Saturday are only small and tiny steps on what will be a very interesting 2013 season.

A full set of images from today are available HERE

You can see how Philipp gets on against Ryan Sandes and the other runners at : http://www.transgrancanaria.net

You can listen to my interview with Philipp on the next episode of Talk Ultra. It will be available for ‘free’ download on iTunes, Libsyn and talk ultra.com.

ITunes http://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/talk-ultra/id497318073

Website – talkultra.com

Royal Parks Ultra

The inaugural Royal Parks Ultra took place today on a sunny and warm day in the capital. London really is quite a beautiful place when the sun shines on it!

A misty cool morning gave away to blue skies and warm temperatures.

I was at the race with the very kind help and cooperation of Salomon who had two star athletes taking part;

 Dimitrios Theodorakakos and Silvia Serafinii

They both won! Silvia running so quickly that she was 4th overall and this may very well have been a top 3 had she not been of course multiple times through poor course marking and complacent marshalling. Dimitrios ran 3:25:19 and Silvia 3:39:15.

Dimitrios almost lost the race due to errors from course marking and marshalling…. from a comfortable lead he ended up being neck and neck with 2nd place Julian Rendell  and then pushed away again in the closing stages to secure victory!

Dimitrios said “the course markings are terrible and the marshals are too busy on phones… by the time they realised I was there it was too late… six times I went of course. The organisers seriously need to look at some significant improvements for next year!’

Silvia confirmed “I went off course so many times… it’s terrible! If I am running a ‘marked’ course I want it to be marked. Today was too stressful. It as all very well when running slower and you have the time to look around but if you are racing I just want to concentrate on speed and effort… not worrying if I am course”

Not great! Considering the ultra had a small field in comparison to the Half Marathon (12,000) the race had some great pluses. A wonderful course around the parks of London, post race massage, good food provisions post race and a great setting. If only they could get the course marking to that standard… in addition, each runner got a wooden medal; a nice touch!

This race has great potential and will be a perfect race for those venturing up from marathon distance. It includes road and easy trail and at 50k it is the perfect step up distance.

Here are images from the day.

Competition Time !

WIN Salomon athlete, Philipp Reiter’s ‘Salomon Sense’ shoes.

How do you win them? Easy…. just answer this question:

What was Philipp’s first Skyrunning Race?

Answers ONLY on Talk Ultra Facebook page please. A link is HERE

The shoes are UK9 but we must stress they are not for running in! Philipp has racked up the miles and vertical K in them. He will however sign them for those who may like to collect memorabilia. Please note that Philipp has had an incredible 2012 season with some incredible running at Transvulcania, Salomon 4 Trails, Transalpine, Trofeo Kima and of course this coming weekend at Cavalls del Vent.