Episode 165 of Talk Ultra is a Great Himalayan Trail Special to link with the release of ‘Lessons From The Edge’ film. We chat with Ryan Sandes, Ryno Griesel and Wandering Fever film maker, Dean Leslie.
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Lessons from the Edge is the new film by Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever that tells the story of Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s epic journey on the Great Himalayan Trail. Read a review of the movie HERE.
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A film documenting Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s epic adventures traversing the Great Himalaya Trail (GHT).
Dropping globally on Red Bull TV and Red Bull’s YouTube Channel on Tuesday 04 December 2018.
Many thanks to Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever for the advanced preview of the film.
Lessons from the Edge is not your ordinary running film and it is all the better for it. I would even go as far to say, that the film is not about running. It’s about friendship, survival, pushing to the limit, not giving in and adventure.
The film documents, South African runners, Ryan Sandes and Ryno Griesel’s attempt on the ‘GHT’ – The Great Himalayan Trail. We need to be clear here, that it is ‘their’ FKT (fastest known time) attempt on trying to beat a mark set by fellow South African, *Andrew Potter – a journey of some 1400km in 28-days.
*Lizzy Hawker and others have done other journeys on the GHT.
Sandes and Griesel know each other well and often team up for adventures; their record-breaking Drakensberg Traverse a prime example. I hope they both will forgive me, but Sandes is often the star and the media draw, while Griesel is the brains and brawn behind. I myself always fall into this trap – post the Drakensberg and GHT records, I interviewed Sandes for my podcast Talk Ultra.
Tune into the Talk Ultra Great Himalayan Trail special released Friday 7th December 2018 – Episode 165 – it includes an in-depth interview with Ryan Sandes conducted just after the GHT FKT and two post film interviews with Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever and Ryno Griesel.
I seriously think that ‘Lessons from the Edge’ is finally going to give Griesel the long overdue credit he finally deserves. The guy really is a legend.
The film is made by Sandes and Griesel’s long-term friend, and good buddy of mine, Dean Leslie of Wandering Fever. I first met Dean in 2012 on the island of La Palma at Transvulcania and it is fair to say, our careers in the world of trail, ultra and mountain running have moved alongside each other ever since.
Let me be clear, I think Dean is one of the best filmmakers out there! He always manages to look beyond running and find metaphors for life, in this movie, he excels himself.
Listen to a full and in-depth interview with Dean Leslie below:
The words of Dean Leslie give an indication of the film and its story, “When Ryan and Ryno started the Great Himalaya Trail they knew it would be physically tough. But no one ever thought this run would be life-threatening.”
I love Nepal, so, I was hooked from the start with the amazing vistas, the beautiful Nepali people and the forever wonderful sound of ‘Namaste!’
While this journey started as an FKT, I think it’s fair to say that as the film unfolds, any FKT becomes irrelevant as one witnesses the danger, pain and discomfort both runners have to go through to achieve their finish. In a conversation with Sandes, he confirmed, “This attempt is more about an experience and amazing adventure, it is a once-in-a-lifetime type experience‚ not just a record attempt and something that I have been able to share with a true friend.”
Leslie narrates, and he has a silky-smooth calm voice that kicks off the movie and its pace. We instantly go to Sandes describing the ‘why’ of the GHT and then we see Griesel.
“Did you push it too far?” Leslie asks Griesel.
“No, not at all,” the answer.
Their journey would take them from the Tibetan border all the way to the Indian border in the east. Fast and light was the ethos and they carried no sleeping bags or tents, reliant on the hospitality of the Nepali people.
“If you plan an adventure with no risk, you are way too much inside your comfort zone,” says Griesel.
And from here, the story unfolds.
Before the FKT started, they had already risked their lives on snow and ice and I was immediately thinking that they were unprepared for the challenge ahead! The film does not shy away from this and the duo explain the danger.
“It was really dangerous, a little stupid,” said Griesel and Sandes admits his lack of experience in this environment.
From the outset, one realizes that Griesel is along not only for the comradeship but for mainly for his navigation and mountain experience. Very quickly they are in extreme snow and ice that visibly shakes them up.
All the time, Leslie’s drone footage provides some amazing shots to Sande’s and Griesel’s GoPro footage.
Kids join them, and the ‘Namaste’ sounds provide a wonderful soundtrack to Sandes and Griesel’s footsteps. Leslie, correctly says in his narration, “Although the Himalaya has the most breathtaking landscape, it is the Nepali people that captures the heart.”
The conditions, the fast and light travel without doubt take a toll on the runners. The Dolpa region approaches and without doubt, fear takes hold. They manage to obtain ice axes and rope borrowed from the locals. They had to change route and with a late winter and poor conditions, the area was desolate. The duo was struggling and seriously worried.
Griesel trying to maximize his time with navigation makes a school boy error and removes his gloves.
From that point, Griesel knew his fingers had frostbite.
From here on in, the story changes.
With only 9 day’s covered, there was a long way to go and everything was looking in jeopardy. All the time, Leslie provides a narrative to the ‘real time’ narrative of Griesel and Sandes.
Griesel sits with his hands in a bowl – it makes for gruesome viewing, but the will to carry on existed though. Some good running, a change of clothes, some sun and suddenly all was looking good.
Annapurna region and Sandes turns 36 – what a way to spend a birthday!
Much of what follows is good and you feel a page has turned and then suddenly screams. Griesel falls and is injured. The story unfolds, and one begins to feel the pressure on the two of them and in particular, Griesel. He has feelings on failure and inadequacy in comparisons to Sandes natural running ability.
Let’s be clear hear, Griesel is turning into a hero.
“It is not an option to quit… If I have committed to go from A to B, that is what I am going to do,” says Griesel. “Whatever we do out there is an extension of our daily lives, if you get in the habit of quitting, if that is an option, that translates to daily life…” And it is here that you really begin to understand the character of the man – his strength, his courage and some would say, his vulnerability?
The film mixes narrative and footage from Griesel and Sandes and constantly the film is interspersed with post GHT interviews to provide perspective.
It is here that we start to ask, what are the Lessons from the Edge?
The dilemma of Leslie and Sandes is obvious.
“Do you pull the plug… It seems silly at this stage, it is just a run!” says Leslie.
The final third of the film explores many questions, one is quite haunting, “Are you prepared to go out and do one of these things and die?” Asks Leslie.
“Yes, pretty much,” responds Griesel.
To not push life to the full is a slow death anyway they say and as the footage rolls on, you are left pondering your own life questions as well as the questions that Griesel, Sandes and Leslie had to ask.
Two mates, crossing a country and drinking tea – they live life to the full and it is these endearing moments that concludes the film with Leslie’s thoughtful narrative.
What would you do, what are your Lessons from the Edge?
Episode 148 of Talk Ultra is a Kilian Jornet Special
Kilian Jornet was pretty much was missing from the mountain, ultra and trail calendar for the past 18-months and rightly so. He had set targets on the final summit of his Summits of my Life project – Everest. A failed attempt in a previous year and then Nepal earthquakes had put things on hold. No bad thing. Kilian learned, progressed and then finally summited Everest twice in one week which blew the minds of the whole world.
Of course, anything so amazing has questions raised over it and rightly so. Just recently an article appeared and Kilian responded. Read HERE.
The Interview 01:0810
This interview with Kilian is in-depth and discusses the whole #SOML project and we talk about Kilian’s approach and ethos in regard to his adventures.
The interview is not about trying to prove what Kilian has achieved! This is about providing a voice and hopefully in that process, many aspects will be made clear.
More will come to light in regard to Everest and ultimately one has to assume the Everest film will answer all of those questions. The film will be released in 2018.
Post Everest, Kilian started running again and won a super-fast Sierre Zinal, he won Hardrock 100 with a dislocated shoulder, placed 2nd behind Francois at UTMB and won Glen Coe Skyline. In the winter, he has had operations on his shoulders and now is in recovery and waiting to get back into the SkiMo season.
This show is co-hosted by Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer and we provide a review of the 2017 Mountain, Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning year.
Kilian Jornet Summits Mt Everest – Alone and without fixed ropes or oxygen, he completes the climb in and amazing 26 hours.
Kilian Jornet has done it again. The Catalan successfully summited Mount Everest this week in 26 hours without the use of additional oxygen or fixed ropes. Alone, in a single climb, Jornet reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain (8848 metres).
The climb sets a *new “Fastest Known Time” of 26 hours from the Everest Base Camp (5,100 metres) to the summit. Due to stomach problems, Jornet didn’t complete the descent to the Everest Base Camp, having to at the Advanced Base Camp (6,500 metres) before the final descent.
“Up to 7,700m I felt really good and was making progress as planned, but then I started to feel unwell, probably from stomach virus,”Jornet said. “From then on I made slow progress and had to keep stopping to recover. I finally reached the summit at midnight.”
He completed the climb from Everest Base Camp at the ancient Rombuk monastery to the summit via the traditional route up the north face. Jornet began the challenge at Everest Base Camp on May 20 at 22h local time (+5: 45 GMT).
At 12h15 local time he was back at the Everest Advanced Base Camp, where he confirmed reaching the summit at midnight. In general, expeditions take four days to reach the summit from the Advanced Base Camp. Given his stomach virus, Jornet decided to end the attempt at the Advanced Base Camp instead of descending to the Base Camp, near the Rombuk monastary, as he’d initially intended.
The climb forms part of the Summits of My Life project, which, since 2012, has seen Jornet travel around the world to try to establish records on the planet’s most iconic mountains. He began with Mont Blanc in the French Alps in 2012 and since then has scaled other mountains in Europe (Mont Blanc and Cervino), North America (Denali) and South America (Aconcagua).
You can read an in-depth interview with Kilian HERE.
During the Everest challenge Jornet was accompanied by the expedition’s mountain guide and video cameraman Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, another Salomon athlete. After meteorologists forecast a window of good weather on May 20-21, Jornet decided to make May 20 the day to begin the challenge and left the Base Camp at 5,100 meters by the ancient monastery of Rombuk. The aim was to get to the summit in a single climb, without oxygen or fixed ropes and with minimal equipment. Finally, after reviewing the conditions for the different routes, he opted for the traditional one.
When Jornet set off at 10 p.m. local time (+5: 45 GMT), ahead of him lay 15.2km of glacial moraine before he arrived at the Advanced Base Camp (ABC). This part of the climb took 4h35 and he arrived at ABC at 2:35 a.m. He rested for two hours before continuing.
“It’s important to be fresh when you reach 8,000 metres if you want to reach the summit. I knew that in the first stage, I had to conserve energy for the final stretch,” Jornet explained.
After leaving some of the technical equipment at the ABC, he set off for the most technical part of the climb at 4:30 a.m.
Leaving the ABC, he climbed to cross Field 1 at 7,000 metres. It was 6:30 a.m. and he’d been on the move for eight hours. From there he climbed to Field 2, between 7,600 metres and 7,800 metres, where Seb Montaz was waiting for him. Montaz was there to film him during the ascent and then return to Advanced Base Camp to report on the situation.
Meanwhile, Jornet continued to climb. At around 7,500 metres he started to feel weak and had a bad stomach ache. As a result, he decided to rest for 15 minutes in Field 3 (8,300 metres). “I didn’t feel well and I was making slow progress,” he reports. “I had to stop every few meters and I had cramps and was vomiting. In spite of everything, I felt all right at altitude and decided to continue.”
From there, Jornet climbed the highest section and arrived at the summit at midnight. It was a clear night, without clouds or wind.
“Reaching the summit of Everest without fixed ropes isn’t something you’d do every day,” he said. “I saw a fantastic sunset and finally reached the summit at midnight. I was alone but I saw the lights of expeditions setting off on their ascent both on the north and south faces. I started to descend right away so as to get to the ABC as soon as possible.”
However, he rested again in Field 3 before beginning the final part of the descent and arrived at the ABC at 12h15 local time, 38 hours after he began. As he felt unwell, he decided to end the attempt at the Advanced Base Camp rather than descend to Base Camp, near the ancient monastery of Rombuk, as he’d originally intended.
The video cameraman Seb Montaz had followed Kilian Jornet during some of the challenge. Montaz left Advanced Base Camp at 3h20am and climbed to 7,500 metres to wait for him and film his ascent through the high fields of Everest. Montaz would then climb to 8,020 meters to film. From there he descended to the Advanced Base Camp to wait for Jornet, climbing up to 7,000 metres to meet him. It was another handful of hours on the mountain for this guide-turned-cameraman.
Before Everest, Kilian Jornet had spent two weeks on another 8,000m mountain, Cho Oyu (8,200 metres). The aim was to be well prepared for Everest and also to try out a new type of acclimatization.
“In four weeks we have reached two 8,000 metres summits so it seems our acclimatization has worked,” Jornet said. “We had been training in hypoxia for a few weeks before and we went to acclimatize in the Alps before coming here. It seems that this type of express acclimatization works and the body tires less and as a result we’re stronger when it comes to the challenge.”
Following the initial attempt, Kilian completed an ascent of the mountain a 2nd time on May 27. Again without the use of fixed ropes or supplemental oxygen, this attempt just five days after summiting Everest on May 22.
“I’m so happy to have made the summit again!” Jornet says according to his blog. “Today I felt good although it was really windy so it was hard to move fast. I think summiting Everest twice in one week without oxygen opens up a new realm of possibilities in alpinism and I’m really happy to have done it.”
Kilian completed in *17-hours this time from advanced base camp to summit.
1. Prototype Salomon Mountaineering Boots – designed specifically for the Everest expedition. They include lightweight prototype trail running shoes (unseen here) that are placed inside the outer boots once Jornet reaches the snow line.
2. Salomon Prototype Sleeping suit – Prototype 1-piece high-altitude suit engineered and fully developed by Salomon.
3. Salomon S-LAB X Alp Carbon 2 GTX® Shoes
4. Salomon X-MAX Goggles
5. Salomon Sagarmatha Glacier Sunglasses
6. Salomon Soft Flasks
7. Salomon S/Lab Trail Running Gloves
8. Salomon Beanies
9. Salomon X Alp GTX® Pants
10. Salomon X Alp Mid Hoodie
11. Salomon X Alp Speed Pant
12. Salomon S-LAB Socks
13. Salomon Prototype Mountaineering Poles
14. Salomon Primo Base Layer Shirt and Pants
15. Salomon S-LAB X Alp Baffled Down Jacket
16. Salomon S-LAB Modular Running Shorts
17. Salomon XA Trail Running Cap
18. Salomon Peak 40 Bag
Press release and information via Salomon.
*Records need to be confirmed and ratified. Trail Runner Mag asks questions regarding the records HERE
“Good feelings today! Climb from Advanced Base Camp to 8.400m in a bit less than 6 hours. Our acclimatization process continues! #OurEverest”
Fast and light and without oxygen, Kilian Jornet has started his 2nd attempt at the summit of Everest. He departed on the 2017 adventure on Saturday May 20th* (Tibet is GMT +8) from the monastery of Rongbuk.
*Schedule in Tibet. 18,15 Spanish time, 17,15 hour in London, from rongbuk monastery 5.100 mts.
Taking the north face route, the world famous runner, climber and ski mountaineer will look to climb to the summit of the 8848m peak in a record time – he failed in 2016 due to bad weather.
Just recently in preparation, Kilian climbed in China with his partner Emelie Forsberg and made a successful summit of Cho You – the sixth highest mountain in the world at 8,188 metres (26,864 ft) above sea level. You can read his summary HERE.
Just a few days ago, Kilian reached 8400m after climbing from advanced base camp at 6400m. He tweeted, “Good feelings today! Climb from Advanced Base Camp to 8.400m in a bit less than 6 hours. Our acclimatization process continues! #OurEverest”
There is no benchmark for what Kilian is trying to achieve as with his ‘Summits Of My Life Project’ he will start from the last inhabited place. Records are usually taken from a base camp on the mountain. Kilian will leave and return to the monastery at Rongbuk.
Fast and Light? Here is Kilian’s equipment:
See the map:
We wish Kilian and the #OurEverest team god speed and good luck for the ultimate #SOML experience.
I have to say, I, like many others have had worries and concerns about the ‘Summits’ program. Let’s be clear here, I don’t doubt or question Kilian’s ability. What I do say and have always said, if you do anything enough times, it will eventually go wrong or something will happen. Kilian has already experienced loss and tragedy on this project. The death of Stephan Brosse was certainly a wake up call but Kilian understands the risks. Certainly the recent death of Ueli Steck is reminder to all of the challenge ahead.
“You have to go look for happiness in life, find it in the things that make you feel alive. Life is not something to be preserved or protected, it is to be explored and lived to the full.” – Kilian Jornet
“On the track, there is no risk so we time ourselves to get a benchmark. In the mountains, it is different. We try to become one with the mountain by finding new limits. It’s an emotion, from the heart, very connected to risk.”
Everest is the final test in the #SOML project and will probably be the most demanding challenge of the project and, indeed, of his life. Kilian has broken records on mountains around the world and the final part of this personal project is an incredible one; an attempt to establish a ‘FKT’ (fastest known time) for ascending Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 8,848m. Kilian is taking on this challenge his own way, in the most pure and minimalist manner possible.
UPDATE – Sunday 21st May 1530 UK Time
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE #SOML #OurEverest @kilianj – Seb has seen Kilian at 7500m, apparently KJ is good! Weather also good!
KILIAN SUMMITS EVEREST from #SOML
Kilian Jornet has the Everest summit, midnight (local time) from 21 to 22 May. To do that you have not used or oxygen, fixed ropes and neither has done one go.
The summit has achieved for the north face of the highest mountain in the world (8.848m) following the traditional route. Kilian Jornet started the challenge of Everest Base Camp, located in the old monastery of Rombuk (5.100m) on May 20 at 22h local time (+5: 45 GMT).
At 12h15 local time on 22 May is back to Advanced Base Camp of Everest (6.500m) which confirmed the summit achieved at midnight, 26 hours after starting the ascent.
38 hours after starting the challenge and get back to Advanced Base Camp explains: “Until I felt good 7.700m and planning ahead as planned, but from that point I started find bad guess to a stomach virus. From there I advanced very slowly and had to go stopping every so often to get me to recover. Finally, however, I made the summit at midnight “
Due to illness, Jornet decides to terminate the attempt to Advanced Base Camp instead of down at Everest Base Camp, located in the old monastery Rombuk as planned initially.
Once you have more information about the challenge, informed through the channels Summits of My Life.
The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series kicked-off this weekend in China with YadingSkyrun – a 29km ‘SKY CLASSIC’ event that set a new benchmark in high altitude sport.
Yes, Skyrunner’s got high in China with a personification of racing in the sky – 4700m to be exact!
Staring in the centre of Yading’s Shangri-La the race started at 0700 with a gradual downhill to ease the legs and mind into a gruelling day amongst some of the finest trails, mountain and sky that China has to offer. After 3.5km, the race will hit the lowest point – 2860m! To place this in perspective, most races in Europe ‘top-out’ at 2800m! From here, the only way was up – passing a small village, the race route hugs a single-track that weaves through the mountains and reaches the race summit at 4700m. Buddhist prayer flags make an iconic and memorable end to hours of climbing and what follows is a fast descent all the way back to Chonggu Temple and the finish line.
Yading is blessed with immense natural beauty, including the three sacred peaks (Mount Chenrezig, Jampayang, and Chenadorje) which loom over the National Park at an altitude of over 6,000m. From the 5th Dalai Lama through Joseph Rock this area has been a source of spiritual inspiration.
Featuring 22 races in 11 countries, the Yading Skyrun was a great start for the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series. The pure ethos of racing in the sky was personified by this season opener. Skyrunning was grounded as a high-altitude sport in the early 90’s and now, some 25+ years later, Skyrunning reaches new heights – 4700m to be exact!
Yading, located in China’s Sichuan province provided a perfect arena for modern day running gladiators to battle amongst the incredible landscape and high-altitude that this area has to offer.
Megan Kimmel approaching the 4700m summit of the race.
The ladies race was all about 2016 Yading champion Megan Kimmel. She returned to China from her home in the USA and showed the competition a clean pair of heals in what was a strong and stand out performance that will most definitely have the completion looking at the calendar ahead and wondering how do we beat this outstanding performer.
“I loved China last-year when I raced here. The team at China Mountain Trails are incredible and the races they offer are unique. I live at altitude but here I get to race really high. Don’t underestimate the difficulty that this brings. I am very happy to kick-off my Skyrunning year with this victory.”
Ragna Debats finished 3rd in 2016 and this year moved up one place finishing 2nd ahead of Katrine Villumsen – their times 4:06:42 and 4:13:21 to Kimmel’s impressive 3:33:55.
Andy Wacker, here leading the race eventually finished 2nd.
The men’s race was somewhat of a nail-biter and nobody could have predicted that Bhim Gurung would repeat his 2016 victory. USA based Andy Wacker (who placed 3rd in the previous day’s VK) lead the race at a relentless pace. At one point, he had opened up a large gap on the chasers – Pascal Egli, Duo Ji and Bhim Gurung. However, at the highest point of the race at 4700m and with just over 5km’s to go – Gurung unleashed a relentless downhill that reeled in all the competition. Skyrunning may very well be about the uphill, but as so many races have shown, (the Dolomites SkyRace a great example) what goes up must come down and Gurung was without equal in China. He crossed the line in a new course record 3:06:51. Wacker held on for 2nd in 3:08:23 and Ji edged out Egli for 3rd in 3:08:49.
Unlike many races in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series Yading was very unique due to the the high-altitude. It was noticeable amongst the elite athletes as they fought against oxygen debt. Lower down the field though, runners battled the conditions to achieve their own personal goals. China offered a very unique and awe-inspiring start to 2017 and for sure, China holds a bright future for new events with China Mountain Trails and Migu Run.
Attention now turns to the now iconic island of La Palma and the Transvulcania Ultramarathon which has become a flagship of the ‘SWS’ ever since the iconic 2012 edition – Less Cloud, More Sky! Follow the action from May 11th through to May 14th.
Also take place over the weekend in China:
The Yading VK started on May 1st starting at noon. Covering a distance of 7km the race had an elevation gain of 1072m – starting at 3992m and concluding at 5000m, a first for Skyrunning! Read the race report and view the images HERE.
Yading Kora Ultra winner, 敏 祁
The Yading Kora Ultra started alongside the Yading Skyrun and extended its race loop from the Chonggu Temple to take in the Kora pilgrimage route over 46km. The latter stages of the race were the final 5km’s of the ‘classic’ race from the 4700m summit all the way down the single-track to the finish line at 3992m. With over 2,300m of elevation gain over the length of the course, and the finish line sitting at just over 4,000m, the race challenges beginners and elites alike. The race was fast and furious with Salomon Running International athlete Ida Nilsson taking an incredible victory in 6:05:02 and placing 6th overall. 妍星 马 placed 2nd in 7:52:30 and Yasuko Nomura 3rd in 9:22:07. The men’s race was won by 2:16 marathon runner, 敏 祁 in 5:19:28. Francois d’Haene placed 2nd and 晶 梁 3rd, 5:28:07 and 5:48:13 respectively.
Yading Kora Ultra ladies winner, Ida Nilsson.
About the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series
The “2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series”. The Chinese company, Migu Run, under the name of Migu Xempower, was the Series’ main sponsor in 2016.
The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series features 22 races in 11 countries and will reward the champions in the various categories a € 60,000 end of season prize purse.
The Chinese company Migu Run, the creator and owner of an advanced online and offline exercise and health management platform, has been announced as the new long-term title sponsor of the Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series beginning in 2017.
The Series is structured in three categories, Sky Classic, Sky Extreme and Sky Ultra, counting 22 races in 11 countries stretching from April to October.
Yading is the highest race of the circuit reaching 4,664m altitude. The Yading Skyrun will be organised by China Mountain Trails (CMT), a subsidiary of Migu Run, entrusted with spearheading the trail and mountain running events.
“Time was running out and conditions on the mountain weren’t changing. The unstable weather continued and there continued to be a high risk of avalanches on the higher reaches. We left the mountain feeling somewhat frustrated. We were well acclimatized and could climb without taking serious risks, but at the same time we were very satisfied with the activities that we had been able to carry out.” – Kilian Jornet
The mountain is always the boss. The day that you don’t respect the mountain may well be the last day that you spend in the playground. I am pleased to say that Kilian as an adventurer and mountaineer has progresses not only physically but mentally. He some this up well when despite obvious eagerness to reach the summit of Everest, he was able to step back and think, ‘We had to postpone the challenge of climbing Everest because a rapid ascent would expose us to the risk of accidents.’
I for one am happy to hear Kilian speak these words. The mountain will always be there.
“I’m very happy with what I’ve learned these last few weeks in the Himalayas. We’ve seen what things work and what needs to change. We have learned and personally I have grown as a climber. The expedition has left us feeling very positive in spite of not being able to reach the summit.” – Kilian Jornet
Importantly, Kilian looks at this expedition not as failure but as a stepping stone to a future successful attempt.
In his own words you can read his thoughts on his SOML post HERE.
Last weekend I was in Tromso, Norway for the Tromso SkyRace. The race was the first race in the new Skyrunner® Extreme Series.
Created a couple of years ago by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, the first edition in 2014 was a low key affair with a handful of participants, last year the race was added to the Skyrunner® World Series and now this year, the race has reached maturity with an additional 8km and ‘Extreme’ status.
The race is an extension of Kilian and Emelie’s day-to-day life in the mountains and I guess this is what is so special about the event (in addition to a stunning course), it is the proximity that the dynamic duo have with all the participants. They are really ‘hands-on!’
In and around all the planning and the energy for a race, there is time to chill, relax and take time out with friends. Both of them find that an important aspect of a sport they love and the quiet of Norway allows for a ‘normal’ life.
With a VK on Friday and then the main events on Saturday, the duo have no rest. In particular, one manages to gain a full perspective of the energy of Kilian. He marks the course (with others), checks the course, runs around doing errands and then when the race is underway he is out ahead of the runners reaching the highest point of the course only to cheer runners on (and photograph them) and then to get back to the finish line and welcome each and everyone home! Of course, they have an incredible team of volunteers; it’s a group effort.
Race day and packing was over close to midnight and then the following morning at a leisurely breakfast I assumed Kilian was sleeping or packing. I asked Emelie, ‘Is Kilian preparing for his trip to Nepal?’
The answer, ‘No, he has already gone!’
It puts everything into perspective. Kilian is a man who has an abundance of energy that few can fathom.
I have fond memories thinking back to September 2012. I was in northern Spain and it was the day before Cavalls del Vent. Sitting at a table for a pre-race dinner was Anton Krupicka, Dakota Jones, Emelie Forsberg, Terry Conway and others… Kilian revealed his ‘Summits of my Life’ project and of course, we all asked, what will be the final?
‘Everest!’ was the response.
The table was quiet. I remember hearing Anton saying, ‘So cool man!’ and then without thinking, speaking on impulse I said, ‘Will you use oxygen?’
The table went quiet, all eyes looked at me and then Kilian.
Kilian replied quietly, ‘Of course not… that would be doping!’
That moment has stuck with me and I often think of it and now, after a series of successful and incredible summits, Kilian is in Nepal getting ready for the ultimate one.
I have to say, I, like many others have had worries and concerns about the ‘Summits’ program. Let’s be clear here, I don’t doubt or question Kilian’s ability. What I do say and have always said, if you do anything enough times, it will eventually go wrong or something will happen. Kilian has already experienced loss and tragedy on this project. The death of Stephan Brosse was certainly a wake up call but Kilian understands the risks and I think back to a quote of his when he said:
“You have to go look for happiness in life, find it in the things that make you feel alive. Life is not something to be preserved or protected, it is to be explored and lived to the full.”
I like to think that I have that freedom of thought but I lack the ability to go with it. It makes a huge difference.
“On the track, there is no risk so we time ourselves to get a benchmark. In the mountains, it is different. We try to become one with the mountain by finding new limits. It’s an emotion, from the heart, very connected to risk.”
Everest is the final test in the project and will probably be the most demanding challenge of the project and, indeed, of his life. He has broken records on mountains around the world and the final part of this personal project is an incredible one; an attempt to establish a ‘FKT’ (fastest known time) for ascending Everest, the world’s highest mountain at 8,848m. Kilian is taking on this challenge his own way, in the most pure and minimalist manner possible.
“Everest will probably be one of the most demanding climbs I’ve ever faced. It will be a great learning experience, from how my body reacts to the high altitude to how to apply the Alpine approach to the mountain. I’ve been preparing for this challenge for months and I’m keen to get started. The Summits of My Life project has always taken me to my limits and this time it won’t be any different,”Kilian Jornet on his blog post here.
Denali, Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Aconcagua and Kilimanjaro have seen records fall to Kilian. Altitude is going to be a key issue, something that he struggled with when ascending Aconcagua. In a recent post on the Suunto website (here) Kilian says, “The highest I have been is 7700 m, I was feeling good then, but there is a big difference after 8200 m and after 8500 m. It’s really important to be well acclimatized to around 6000 m. So I will spend many nights at around this altitude. And then it’s important I go to around 8000 m before the attempt.”
Weather, conditions, adjustment and I guess an element of luck are all going to play a major factor in a successful FKT on this Himalayan monster. There are no guarantees here! Kilian although clear, focused and meticulously prepared seems to understand that he may well need more than one attempt, “It’s a big mountain, and we have a long term perspective. We will try this year, but probably we will need to come again next year.”
With a proposed attempt date for September, the ascent will be made on the north side, via either Norton-couloir or Horbein-couloir depending on conditions. The Hornbein Couloir is a notable narrow and steep couloir high to the west on the north face of Mount Everest in Tibet, that extends from about 8000 m to 8500 m elevation, 350 metres below the summit. For the first 400 m vertical, the couloir inclines at about 47 degrees, and the last 100 m is narrower and steeper with about a 60 degree average incline. The Norton Couloir or Great Couloir is a steep gorge high on the north face of Mount Everest in Tibet, China, which lies east of the pyramidal peak and extends to within 150 m below the summit.
As one would expect, Kilian will travel ‘fast and light’ with no oxygen and he will carry everything he needs in a pack.
“This is so I can move more quickly. With light equipment we can advance quicker, although we know this increases the risk. We’re aware of this risk and we’re taking it because ultimately this is the way we like to approach the mountain.” (Summits of my Life blog)
The Everest expedition is made up of Jordi Tosas, an Alpine climber who knows the area well, as well as the cameramen and guides Sébastien Montaz-Rosset and Vivian Bouchez who has trained with Kilian in and around Chamonix.
“Whatever happens, if we don’t make it, for me it’s not a failure. On the contrary, it’s a lesson. I know that whatever happens we’ll return from Everest having learnt something.” – Kilian Jornet