Steck: “Basically I believe he can make it”
Ambitious or overwinded? The climbers’ scene is discussing the upcoming Everest project of the Spaniard Kilian Jornet. As reported before, the 28-year-old Catalan will set off to Tibet next Sunday to climb or rather run up the highest mountain on earth, within his project “Summits of my life”. The plan sounds crazy: if possible in a single push from Rongbuk Monastery to the 8850-meter-high summit; without bottled oxygen and Sherpa support; if the conditions on the mountain are right, on a seldom climbed route (Norton or Hornbein Couloir); and as if all that were not enough, in the monsoon. Of course, this evokes memories of Reinhold Messner’s legendary Everest solo in 1980. But Jornet will not be climbing alone. And he is a completely different type of climber than the South Tyrolean was at that time.
Jornets strength is not his climbing technique but in particular his endurance and speed. As ski mountaineer, trail runner and skyrunner, Kilian has set many records – including on Aconcagua, with 6962 meters the highest mountain in South America. However, Everest is another 1888 meters higher, and the Spaniard has never before been on an altitude of more than 8,000 meters. He had trained hard for the project in the Himalayas, Jornet wrote on Facebook: “This year I’ve been doing a lot of alpinism and during the last months I’ve been trying to be in altitude, between the Alps and Colorado, in order to do a lot of mountaineering.”
Together via the Eiger North Face
“I know Kilian a little,” Ueli Steck writes to me, after I have asked him to assess Jornet’s chance of success on Everest: “He is extremely fit and strong. And he is realistic. He knows what he is getting himself into.” The Swiss top climber and the Spanish skyrunner met in the Himalayas in fall 2015. Steck was then waiting – as it later turned out, in vain – for better conditions on the 7804-meter-high Nuptse East, where he planned to climb the extremely difficult route via the Southeast Pillar for the first time in Alpine style. At that time, Jornet was in the Khumbu too. Ueli and Kilian spent a little time running and climbing together. After returning from Nepal they met in Switzerland and climbed via the Eiger North Face, Steck ahead, followed by Jornet.
Late love for trail running
Unlike the Spaniard, Ueli has discovered for himself trail running rather late, but since he did, he is fired up for this mountain sport. During the acclimatization period in the Khumbu for his Shishapangma South Face expedition last spring, Ueli ran – along with his German climbing partner David Goettler – many kilometers at high altitude. In mid-July the 39-year-old for the first time joined a mountain run over a distance of more than 100 kilometers: Ueli finished the Eiger Ultra Trail (101 km, 6700 meters in altitude) in an impressive 26th place.
“If necessary, several attempts”
“Clearly, in such a project you need good conditions and also a bit of luck,” says Steck with a view to Jornet’s Everest project. “If you try such ambitious projects, the chance of failure is significantly higher than if you ascend on the normal route with bottled oxygen.” However, a success of the Spaniard on Everest is quite possible, writes Ueli: “Basically I believe Kilian can make it. He just has to try it now, and if it doesn’t work, once again next year. Kilian is realistic enough. I definitely know that.”
Date3. August 2016 | 18:46
TagsKilian Jornet, Mount Everest, Mountain run, North side of Mount Everest, Summits of my life, Tibet, trail running, Ueli Steck