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with Stefan Nestler

Two fast men on Everest: Jornet and Steck

Kilian Jornet (r.) and Emelie Forsberg (l.) in Kathmandu

“I feel really acclimatized and strong in altitude,” said Kilian Jornet – already before he set off towards the Himalayas last weekend. As a training for his eight-thousander expedition, the speed specialist had climbed along with his Swedish girl friend Emelie Forsberg in Norway, and the day before their departure both had started at the Trofeo Mezzalama in Italy, one of the classic races for ski mountaineers in . Kilian had won second place in a team with the Swiss Martin Anthamatten and Werner Marti, Emelie had won the women’s competition along with the Swiss Jennifer Fiechter and the French Laetitia Roux. Jornet and Forsberg traveled via the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to Tibet. Within the next two weeks, they want to climb Cho Oyu, with an altitude of 8,188 meters the sixth highest mountain on earth. “If everything goes well, we could be on the summit on 7 or May,” said Emelie, for whom it is the first experience on an eight-thousander. And Kilian adds: “For me, it will be good preparation for Everest because I’ll be better acclimatized when I get there.”

Light and fast

Kilian Jornet on Everest in 2016

The 29-year-old Catalan specified his plan for a speed climb of the highest mountain on earth. He is aiming for the summit at the end of May. This time, Jornet will be accompanied on Everest only by the cameraman Sébastien Montaz-Rosset. He wanted to climb up to the summit either via the Norton or the Hornbein couloir, Kilian said, “of course, depending on the conditions.” At first, he plans further acclimatization trips starting from the Advanced Base Camp at 6,300 meters. Then Jornet wants to return to Rongbuk Monastery at 5,000 meters, the last permanently inhabited settlement below the summit. From there he plans to climb the mountain, if possible, in a single push, without the use of bottled oxygen. “Light and quick. There are people who think it’s madness,” said Kilian, “but for me the mountain is a space where everyone should be free to do what they think they can do. I like to travel light so I can be quick. In this way, we spend less time at altitude and suffer less fatigue, although we are aware that it makes the expedition more risky.” In fall 2016, the snowmasses on Everest had prevented Jornet from doing a serious speed attempt at all.

Steck: “Great conditions”

Ueli Steck above Camp 2

Ueli Steck is also a fast man, who by the way has already speed climbed together with Jornet. The Swiss top climber has been on the south side of Mount Everest for almost two weeks now. The 40-year-old has just spent two nights in Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. “Beautiful weather and warm,” Ueli writes on Facebook. “I was taking the chance to go and have a look towards the West Shoulder. Conditions are great so far. But you never know, it can change until in one month!” According to Ueli, his climbing partner Tenjing Sherpa suffered frostbite. “Hopefully frostbite is getting better soon, so that we can be together on the mountain again.” Steck wants to do a spectacular Everest-Lhotse traverse this spring: via the rarely climbed West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir to the summit, then down to the South Col and (via the variant opened in 2010 by the native Kazakh Denis Urubko) to the 8,611-meter-high summit of Lhotse – as always on his eight-thousander projects without supplemental oxygen. In this combination, the traverse has never been tried. “That would be my dream,” Ueli told me before the expedition. “But I am also realistic and experienced enough to know that it can only work if very, very much matches. There must be perfect conditions and the weather must be good and stable. I think it’s important to have ideas, but in the end you have to decide on the mountain what is possible and impossible.”


25. April 2017 | 19:03