Kilian Jornet is one of the best athletes you have never heard about. Photo: Jordi Saragossa

There are superhuman athletes who dedicate their whole life to scaling Everest, others who aim to run 100 miles, or compete in marathons; some are looking to dominate mountains in skiing and mountain running - and then there is Kilian Jornet, who has done it all.

Jornet, the 29-year-old Catalan from Sabadell, Spain has to be one of the most incredible, unheralded athletes in the world, his list of accomplishments absolutely staggering.

Born in a 2000-metre high (Cap de Rec in Cerdanya), Jornet was a product of the cliffs of the eastern Pyrenees, competing in snow sports during the winter and mountain running in the summer.

Jornet has set himself challenges to push his own boundaries, starting with Run or Die which was also a book he wrote. He spent four years breaking records up Kilimanjaro, in the GR20 in Corsica, in the Tahoe Rim Trail and in the Transpirinenc, among others.

In 2013 he set a new speed record running up and down the Matterhorn in two hours and 52 minutes - 22 minutes faster than the previous record holder. He has been up and down Mont Blanc in 4 hours 57 minutes, another record.

He also ran the length of the Pyrenees, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, 850km and 42,000m of elevation, in eight days.

Everest must be considered his biggest, and latest achievement as he scaled the world’s tallest mountain in 17 hours unaided in May.

These challenges he sets himself, but he is also a formidable force in trail running, dominating some of the most prestigious ultra marathons in the world.

In 2010 and 2011, he won back to back titles of the Western States 100-mile endurance run, seen by many as the original 100 miler, and the same race that South African Ryan Sandes won this year.

Jornet also ran another 100 miler in the Hard Rock endurance race in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range this year, but at mile 13 he fell and dislocated his shoulder leaving a treacherous 87 miles of mountain running ahead of him. Instead of pulling out, Jornet won the race, his fourth title at the Hard Rock.

Jornet’s list of running accomplishments reads like a list of unimaginable trail races, where he has taken first place in most. Races such as the Marathon du Mont Blanc, he has won six times, the Transvulcania one of the hardest mountain-ultramarathons in the Canary Islands, he won in 2013, as well as of course multiple wins at Hard Rock and Western States.

LEAP OF FAITH: Kilian Jornet in action during the Hard Rock 100 mile Endurance Race. Bottom right, the summits Jornet has conquered. Pictures: Jordi Saragossa


The list is seemingly endless for Jornet. However, it is only half of his repertoire as when the snow falls he is still out on the mountains, breaking records and winning races, but this time on skis.

Jornet has represented Spain in skiing events and Ski mountaineering since 2002, including a host of wins in vertical, and long distance, races.

‘Summits of my life’ is another project of Jornet’s where he set him self goals to break ascent and descent records for some of the most important mountains on the planet. This project recently concluded with Jornet summiting Everest, on a new route, in what Jornet claims is the new fastest known time of 17 hours.

On May 27 this year, Jornet summited Mount Everest from the North side without the use of supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes - for the second time in a week. Jornet began at Advanced Base Camp (6,500m) and reached the summit (8,848m) after 17 hours in his second attempt. His first attempt six days prior took him 26 hours.

Before tackling the world’s biggest mountain, Jornet also broke records on Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Denali, with a time of 11 hours and 48 minutes using both skis and crampons, breaking the previous record by 5 hours and 6 minutes.

Jornet cuts a very humble and modest figure and is well known to be incredibly down to earth for such an illustrious athlete. There is a rather famous image of him from this year’s Hard Rock race where he is standing in the dimming light as he talks with the last man to cross the line in the race, hours after he had finished, arm still in a sling.

Jornet, and his Swedish girlfriend Emilie Forsberg, another well known trail runner, have also given back to the sport as they set up a unique skyrunning event in the Arctic peaks of northern Norway called the Tromsø Skyrace, above the little town they called home.

Jornet’s feats are truly unbelievable. His range of disciplines, across seasons, from running, skiing and mountaineering, showcases his diversity, but instead of spreading himself too thin, the Catalan is a master all year round.

However, apart from his sporting prowess, his humility too most impressive. There cannot be anyone who can top Jornet for his overall talent in the mountains, and yet, his philosophy is not one of competitiveness and ruthlessness; he is simply looking to be a part of nature.

“I want to show that we are a part of this world, neither less nor more important, but complementary. We will be the most silent on the mountain, so that our steps are not noticed,” he said of his plans to summit Everest.

“We are not runners, nor mountain climbers, nor skiers, not even sportsmen. We are people.

“Emotions shared aren’t simply piled one on top of another; they’re multiplied. A summit isn’t a geographical point, a fact or a stopwatch. A summit is memories, it’s emotions stored within us, it’s the people who come with us or who await us at the bottom. We ourselves are all the people we love and admire, who are with us even when they’re not.”


Sunday Tribune

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