25 year old Kilian Jornet is well known in the ultra running community as the holder of multiple record times on the worlds signature trails and as 3-time winner of the Mont Blanc ultra trail. Now the Catalan runner has set his sights on the world’s mountains bringing together the sports of ultra running and alpinism in a new ground-breaking approach. His first major route was a rapid solo traverse of the Mont Blanc massif from south to north, Italy to France, without assistance, as part of the “Summits of My Life” project.
After several reconnaissance trips in the last few weeks, Kilian left the town of Courmayeur, Italy at 03.53am on 18th September and climbed Mont Blanc via the Innominata Ridge (graded D+). He reached the summit of Mont Blanc at 10.10am descending via the Gouter Ridge and continuing to the Chamonix valley to arrive at the church in the centre of Chamonix, France at 12.35pm - a total time of 8 hours 42 minutes. In all Journets route involved over 3800m of ascent and 42 kilometers in distance.
This successful traverse comes three months after the tragic death of Jornets climbing partner Stéphane Brosse during the pairs attempt to cross the same mountain range from west to east. After taking a step back from the project, preparation for the traverse has involved a review of safety procedures and several training runs on parts of the route. Kilian was able to travel extremely light carrying a minimum of technical equipment - rope, helmet, harness, crampons, ice axe, radio - with his team in radio contact throughout.
Jornet commented “There was a section where the snow was really hard, wind crust with ice underneath, so I had to go more slowy... and climbing the technical part you need to take your time. But I know the descent really well and the snow was good, so I could go pretty fast coming down. After having to concentrate on the way up, the rest was pure pleasure!”
It will be interesting to see whether this traverse heralds an increase in interest in this ‘new’ hybrid mountain discipline, combining mountain running with technical alpinism. Some exceptional mountaineers have impressed with speed ascents of technical routes such as Ueli Steck with his ascents of the Colton MacIntyre route on the Grandes Jorasses in 2 hours 21 mins and the North Face of the Matterhorn in 1 hour 56 mins, Dani Arnold and who took Steck’s record on the North Face of the Eiger with his new fastest time of 2 hours 28 mins. However for less technical ground such as the Innominata the future surely belongs to highly trained running talents such as Jornet. Incidently Jornets VO2 Max (considered one of the more important measures of endurance fitness) has been measured at 92 ml/kg/min, one of the highest recorded ever values (the five times Tour de France winner cyclist Miguel Indurain was measured at 88).
As part of Jornets “Summits of My Life” project he hopes to make record attempts on Mount Elbrus, the Matterhorn, a speed attempt of Mont Blanc, Mount Mckinley, Aconcagua, with the final proposed ascent being Mount Everest. Montaz-Rosset film captured the traverse on camera and a series of short films will be released during the autumn, with a full length documentary coming out at the end of the year. You can read more about Jornet on his website and see more of Seb Montaz film work here.