AT MID­NIGHT ON MAY 21, KIL­IAN JOR­NET STOOD ON TOP OF THE WORLD.

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He car­ried nei­ther oxy­gen cylin­ders nor ropes, and no guides or Sher­pas were at his side. The 29-year-old was alone, light and nim­ble – the torch beams of ex­pen­sively as­sem­bled ex­pe­di­tions on the moun­tain far be­low punc­tu­ated the black­ness. With his light­weight kit, a few energy gels and just a sin­gle litre of wa­ter, he looked more run­ner than moun­taineer. Which, of course, is pre­cisely what he is: the great­est moun­tain run­ner in his­tory, in fact.

Seem­ingly not con­strained by the same laws of physics as the rest of us, the Cata­lan moun­tain goat had just set a record for the fastest known time ( FKT) as­cend­ing the planet’s most fa­bled peak: a scarcely be­liev­able 26 hours from base camp on the Ti­betan side of Ever­est to the 8 848m sum­mit. Wear­ing cus­tom-built shoes en­gi­neered by his spon­sor Salomon, he’d run the first stretch in the style of one of the moun­tain trail-run­ning races he’s dom­i­nated for nearly a decade, be­fore pulling on cram­pons and ad­vanc­ing into the more tech­ni­cal ter­rain. Passing sea­soned moun­taineers tak­ing up to four days to toil their way up into the ‘ death zone’, he’d continued in a sin­gle push to the top. Some had scoffed at his aim to ‘run up’ Ever­est. But, by any rel­a­tive mea­sure, this was ex­actly what he had achieved.

“From the top, I could make out the neigh­bour­ing moun­tains, Cho La and Lhotse, the plateaus. It was truly beau­ti­ful,” says Jor­net, typ­i­cally more con­cerned with the value of the ex­pe­ri­ence than the scale of his achieve­ment. “Ev­ery­body can climb how they feel they want to – there’s no good or bad way. But for me, I wanted to see if it was pos­si­ble to do it in one go, with no oxy­gen, no ropes, faster. My way: it felt good to be alone up there. To just en­joy the mo­ment and not have to think about other peo­ple.”

A Hi­malayas novice Jor­net may have been. But the Alps-based ultra run­ner knew more than enough about moun­tains to un­der­stand that the sum­mit, as the say­ing goes, is only half­way. De­spite the suc­cess of his FKT, the as­cent had been far from straight­for­ward – his 1.7m, 58kg frame was wracked by ag­o­nis­ing cramps and vom­it­ing ex­ac­er­bated by ex­treme ex­er­tion in an en­vi­ron­ment en­tirely hos­tile to even the most phys­i­o­log­i­cally gifted of hu­mans. So, at that point, he’d aban­doned his plan to de­scend all the way back down to Base Camp for a neatly book­ended time. In­stead, he holed up at Ad­vanced Base Camp (ABC), at 6 500m, as the wind picked up. His in­stincts, as usual, were good; four peo­ple died on Ever­est’s slopes that week­end.

Moun­tain- run­ning leg­end Marino Gi­a­cometti, pioneer of the high-al­ti­tude­trail Skyrun­ning move­ment that Jor­net has done so much to pop­u­larise, fol­lowed his pro­tégé’s ex­ploits with both awe and ap­pre­hen­sion from his na­tive Italy. “This is a great achieve­ment of both en­durance and sur­vival,” says Gi­a­cometti. “In trail-run­ning terms, this is one of the great per­for­mances. No ropes, no oxy­gen. No one in the world could have done this ex­cept Kil­ian.”

The vet­eran explorer Sir Ran­ulph Fi­ennes, a man not given to is­su­ing breath­less praise, par­tic­u­larly not to those who might be seen to be en­croach­ing on his turf, goes even fur­ther in as­sess­ing Jor­net’s tal­ent and achieve­ment: “Nor­mal peo­ple – and in that I count my­self – we have to ac­cept that there are those who can do things which I would say for hu­mans are not pos­si­ble.”

For Jor­net, achiev­ing the im­pos­si­ble in the Hi­malayas was merely the clos­ing chap­ter in a five-year odyssey to set FKTs on the world’s most em­blem­atic peaks. The Sum­mits of My Life project be­gan in 2012 with a sub-nine-hour ski-moun­taineer­ing tra­verse of Mont Blanc ( 4 801m), in the French Alps. Jor­net fol­lowed this with a straight up-and-down of the Alpine gi­ant from the cen­tre of the moun­tain sports Mecca, Cha­monix. Most moun­taineers take two days to scale Mont Blanc, en­cum­bered by heavy kit and com­plex lo­gis­tics. Jor­net did it in four hours and 57 min­utes, wear­ing a T-shirt, shorts and trail-run­ning shoes, break­ing a record that had stood for 23 years in the process and com­ment­ing with char­ac­ter­is­tic un­der­state­ment that “it was a nice ex­pe­ri­ence”.

The 4 478m Mat­ter­horn came in Au­gust the fol­low­ing year. Set­ting off from the el­e­gant white church in the cen­tre of Breuil-Cervinia, and fol­low­ing the clas­sic Lion’s Crest route, Jor­net raced up to the woven metal cross that teeters on the sum­mit and back down in the time it takes most of us to log on in the morn­ing, check our emails, have a cof­fee and con­sider do­ing some work: two hours and 52 min­utes. The 18-year-old record he broke in the process had be­longed to the great Ital­ian moun­tain run­ner Bruno Brunod.

To view the jaw-drop­ping drone-cap­tured video of Jor­net’s per­for­mance that day (and if you haven’t, you can check it out at runnersworld.co.za/kil­ian) is to watch one of the most ac­com­plished ath­letes of all time op­er­at­ing at the peak of his pow­ers. With midafter­noon sun­shine il­lu­mi­nat­ing the snow­lined strata of the Mat­ter­horn, the whip­pet­thin Cata­lan races up and down ser­rated, near-ver­ti­cal rock faces at a pace that leaves your head spin­ning. Dur­ing the 56 min­utes it took him to get from the sum­mit back down to his start­ing point, he de­scended at the re­mark­able rate of 2 645m per hour. Brunod ac­com­pa­nied him along the fi­nal sec­tion of the route. “This is the mo­ment that will re­main en­graved in my mem­ory,” says a mag­nan­i­mous Jor­net. “If I am what I am to­day, I owe it to peo­ple like him, who have in­spired me ever since I was a young boy.”

In 2014, Sum­mits of My Life re­ally gath­ered pace. As­cent- de­scent records fell to Jor­net on Alaska’s 6 194m De­nali ( for­merly Mt McKin­ley), where, us­ing skis fit­ted with climb­ing skins, and cram­pons, and avoid­ing fixed ropes as per the val­ues un­der­pin­ning his project, he set an up-down time of 11 hours and 48 min­utes, carv­ing more than five hours

“MY WAY: IT FELT GOOD TO BE ALONE UP THERE. TO JUST EN­JOY THE MO­MENT...”

off the pre­vi­ous best. Then, in De­cem­ber, he smashed the record on the West­ern Hemi­sphere’s highest peak, Ar­gentina’s Aconcagua (6 962m). The high-alti­tude 24km he ran to Plaza de Mules base camp at 4 350m would have wiped out many a tal­ented ath­lete, but this was merely the pre­cur­sor to the 40km of slope to the sum­mit. Turning round at the top, he scorched his way back down again at four-hour marathon pace. An­other vir­tu­oso per­for­mance, an­other record. Jor­net was named Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Adventurer of the Year, and Sum­mits of My Life was right on track… but the project’s undis­puted high point was still to come.

To those who have fol­lowed Jor­net’s ca­reer from the be­gin­ning, his glit­ter­ing ex­ploits in speed-moun­taineer­ing over the past five years will seem like a natural pro­gres­sion. Ver­sa­til­ity has been the run­ner’s hall­mark since he first pro­pelled him­self into the pub­lic con­scious­ness in 2008, win­ning and set­ting a 20-hour course record in the 161km Ul­traTrail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB), Euro­pean trail­run­ning’s flag­ship event. Within the field of sinewy, trail-hard­ened run­ners tack­ling the route’s pun­ish­ing 9 000m-ag­gre­gate climb, the name of the fresh-faced kid from the Pyre­nean moun­tain vil­lage of Cap de Rec in Cer­danya was al­ready be­ing whis­pered with awe.

He didn’t look back; he rarely has to.

There fol­lowed an un­ri­valled streak of suc­cess across the full spec­trum of trail run­ning: mam­moth, multi-day ul­tras such as the 800km Tran­spire­naica cross­ing of the Pyre­nees; revered US spirit- crush­ers such as Colorado’s Hardrock 100 (a course record for Jor­net), the 165-mile (266km) Ta­hoe Rim Trail in Cal­i­for­nia (ditto) and the West­ern States 100; shorter trail races such as the Pike’s Peak Marathon and the Zega­maAizko­rri – the ‘ Tour de France of trail­run­ning’; ver­ti­cal kilo­me­tre races; Skyrun­ning world cham­pi­onships; a course record for the GR20 in Cor­sica (re­garded by many as the tough­est trail race in Europe). A trail-run­ning trail­blazer, his range of suc­cess is akin to Usain Bolt dom­i­nat­ing ev­ery track event up to and in­clud­ing the 10 000m – and then adding the steeplechase just for kicks.

Marino Gi­a­cometti, who first met Jor­net when the then- shy 16- yearold ap­proached him at a race, be­lieves it’s this ver­sa­til­ity that sets him apart. “There have been great trail run­ners be­fore, of course,” he says. “Moun­tain run­ners, too. But no one with such a range. Skyrun­ning, ski moun­taineer­ing, the tra­di­tional long-dis­tance trails – Kil­ian has been able to do all these dis­ci­plines, and at the very best level. He’s like a skier who is able to win in the slalom, the down­hill, ev­ery­thing. He is unique.”

It’s a mea­sure of his stature that even be­fore the re­cent pro­file-boost­ing as­sault on those totemic peaks, Jor­net was as close as a trail run­ner gets to be­ing main­stream. He has more than a mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and Facebook; spon­sor­ship deals with Salomon, Su­unto, Petzl and Mercedes- Benz; an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Run or Die, that was short­listed for the Wil­liam Hill Sports Book of the Year award; and a reg­u­lar out­put of videos that are de­voured by his YouTube fans in their hun­dreds of thou­sands.

SOLE TO SOUL

Yet hu­mil­ity runs through him as surely as show­man­ship does through Bolt. You’re no more likely to see Jor­net pos­ing for a tongue­out, devil- prong selfie atop a moun­tain than you are to see him and part­ner Emelie Fors­berg, a fel­low ultra-run­ning cham­pion, hang­ing around red-car­pet events. “Kil­ian is able to speak pub­licly and do pre­sen­ta­tions or spon­sor’s events or what­ever,” says Gi­a­cometti. “But in truth he’d pre­fer not to be in­volved in such things. I of­ten think the rea­son why he loves the moun­tains so much is be­cause they give him the chance to be alone.”

Jor­net’s Sum­mits of My Life project was built on a se­ries of core val­ues. Some may sound a lit­tle too ‘ecospir­i­tual’ to some (“We’ll learn to coex­ist with the real world, the world of rocks, of plants and ice”), but in their en­tirety they chime with the anti-con­sumerist drive to­wards a mean­ing­ful re­con­nec­tion with na­ture. “We have to learn to live with less,” the val­ues con­clude. Jor­net’s fast and light ap­proach to his work on the moun­tains seems a neat em­bod­i­ment of this.

Pa­trick Le­ick, a se­nior project man­ager at Salomon, spent two years work­ing with Jor­net hon­ing the spe­cial­ist equip­ment he would wear for Ever­est. He de­scribes him as thought­ful, fo­cused and un­fail­ingly ap­proach­able. “I first met Kil­ian be­fore he won the UTMB for the first time. He’s not changed a bit – still quiet and mod­est.”

“IT TAKES TIME - A LOT OF TIME - TO RE­ALLY KNOW THE MOUN­TAINS.”

FROM LEFT: Kil­ian Jor­net – ‘shy, hum­ble, friendly’; de­scend­ing Mont Blanc; set­ting a new speed record for as­cend­ing and de­scend­ing the Mat­ter­horn in 2013; and dur­ing the Hardrock 100 in Colorado, US, which he won in 2014, 2015 and 2016 (co-win­ner).

When RW spoke to Jor­net in the wake of his sec­ond un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to set a FKT on Ever­est last sum­mer (poor weather con­di­tions, and good judge­ment, put paid to that) it was hard work pris­ing the fig­ure of his highest recorded VO2 max out of him. It is a scarcely fath­omable 92 ml/kg/min (elite run­ners range from 7085 ml/kg/min). What also came through was the strong streak of the run­ner-philoso­pher in him, in the mould of au­thor and run­ner Haruki Mu­rakami. Thought­ful, placid, ut­terly grounded. “Life is not some­thing to be pre­served or pro­tected,” he says. “It is to be ex­plored and lived to the full.”

From any­one else it might sound like a bumper- sticker plat­i­tude, but Jor­net’s mus­ings about mor­tal­ity have been forged by deep per­sonal tragedy. Sum­mits of My Life started out by cost­ing a life: French ski moun­taineer Stephane Brosse, 40, was killed in June 2012 as he and Jor­net at­tempted a speed cross­ing of the Mont Blanc mas­sif from Les Con­tamines in France to Cham­pex in Switzer­land. Jor­net was just a me­tre away when a snow cor­nice on the Aigu­ille d’Ar­gen­tiere collapsed, plum­met­ing his friend and men­tor 600m to his death. Now, when­ever Jor­net is in the moun­tains, Brosse is never far from his mind. “Stephane’s death has made me more cau­tious about the con­di­tions of na­ture and how fast they can change,” says Jor­net. “We can con­trol our­selves, and our tech­nique, but it takes time – a lot of time – to re­ally know the moun­tains.”

Brosse, Jor­net can­didly ad­mits, was his idol. Among the many things he cred­its the older man for is in­tro­duc­ing him to the con­cept of op­er­at­ing in the moun­tains in a light­weight man­ner. An­other men­tor, Swiss speed­climber Ueli Steck, was also in­stru­men­tal in Jor­net’s trans­for­ma­tive achieve­ments over the past five years. A for­mi­da­ble pair – the world’s fastest moun­tain clim­ber (Steck set the 2:22 record for as­cend­ing the north face of the Eiger) and the world’s fastest moun­tain run­ner – they tack­led var­i­ous peaks to­gether, in­clud­ing a 10-hour as­cent of the Eiger from Grindel­wald in 2015. “We’re not pi­o­neers but I think we are bold,” Steck told RW last year, brim­ming with praise for Jor­net, and pride at what the Cata­lan was at­tempt­ing in the un­for­giv­ing cru­cible of Ever­est. “We are test­ing what is pos­si­ble – what can I do with my body, where is my limit? I be­lieve it’s the wrong ap­proach to just com­pare your­self to oth­ers and try to beat them. It needs to be a more per­sonal thing: to push your­self as far as you can.” Words that will strike a chord with all run­ners, whether we’re tack­ling moun­tain as­cents or our lo­cal parkrun.

Trag­i­cally, seven months later, Steck too was dead, fall­ing 1 000m while climb­ing the Hi­malayan peak of Mount Nuptse. Jor­net was

BLUR­RING THE LINES

Some may ques­tion how much of the Ever­est – and other – as­cent(s) can re­ally be classed as run­ning, but they il­lus­trate a nar­row­ing gap be­tween trail run­ning and moun­tain climb­ing. Jor­net’s in­flu­ence on this merg­ing of the hor­i­zon­tal and the ver­ti­cal is un­ques­tion­able, but it is not a move­ment he is driv­ing sin­gle­hand­edly. The tra­di­tion of run­ning up and down moun­tains is well es­tab­lished: the Ben Ne­vis race in Scot­land dates back to 1898; the Pikes Peak Marathon, in Colorado, has been de­light­ing masochists since 1956 (Jor­net won it at a can­ter in 2012). What has changed is the level of or­gan­i­sa­tion, the GPS-en­abled trend to­wards set­ting and chas­ing FKTs, and the sheer scale of the moun­tains. No one is go­ing to ‘run up’ the north face of the Eiger, such is the tech­ni­cal difficulty of the vast con­cave slab. But, as Jor­net recog­nised, many of the big­gest lumps on the planet aren’t in fact overly tech­ni­cal. Ever­est, ap­par­ently, be­ing a case in point.

Gi­a­cometti’s Skyrun­ning move­ment has been gath­er­ing mo­men­tum since the early 1990s and there are now more than 200 races world­wide, with around 50 000 run­ners. De­fined as moun­tain run­ning above 2 000m, it’s es­sen­tially Alpin­ism with­out the clut­ter. It was made for Jor­net, and Jor­net for it.

Ber­gen-based Bri­ton Jon Al­bon, Ob­sta­cle Course Rac­ing world champ 2014-2016, is an­other ath­lete lured away from his bread and but­ter by the moun­tains. Last year he won the Skyrac­ing Ex­treme World Se­ries, a set of races de­vised by Jor­net him­self. But Al­bon’s Skyrun­ning ca­reer didn’t start so well. In his first Skyrace, in Li­mone, Italy, in 2014, he found him­self up against Jor­net. “I didn’t re­ally see him, to be hon­est,” says Al­bon. “He was 15 min­utes ahead. That sums up how most peo­ple feel when they race him.” Al­bon was not sur­prised that the Sum­mits of My Life project was born – nor where it cul­mi­nated. “There was a point when peo­ple thought it was stupid to run up and down any moun­tain, let alone the big­gest in the world. If there was ever any­one go­ing to do some­thing like this on Ever­est, it was Kil­ian.”

As with so much of what he does, Jor­net’s achieve­ments on Ever­est looked, if not ef­fort­less, then cer­tainly in­evitable. But there was ap­pre­hen­sion in his camp for this one. Le­ick was edgy and didn’t sleep for nearly two days around the at­tempt. Gi­a­cometti like­wise. Be­ing fast and nim­ble in the moun­tains can

have its ad­van­tages; you’re not ex­posed to ex­treme weather changes in the way that those tied to spending mul­ti­ple days as­cend­ing a moun­tain are. The avalanche risk is lower, too, given the rel­a­tive brevity of your time in situ. But fast and un­sup­ported does equate to more risk over­all – and how Jor­net was go­ing to re­act to ex­treme alti­tude was an un­set­tling un­known.

“On Ever­est, the moun­tain is boss, the weather is boss, you are not the boss,” says Gi­a­cometti. “And I was anx­ious for Kil­ian’s per­for­mance over 8 000m. It’s not a ques­tion only of VO2 max, for in­stance; be­yond 5 000m your VO2 re­duces by nearly half. Dif­fer­ent peo­ple have a dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion over 8 000m. I said to Kil­ian, ‘please re­turn’!”

Jor­net did so – an out­come he cred­its in large mea­sure to what he has learned by run­ning. He speaks of the in­de­fati­ga­bil­ity that ultra-run­ning pounds into you, the abil­ity to go to the well and drain it – then run for an­other 20 hours. So, too, the in­stinct to keep mov­ing at a brisk pace, and the pre­cise un­der­stand­ing of your body’s com­plex bal­ance be­tween nu­tri­tion and per­for­mance. “My ex­pe­ri­ence was worth so much on Ever­est,” says Jor­net. “Those longer races, the ul­tras, the 100-plus-mile races. These teach you to fight when you’re tired, to never give in.”

Prepa­ra­tion was a corner­stone of Sum­mits of My Life. The Spa­niard’s laid-back de­meanour be­lies a fu­ri­ous fas­tid­i­ous­ness, and if you re­spect the moun­tain, then it fol­lows that you must also pre­pare for it. Ahead of his Mat­ter­horn at­tempt, Jor­net tested out the route eight times and lay in wait for the op­ti­mum con­di­tions, tim­ing his af­ter­noon de­par­ture to the minute to en­sure he’d en­counter the min­i­mum pos­si­ble ice. He planned Ever­est for two years. When the 2016 at­tempt failed ow­ing to poor con­di­tions, he ad­justed the plan, com­ing out early and spending two weeks train­ing on an­other 8 000m moun­tain, Cho Oyu. He made re­peated rec­ces, mov­ing be­tween 6 400m and 8 400m. Great for his In­sta­gram feed, even bet­ter for his body. The Jor­net camp called it ‘express ac­cli­ma­ti­sa­tion’.

GAME CHANG­ING

The prin­ci­ple of a sin­gle push is a good one – with one enor­mous caveat: that you have the men­tal tough­ness and fit­ness to carry it off. The de rigueur multi-day as­cents of a moun­tain like Ever­est are pred­i­cated on overnight rest stops at var­i­ous camps. Yet sleep­ing at alti­tude is nigh on im­pos­si­ble. The re­sult is ac­cu­mu­lated weari­ness, mag­ni­fied by the thin air. The moun­tain is lit­tered with the bod­ies of those who stopped for a quick rest – al­most fall­ing asleep mid- stride – and never woke up. In such bru­tal con­di­tions, your heart rate slows and ex­po­sure over­comes you. One of the al­lies Jor­net made on Ever­est was American Adrian Ballinger, a moun­taineer who has 10 Ever­est sea­sons un­der his belt. The two men sum­mited – both with­out oxy­gen – on the same day, Ballinger hav­ing taken a more con­ven­tional multi-day ap­proach. And they shared a tent back at Ad­vanced Base Camp, where Jor­net will­ingly signed au­to­graphs de­spite hav­ing been on his feet for more than 30 hours.

Jor­net’s ex­ploits are al­ready mak­ing the likes of Ballinger re­con­sider their strate­gies. “We’re start­ing to play around with this,” he says. “Sleep­ing at high alti­tude has its chal­lenges and dan­gers. Go­ing up and down so quickly,

“IT’S LIKE KIL­IAN HAS SHOWN THE WORLD WHAT IS POS­SI­BLE.”

FROM TOP: Kil­ian Jor­net per­fectly at home run­ning high in the Swiss Alps; and on his way to vic­tory in the 2016 Pier­rra Menta ski moun­taineer­ing race in south­east France

as Kil­ian did – the style re­quires a cer­tain el­e­ment of con­fi­dence that your fit­ness is go­ing to fa­cil­i­tate this. Kil­ian re­ally played right on the edge of that, and he told me he ended up hav­ing to nap up high briefly, crawl­ing un­der a boul­der. That is the risk.” He adds: “I don’t think he was ever in dan­ger, though. Kil­ian’s stamina is ab­so­lutely in­cred­i­ble.”

Even as Jor­net chips away at moun­taineer­ing con­ven­tions, there’s barely a whis­per of dis­con­tent from this hard-bit­ten com­mu­nity. Ballinger and climb­ing part­ner Cory Richards say they know of no-one with ill feel­ings to­wards him. “As far as we can see, peo­ple are just stoked about how fast Kil­ian moves in the moun­tains,” says Richards. “And a big part of that is Kil­ian him­self. Shy, hum­ble, friendly.”

It’s cer­tainly hard to paint Jor­net as an im­poster in the Hi­malayas – and there’s lit­tle short­age of those, sea­son to sea­son: high­net-worth, low-skilled clients with as much oxy­gen and sup­port as they can buy be­ing, in the words of de­trac­tors, ‘dragged to the top’. In so many ways, Jor­net is their an­tithe­sis.

In fact, so en­twined with the moun­tains is Jor­net that six days af­ter reach­ing the sum­mit of Ever­est, he was once again gaz­ing up with in­tent. It wasn’t in the orig­i­nal plan; but as he rested up at ABC, word got out that he might be hav­ing an­other shot at the sum­mit. For a FKT from ABC to the top and back? For more glory? It’s a safe bet it was more prob­a­bly just for the sheer joy of it. He made it, of course: a sin­gle 17-hour push from ABC to the sum­mit on May 27, in the process be­com­ing the first non-sherpa to sum­mit Ever­est twice in a week with­out oxy­gen. “That’s what re­ally hit Cory and me,” says Ballinger. “I’ve done two sum­mits in a week with oxy­gen, and I was dev­as­tated – wiped out. I did it once, with­out, this year, and couldn’t even be­gin to pic­ture do­ing it again.”

NEW HEIGHTS

Most ob­servers agree the le­gacy of the Sum­mits of My Life project will be wide-reach­ing. In the Alps, moun­taineers are al­ready be­gin­ning to look at ways of tack­ling peaks faster and lighter. “I think Kil­ian’s per­for­mances have started to rev­o­lu­tionise the world of high moun­taineer­ing,” says Le­ick. “I pre­dict the same evo­lu­tion of high- moun­taineer­ing footwear as we’ve seen in trail run­ning.”

As for Jor­net, Ballinger be­lieves he has barely scratched the sur­face of what he can do, and will go on to break all sorts of records. “But more im­por­tantly, he’s started the whole move­ment to­wards these FKT times,” says Ballinger. “He’s go­ing to push a whole gen­er­a­tion of other ath­letes.” It’s al­ready hap­pen­ing. In the same way as with a Ban­nis­ter, a Bolt or a Steck, or any­one who raises a bar by a sig­nif­i­cant mar­gin, oth­ers find them­selves grow­ing within those ex­panded pa­ram­e­ters. Just a few months af­ter Jor­net set his 12:49 record on Aconcagua, emerg­ing moun­tain- run­ning sen­sa­tion Karl Egloff low­ered the time to 11:52. “It’s like Kil­ian has shown the world what is pos­si­ble,” says Richards.

Af­ter Ever­est, Jor­net re­turned to the Alps to be­gin his prepa­ra­tion for this sum­mer’s UTMB. But it’s a fair bet that there’s only so long he’ll be con­tent to run around mas­sifs rather than up them, now that he has so dra­mat­i­cally ex­panded his hori­zons. “The project is fin­ished,” says Jor­net. “It’s cool be­cause it has been a long ad­ven­ture, five years meet­ing a lot of peo­ple, learn­ing from ev­ery ex­pe­ri­ence, and grow­ing as an ath­lete and a per­son.” He pauses. “But, of course, there are always dreams. The trou­ble is, you climb a sum­mit; and from the top, all you can see are other sum­mits.”

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: Jor­net on Ever­est; go­ing up, the hard way; base camp, from where most peo­ple climb the highest moun­tain in the world us­ing ropes and oxy­gen; with part­ner Emelie Fors­berg in the Dolomites, Italy. (Pre­vi­ous page: in the Dolomites)

deeply af­fected by the tragedy – but there was never any ques­tion of him aban­don­ing his record at­tempt sched­uled for a few weeks later. “In a way it’s bet­ter to die in the moun­tains than, say, a car ac­ci­dent,” Jor­net once re­flected. “But I think it’s never good to die.”

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