Kilian Jornet abandons Everest solo after avalanche incident

Spanish ultra-runner, ski mountaineer and alpinist Kilian Jornet completes his attempt to climb Everest single-handedly and without supplemental oxygen via the challenging Hornbein Couloir. This after an avalanche had swept him 50 meters away and he had already found extremely difficult conditions on the west shoulder.

The Catalan professional runner Kilian Jornet is not only known for his speed ascents, but also for the fact that the style of his mountaineering endeavors is important to him. This was shown once again in his most recent project, the Mount Everest about the west shoulder and the infamous Hornbein Couloir to climb – solo and without artificial oxygen. According to Jornet, he didn't reach the summit he was aiming for, but everything else.

“I firmly believe that the how is much more important than the what and in that sense the rise was just perfect. Like a big jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces except one, the summit.”

Kilian Jornet

In the footsteps of two legends

Six years ago, Kilian Jornet climbed the highest peak on earth twice. And this within a week and without bottled oxygen. This year, the Catalan took on the difficult route through the Hornbein Couloir, which Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld first climbed 70 years ago.

The ascent of the Everest west ridge by the two alpinists in 1963 is considered one of the most extraordinary achievements in the history of high-altitude mountaineering. Not only because it represented an almost unbelievable adventure at the time, but because Hornbein and Unsoeld also heralded the modern era of mountaineering with fast and easy ascents.

Demanding conditions

Kilian Jornet's solo ascent started with a steep couloir that took him to the west shoulder. The 34-year-old recalls that the conditions were terrible. "Blue ice with a thick layer of snow on top."

«Two steps up and one step down and that for 1000 meters in altitude! It was very windy when I got to the ridge, so I stayed under a cornice for three hours to recover."

Kilian Jornet

Swept away 50 meters by avalanche

When the wind calmed down a bit, he continued his ascent towards the Hornbein Couloir. After a few hundred meters in the couloir, an accumulation of snow broke away, which carried Kilian Jornet over 50 meters.

"After the incident, I didn't know whether to continue or turn back and chose the latter."

Kilian Jornet

The conditions on the way back to base camp should prove him right: heavy snowfall limited visibility to just two to three meters, so Jornet had to use the "Back to Start" function of his GPS watch to find his way back. All in all, it was an "interesting" descent, sums up Kilian Jornet.

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Credits: Cover photo: Kilian Jornet

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