Kilian Jornet, already one of the most impressive ultrarunners in the world, is about to upend the mountaineering world, too, with his wildly ambitious — and somewhat mad — Summits of My Life project. So far he has set speed records on Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Denali, and Aconcagua. This year, in his final summit attempt, he’s tackling Everest. And this is no normal Big E bid. Jornet plans to go up the North Side of the mountain, choosing between the Horbein and Norton couloirs, depending on conditions. Either way he’s essentially climbing straight up the face of the world’s highest peak, bypassing any potential logjams created by slower climbers on the standard route. And of course, he's looking to top out faster than anyone. We asked Jornet about his upcoming record attempt.
How has being there during the 2015 disaster changed your perspective on Everest?
Not so much for the perspective of climbing the mountain. But it has changed my perspective about human beings, our problems as a society, and the strengths of people. We were literally packing for Everest when the earthquake hit Nepal, so it was a big shock for us. Going there to help instead of going climbing was really meaningful, and I think that Seb (the director) really caught the feeling in the movie Langtang. When we came, besides releasing a film as we do every year, we decided we needed to do something else, and this is why we created the charity project in Nepal.
What's your 2016 Everest gameplan?
We will go at the end of the summer and will stay for a few weeks. It will really depend on the conditions — that will determinate our route. What we know for sure is that we’ll go for the North side and then choose between Horbein or Norton couloir. It is going to be a difficult challenge. In my case, I’ve never been in such altitude, and I don’t know how it’s going to affect me. That's one of the many other details about the mountain that you can’t control. Our expedition will be composed of alpinists Jordi Tosas and Jordi Corominas, and cameramen and mountain guides Sébastien Montaz-Rosset and Vivian Bruchez.
What do you hope to accomplish on Everest in 2016?
To go there, see what it's like, and see what mountain conditions offers to us. If we accomplish it we’ll also complete the Summits of My Life project that we started back in 2012 and where we’ve been trying speed records in mountains around the world.
What are your biggest concerns?
Altitude, conditions, technical skills, and decisions to be made during the ascent for the safety as we climb alone.
How will you pack for the ascent of this nature?
Like we’ve done in our previous expeditions, we plan on packing light. We want to carry as little as possible, which helps us go faster but it also puts us in more risk in case things go wrong. We know it and accept it because it is the way we like to go in the mountains. The packing would be the same as doing an ascent climbing a face in the Alps, but just a little bit warmer gear! We’ve specifically designed light gear (boots, crampons, ice axes), but the biggest difference is that we won’t be using fixations to the route (ropes, camps, etc.).