Some people climb mountains. Kilian Jornet Burgada runs up and down them-and does so faster than anyone else.
The Spaniard recently stunned his mountaineering peers by ascending and descending the fabled Matterhorn-in the Alps, on the border of Switzerland and Italy-in less than three hours.
The Matterhorn spans 14,692 feet and its rocky terrain is hardly hospitable, yet Jornet dashed up and down in 2 hours, 52 minutes, and 2 seconds. That’s beyond remarkable when you consider that the average climber requires between 9 and 12 hours to accomplish this. (Video footage shows Jornet’s tricky and seemingly daunting descent.)
The climb, via the Lion’s Crest route from Italy, lasted 1:56. The descent (which is featured in the video footage) was accomplished in 56 minutes.
Jornet shatters the previous record of 3:14:44, set by Bruno Brunod in 1995. Brunod was present to see his friend break the record.
Jornet writes on his blog: “I was there with Bruno, who came along and we ran together for a while. For me, this moment will stick in my memory from this experience; it was very touching.”
While his feat is amazing, those close to Jornet were not fully surprised.
Giulio Caresio of Planet Mountain writes that Jornet is “in all likelihood the strongest and most versatile endurance athlete of his generation.”
Of the feat Caresio states: “In recent times Kilian has devoted more and more time to the vertical sphere, carrying out a series of significant ascents and steep skiing descents.
“These all testify his great love for the mountains, his desire to meticulously prepare himself for all types of terrain, as well as the will to experiment with those aspects which border between disciplines and which can therefore fertilize knowledge and open the doors to new possibilities.”
Jornet, who has won just about every type of event staged for alpine endurance athletes, including ski mountaineering competitions, is in the midst of what he calls the Summits of My Life challenge.
The eight-stage project, not surprisingly, involves climbing his favorite mountains as quickly as possible.
Included on the list is the 29,035-foot Mt. Everest, which will conclude Jornet’s quest, if all goes as planned, in 2015.