Kilian Jornet is currently in Argentina, where he just wrapped up the final leg of his Mountains of My Life Tour by sharing the film, and his thoughts on climbing and running, with an audience in Mendoza. But it is no coincidence that he wrapped up the tour in the South American country, as he is now preparing for his next big challenge – setting a speed record on Aconcagua, the tallest mountain on the continent.
After finishing up his speaking commitments, the Spaniard will now head to the mountain. At 6960 meters (22,837 ft) in height, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya. It can be a formidable challenge for climbers, not so much because of its technical difficulties, but more so do to the altitude. The "normal" route approaches the summit from the north, and typically doesn't require the use of ropes, ice axes, or other climbing gear. Supplemental oxygen is not usually required either.
Kilian will take his usual approach to climbing the mountain. First, he'll spend some time on Aconcagua getting acclimated, while also training for the conditions there. Once he feels he has sufficiently prepared, he'll look for a window of good weather before setting off for the summit. The speed attempt will be a minimalist affair, with the endurance runner carrying only the gear that he absolutely needs.
The official speed record for Aconcagua is recognized a 15 hours, 42 minutes, which was set by Carlos Sa. In 2007, that record was broken by Jorge Egocheaga, who completed the climb and descent in just 15 hours, 5 minutes. Unfortunately, he didn't take the proper steps to make his record official, so it is not recognized by everyone. Kilian does recognize Egocheaga's record however, and will be trying to break it when he finally launches his attempt on the mountain.
This will be the second to last climb on the Summits of My Life project. If all goes according to plan, Kilian plans to go to Everest in the spring to attempt a speed record there as well. That mountain will present some new, and interesting, challenges for him, but as perhaps the best long-distance endurance runner on the planet, I think he'll be up to that challenge.
I'll post updates on Kilian's Aconcagua attempt over the next few weeks, and of course I'l'l be following his progress on Everest in the spring as well.