Thursday, September 15, 2016

Himalaya Fall 2016: Kilian Jornet Cancels Everest Speed Attempt

One of the current Himalayan expeditions that we've been watching closely has come to an end before it ever even had a chance to really get started. It was announced earlier today that Spanish ultrarunner Kilian Jornet has pulled the plug on his attempt at a speed record on Everest due to poor weather on the North Side of the mountain.

In a quote that was sent out via a press release a few hours ago, Jornet says “During the first few weeks we were acclimatising well and the conditions were good. However, when we were getting ready to prepare the attempt the weather began to change. There were some heavy snow storms and a large accumulation of snow. As a result, although we were in good physical shape, there was a high risk of avalanches and in the absence of good safety conditions it was impossible to climb.”

Apparently, the expedition was actually nearing its conclusion when the decision was made to go home instead. There hasn't been a lot of news from Kilian or his team, but it seems acclimatization was going very well, and he was extremely happy with his progress. Unfortunately, heavy snow has been falling on the mountain over the past couple of weeks, and that was making the route much more dangerous. So much so that they made the wise choice of cancelling the summit attempt and going home instead.

Kilian says that he has learned a lot from the experience and will now return to Spain where he'll evaluate how this expedition went, and decide from there how to proceed. He has already indicated that next time around he'll do a few things differently both in preparation and acclimatization once on the mountain. He had spent three weeks training at 6500 meters (21,325 ft) which will give him a better understanding of the Everest environment the next time around.

Honestly, an attempt in the spring would probably provide more stable weather conditions, but Kilian would then have to contend with a lot more people on the mountain. For most of the time that he was there, he had Base Camp all to himself. We do know that Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki is also there for a solo bid on the mountain, but he didn't arrive until last week. It is unclear whether or not the heavy snow will impact his attempt to summit Everest, which will be his sixth time trying to accomplish that feat.

For now, we'll have to wait to see how Kilian does on Everest. Remember, he's never climbed an 8000 meter peak before. Hopefully he'll get another crack at it in the future. It will be interesting to see what an athlete of his caliber can accomplish there.

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