Kilian Jornet Talks Denali Speed Record with National Geographic Adventure

climb killian jornet summits life
Courtesy National Geographic

While we’re on the subject of National Geographic stories this morning, I have another one to share. Nat Geo Adventure has scored an interview with ultra-runner/mountaineer Kilian Jornet following his amazing performance on Denali a few weeks back, during which he set a new speed record on the mountain. At 6168 meters (20,237 ft) in height, Denali is the tallest mountain in North America, and a significant climbing challenge. But the talented Jornet made it look easy sailing from Base Camp to the summit, and back, in an astonishing 11 hours and 40 minutes. That shaved more than 5 hours off the previous record. Now, Jornet is talking in detail about his record-setting climb.

In the interview, Kilian discusses a bit of the philosophy of speed climbing, his light and fast approach on Denali, and how he didn’t find the mountain to be all that technically challenging. Instead, he says that the weather is the real problem on the mountain, with high winds, deep snow, and cold temperatures creating problems. He also shares some insights on the route that he took to the summit, and why he went that particular way.

Of particular interest to me was the fact that he carried just one liter of water with him on the summit push. Kilian says that he doesn’t eat or drink much while on his adventures, adding that he also only took a few small energy gels and one bar. He didn’t even eat the bar, and he drank less than a liter of water. The ultra-runner’s body is so conditioned to be able to run on little fuel, that he didn’t even need to eat or drink much on his 11 hour journey. That’s pretty amazing, and a testament to the amazing condition that he is in.

Jornet also talks about his post-climb celebration (dry food and a few chocolate bars alone in a tent), skiing under the midnight sun, and the importance of climbing with his friends. He shares the best and worst moments from the expedition, what elements of his training were of the most benefit, and his thoughts on his next projects – namely speed record attempts on Elbrus and Aconcagua.

As you can see, there is a lot to take in here. It’s a good read, with some excellent insights into this amazing athlete. Check out the full interview here.

Kraig Becker