The weekend brought triumph and tragedy to Mt. Everest, as Killian Jornet set a new fastest known time to the top and more than 100 climbers summited, but four people died.
Spanish runner and ski mountaineer Killian Jornet is in the middle of a quest to set speed records on some of the tallest, most-iconic peaks in the world, which he calls Summits of My Life. Along with French filmmaker Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, he set out from Everest Base Camp on the north side of the mountain at 10 p.m. local time on May 20. He considered four different routes, but in the end chose the traditional one.
Climbing without supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes, Jornet made the top in 26 hours—yep, that’s a record. It typically takes climbers four days to reach the summit from EBC.
“Up to 7,700m I felt really good and was making progress as planned but then I started to feel unwell, probably from a stomach virus. From then on I made slow progress and had to keep stopping to recover. I finally reached the summit at midnight.
“Reaching the summit of Everest without fixed ropes isn’t something you’d do every day! I saw a fantastic sunset and finally reached the summit at midnight. I was alone but I saw the lights of expeditions setting off on their ascent both on the north and south faces. I started to descend right away so as to get to the ABC as soon as possible,” he said.
Montaz-Rosset accompanied Jornet to approximately 8,000 meters, descended to Advanced Base Camp, then returned to 7,000 meters to meet Jornet on his descent. The Spaniard returned to ABC and stayed there to rest before he descends to EBC.
Four Dead in Separate Incidents
After making it through the 2015 earthquake at Mt. Everest, Alabama climber Roland Yearwood returned this year to give it another shot, but the 51-year-old physician died during the attempt.
High winds raked the mountain last week, then eased to provide a window for good climbing over the weekend.
“The weather has been pretty bad, especially with high winds, but there were some little keyholes which climbers have been lucky to take advantage of,” Tendi Sherpa, a longtime guide, told The Washington Post. “Several teams got lucky, but there are also many climbers who had to turn around half way to the summit due to high winds.”
Yearwood passed away around 8,000 meters. Details of his death were unavailable. Two other climbers died from altitude sickness and one fell to his death.
Is Hillary Step Intact?
There were conflicting reports on the status of the Hillary Step, the famed 39-foot rock crux located between Everest’s south summit and true summit. Climbers suspected the earthquake altered the feature, but it was buried in snow during the 2016 season. After summiting on May 16, British guide and six-time summiter Tim Mosedale wrote on Facebook, “It’s official – the Hillary Step is no more. Not sure what’s going to happen when the snow ridge doesn’t form because there’s some huge blocks randomly perched hither and thither which will be quite tricky to negotiate.”
He told the Guardian that seeing the change was saddening. “It’s a piece of mountaineering history that has disappeared. Even non-mountaineers know the name and the association of the infamous Hillary Step,” he said.
However, Nepalese officials denied the destruction of the step.
Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, said, “This is a false rumor. After this news surfaced, I checked with Sherpas, climbers, and officials at the Base Camp. Hillary Step is intact.”
More than 200 people have summited since Friday, bringing the season to total to 250. A record number of permits were issued this year—375.
Photo courtesy Killian Jornet
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