A Fine Line: Kilian Jornet’s First Summits of My Life Film

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Roger Soto Salvador and Carles A. Foguet of the Koala’s Team for attending the world premiere of A Fine Line on behalf of iRunFar. They tweeted the event and have published the following article in Castilian.]

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line

On Monday, a couple of Koalas slipped into the world’s premiere of A Fine Line, the first film of Kilian Jornet’s Summits of My Life project. The presentation took place in the famous modernist building of Palau de la Música in Barcelona. We were equipped with a press accreditation provided by our iRunFar friends (Many thanks!), two smart phones, no journalist experience whatsoever, and our best intentions to provide the best possible coverage.

After hanging around for a bit, we realized we were in the right place when we saw a guy with a camera wearing a pair of Salomon on his feet, another guy with a notebook and a UTMB Finisher’s vest… among dozens of Japanese tourists wearing Barça t-shirts eager to discover the insights of one of the jewels of modernism architecture in Barcelona. Honestly, the average of tourists beat the press by 3 to 1.


A Fine Line official trailer. from Summits of My Life on Vimeo.

The Presentation (This is not a film about mountain climbing!)

Once we were in, Kilian, Seb Montaz, and all the “Summits of My Life” crew got into the rehearsal room of Palau de la Música and the presentation began. Kilian was the first to speak and he briefly introduced the project that many of us already know quite well: A Fine Line is the first film produced about Kilian’s personal project that is going to finish in 2015 at the summit of Mount Everest, after tagging the most important peaks of all continents with his minimalist style and trying to break all the speed records on those peaks along the way. This film specifically revolves around his first two challenges: two traverses of the Mont Blanc (from east to west and from north to south) finished within this current year.

And that’s all folks? Obviously not! As many of us know, this is just an excuse. For those of you who don’t know what we are talking about, you should have a look at the “Summits of My Life” values. This project is not only about peak bagging, even less about doing it faster than anyone else. This project was born from a lifestyle. A lifestyle bound to the mountains and nature, so simple in its essence, but full of emotions and daily challenges. A lifestyle embodied by Kilian that he wants to share with his followers who, in turn, may then find the inspiration to live it, too. We assure you that we did find the inspiration in this film.

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line - running

A good deal of this is our interpretation, as he didn’t talk much. He is the fastest guy in the mountains and being in front of a room full of press he can’t help himself trying to be it, too. You could easily tell he was uncomfortable in front of the press. He gave a rushed and more or less rehearsed speech, looking forward to the moment of pressing play and let the images talk for him: it was pretty obvious for us that he’d rather be in the high snowy peaks than in a warm room full of press and fans.

In the questions round, Seb Montaz got a question he already knew was going to be asked: how did you manage to follow and record someone like Kilian in the mountains? The answer was that he doesn’t know it yet, but the keys are effort and imagination. Then he went on to explain his experience in the project. He met Kilian for the first time only 18 months ago, even though it seems they’ve been friends forever. Seb has become the perfect partner for this project. Not only is he the director of the films, but also the main cameraman, and so the images we will see greatly depend on his physical capacities.

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line - Seb Montez and Kilian

Who can follow Kilian Jornet? No one, we already knew that, but it was funny hearing it from Seb, an experienced alpinist: “When I think I’m running fast, I turn around and I see Kilian walking. I hate it!” We imagine something similar would happen to us if we tried to run in front of Seb, who deserves all credit. Not only has he been able to follow Kilian (closer or far away), but also he’s done it with a camera in his hand. Running or climbing a 4th or 5th class wall. The film attests to his skills and abilities. His choice has been a wise choice; Kilian says it and now so do we.

Everest was, without a shade of doubt, the main subject of the question round. We’re sorry, but having revealed the ultimate goal of this project will be a burden that Kilian will drag over the next three years. Practically no one was interested in the way that has lead up to this final challenge.

As we were able to understand, Kilian is more interested in the way, the emotions and learning experiences that preparing and executing each of the challenges will bring to him than to the end in itself. Records may or may not be set, but for him the experience will be forever. We agree, and, moreover, we are confident that there will be records for many years.

Most of the questions referred to the distant expedition to the roof of the world; distant because it will be in 2015 and because, as of today, he’s not been higher than 6,300 meters (20,700 feet).

His experience in the Himalayas is nonexistent and although he has an intuition about how the final stage of Summits of My Life will be (for which he will count on climbers Jordi Catalan and Jordi Corominas’ help), he could give few details, no matter how much the journalist insisted. In a nutshell: It will be in a minimalist style, the style of Messner, who 30 years ago made the first ascent without oxygen or intermediate camps. And he will try his best to go fast.

He spoke a bit about routes, Norton and Horbein on the north face were mentioned, but he still hasn’t decided and may attempt it via the south face outside peak season. In any case, he made it clear that there will be no fixed ropes or oxygen, and the does not intend to follow the more technical routes, as he doesn’t consider himself a really technical alpinist like Ueli Steck or Simone Moro.

A Short Film That Will Feel Even Shorter

The film doesn’t follow a script, nor does it accomplish the promise of summarizing the two Mont Blanc traverses of this year, is as if they had thrown up in the air all the recordings that they have accumulated since the beginning of the project, with some photos of the young Kilian that his mother always carries with her and, as they fell to the ground, it would be assembly the final film. No consistent chronological or thematic order. It doesn’t matter at all, the film is amazing and we really liked it. Anyway, it is not like we know a thing about cinema.

The movie is a messy album of this first year of the project with just one thread: Kilian Jornet and everything that is important to him, his friends, nature, and the mountains. We don’t want to spoil it, and we want everyone to contribute to the success of this project, but on the screen you’ll see well-known faces as well as not so well-known people together with astonishing landscapes and settings.

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line - ridgeline boot pack

The images are breathtaking, taking full advantage of the technical resources at their disposal. Aerial images that can make you dizzy of really awe-inspiring views. It applauds the ingenuity of the coaching staff to get some pictures of Kilian in action, pictures we don’t normally have any access. Perhaps for the first time, many will be aware of the uniqueness of their endeavor: visioning the risks they go through, inaccessible peaks, millimeter ridges (A fine line!), declines in impossible angles…

In between, we find less glamorous and more ordinary images. A messy room, Mont Blanc drawings, cooking abilities worthy of any student flat, the famous list with all the races Kilian wanted to win and that now is already all crossed-out… This first film humanizes Kilian and makes him more approachable for average people like us. It is a worthy effort when there are some that, for their own interest, seem to be willing to put him on an altar from which he flees whenever he can.

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line - ridge run

And as background sound, a soundtrack of wise words: Kilian himself, his mother and his sister, Stéphane Brosse (the echo of his words lasts in one’s mind as you think about his tragic and sudden loss), Anna Frost, Mireia Miró, Kilian’s first skimo coach… His close circle of friends and family has really understood the athlete’s complexity and helps us better to understand it, too.

Kilian Jornet - A Fine Line - Stephane Brosse

The film probably won’t unveil anything that a Kilian fan doesn’t know. We see again pictures of his childhood, his colorful anorak, his long hair, his world famous bread with Nutella, his caravan… But what this movie does is anticipate everything that will come, and, moreover, helps us understand the whys and wherefores. And just this insinuation makes us to be eager to follow his track until the end of this project, in 2015, on top of Mount Everest.

What is the goal of any endeavor, of any adventure, of life? Is it to reach objectives or just to walk towards them? Is it to catch the horizon or to discover the landscapes we go through? Is life the finisher medal or the emotions and feelings we’ve stock up in our insides? We are forged in dreams, emotions and feelings.

Direction: Sébastien Montaz-Rosset

Production: Lymbus, Montaz-Rosset Film

Original music: Zikali

Script and edition: Kilian Jornet Burgada, Sébastien Montaz-Rosset and Katie Moore

Postproduction: Simon Hutchings

Languages & subtitles: Catalan, English, French and Spanish

Length: 52’ + extras

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Are you excited to watch A Fine Line?
  • If you’ve seen A Fine Line, what did you think?
  • Have you or are you going to support the project?

There are 32 comments

  1. Ryan Knapp

    For those who wish to download the movie, make sure to download the English version. The movie is in Catalan, Castellano and French, so unless you understand all three equally, your preferred subtitled language is necessary.

    I studied Catalan in college, so I guess my mind didn't register until I sat down to watch it and after five minutes, realized I didn't get a subtitled English version.

  2. Troy Daley

    Downloaded it yesterday and watched it. The feats of camerawork in this film are incredible. The first thing you think is, "How did Kilian get up there?", and then you think, "There's a camera guy up there too!". It's really incredible, and like the article says, it does very little focusing on the actual traversals, which threw me for a bit because I didn't realize when things were actually happening. But I did enjoy the consistence with his attitude about the whole thing, it's not about the records, it's about the being there. I thought they also did a nice job on Stephane's fall, you almost had to know what happened before hand, it was as if he were still there somewhere, which I'm sure he is.

  3. Joe G

    This guy has some real adventures ahead of him, I am jealous. But I am wondering if he is taking too many risks for the sake of speed. I don't know the story of Stephan, what happened there? But I do know that when you are out in the mountains, even a simple broken ankle can lead to your death because of the distance from help and hypothermia. I'm sure he isn't an idiot, but constantly making split second decisions in dangerous places and climbing without ropes on steep terrain can be very risky. He will also have to look out for crevasses and avalanches. I know he is an accomplished mountaineer and will probably be fine, but still.

  4. Jeff Faulkner

    After reading this review I REALLY want to watch the film. And thanks to the Koala's Team for once again helping iRunFar with foreign coverage. You guys are great.

  5. art

    to emulate Messner by 2015 ??

    even the greatest mountain climber of all time had a learning curve.

    Killian is amazing, but this is a bit ambitious.

    1. Mark

      Everest is relatively "easy" compared to other 8000m peaks. Look at crazy tourist traffic on both Nepalese and Chinese routes. Having good weather and with good logistics it's mostly about endurance. Messner in his prime was 48 V02 max, while Killian – everybody knows it here.

      1. grae

        Ya Everest is "easy" when you have a team of Sherpas to hold your hand every step of the way and carry your loads, bottled 02 stashed at every camp, a guide down in basecamp with a satalite phone and internet wheather reports for you telling you what to do,dozens of fixed lines ready and waiting for you, ladders fixed across every crevasse in the Khumbu Ice Fall. This Killian dude sounds to be way in over his head at this point, with the "experience" he has now to pull this off in 2015 "Messner style". I don't want to jinx him, but it sounds like he's planning his own funeral. Can't compare Messner's mountain accomplishments to Killian's running accomplishments. Two very different sports with completely two different skill sets. Having a high Vo2 max has very little to do with high alpine mountain "success". Messner didn't need a high Vo2 because he's one of the toughest MF's ever to walk the earth… and that's all I have to say about that.

        1. Mark

          A propos Messner: 1. Check out reports about his Everest ascent. It was his low Vo2 max that almost killed him close to the summit. His partner Peter Habeler has very accurate memories. 2. If you do some research, you’ll see that Messner is way overrated. He was great at PR though. You might compare him with Jerzy Kukuczka who unlike Messner did many new routes, in winter, much faster with very limited resources. Concerning Killian: if you take into account huge improvement in the quality of equipment and athletes training regimes these days, Everest is a must for somebody like him. I’d be more concerned about climbing Denali. Its closeness to the North Pole makes it extremely hard to summit weatherwise. Cheers.

          1. grae

            Your probably right on most accounts. I guess we won't know how Killian's body reacts until he is on the mountain. Just seems like such a huge risk for him compared to running which is about 0 risk.

            Maybe he will turn out to be another Viesturs ;)

  6. panos from greece

    I will certainly NOT watch this film.

    It has to do with my philosophy, i like to spend my time doing things, not watching other people doing things.

    Moreover, i get inspiration from the mountains i see outside my window, not from mountains thousands of miles, and hundrens of dollars, away.

    1. Ann Becker

      It's up to you, but i can't tell the difference between watching a film or browsing a web page. You should be elsewhere getting inspiration instead of in front of any screen.

    2. Fernando N. Baeza

      Panos,

      My fellow running compadre, I can relate to your sentiment. I like doing "the runs" myself as Ive always been very proactive. However, inthis case

    3. Fernando N. Baeza

      Panos,

      My fellow running compadre, I can relate to your sentiment. I like doing “the runs” myself as Ive always been very proactive. However, in this case, Kilian is trying to portray, I believe, to everyone out there the love and respect for mother earth, her mountains. He is trying to promote to the non/pro running community a healthy lifestyle and mentality us mountain runners envy so much. Lets support our own in this endeavor!
      :D
      San Antonio, TX

    4. Jeff Faulkner

      Touche'. I am a doer, but you can't be doing 24/7. When I'm not doing I like watching or reading about others doing even bigger and better things than me. It motivates and inspires me to do even bigger and better things myself.

    5. Tim

      Panos…how silly, there are haters everywhere, but you take the cake. I presume you don't come to irunfar for inspiration, since you won't watch this movie? Please enlighten us why you come to irunfar, and take the time out of your "mountain watching" to leave such silly comments?

      1. Bryon Powell

        Tim, Panos is a long-time reader and positive contributor to iRunFar. I'd guess he's not being a "hater" (he doesn't attack Kilian), rather succinctly sharing his philosophy. We all interact with running differently… sometimes very differently. While I know that others love running books or movies they're not where I find my inspiration either. :-)

        1. Tim

          Bryon,

          I certainly speak out of respect for your efforts in keeping us runners informed and giving us somewhere to seek information, and for that I thank you. I can certainly also respect others who do not appreciate running films and websites as a source of information or motivation. However, it is the tone that Panos took with his opening statement of "I will certainly NOT watch this film" and then to follow it up with "i like to spend my time doing things, not watching other people doing things". Does that not seem hypocritical for someone who visits a website devoted to sharing information and inspiration about running? I am definitely not disputing his positive contributions to irunfar thus far, and as this is my first post (albeit I am also a long-time reader) maybe I should bite my tongue in the future. But I have noticed on many different mediums that the Kilian haters come out when he is out there doing great things, (I know his comment doesn't mean he is attacking Kilian directly, but his tone does seem suspicious) and can't appreciate what the guy is doing for the sport.

          Everyone has their own running philosophy and I will respect that, but saying you would rather be "out doing things" as you comment on someone else's inspiring actions….is just…silly.

  7. Josie P

    I know Kilian can rather divide people (don't really get that but each to their own), but having watched this I'd really recommend it if nothing else for the beautiful cinematography.

    It's quite arty and as mentioned previously the 'plot' does wander about a bit as it's the untimely death of Stephane obviously altered the direction the film was going to take, but it's respectful without being maudlin and visually stunning.

    Worth a download if you have an hour and a half in the evening when you're not out running. Kudos to the fella that got up those mountains with Kilian.

  8. thomas

    Kilian is a once in a century guy. You can compare him with messner,schumacher, ali, klitschko, etc. He physical values are fare beyond what we can imagine.

    I follow him since 2 years, he is such motivating, smart, He loves his sport. I believe we will shift the possibilities of human being into a new sphere.

    I am locking forward to see what is possible.

    take care thomas

  9. Rteal

    IMO, everyone should take a step back and read a little about the history (and current athletes) of speed alpinism before indulging in this movie to view Kilian feat in a better perspective if one does not have a deep knowledge of mountaineering.

    It makes the movie alot better to watch.

  10. Starks

    Great movie with lots of outstanding footage. My only recommendation for future episodes would be about the subtitle color. Dark yellow would be a much better choice as it's sometimes very hard to read white text on snowy mountains.

  11. Jay kelly

    After watching the trailer, I am resolved to trying to channel my 'inner Kilian' on all my future runs as I train for my first 50 miler!

  12. Lucia

    For a very different reason, and with much disappointment, I wanted to say the same thing re "I most certainly will not be watching this film". Although I am a huge Killian fan and find him very inspiring; and the cinematography is bound to be spectacular, and I would love to watch the film – and all of them in the series – but I cannot justify/ afford spending so much $ – the shipping fee to the US brings the whole thing up to like $70, just too expensive.

    Bryon, or anybody, do you happen to know if the film will have a more affordable distribution channel for the DVD option or is downloading the only way to go? Thanks so much in advance.

  13. Seamus Foy

    I love the Kilian's Quest vids, but A Fine Line takes it to a new level. This movie will appeal to anyone who loves the outdoors, and Kilian's feats of athleticism are worthy of respect. I still don't understand why some people are Kilian haters, so I guess I don't understand how any outdoor enthusiast could dislike this film.

    Kilian's philosophy on life is also intriguing, though I have to say that he is much more of a risk-taker than I had imagined. The Fine Line of the title is that which he treads every day in training. I find it inspiring, if not a bit scary.

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