Kilian Jornet Denali FKT Interview
July 9, 2014 by Bryon Powell · 4 Comments
Here’s a little bonus from our pre-2014 Hardrock 100 coverage, a short interview with Kilian Jornet about his recent record-setting ski/climb up-and-down Mount Denali. In the following interview, Kilian talks about his experience there, the challenges he faced, how much lower he thinks the record could go, and what fun he had in Alaska outside of the record attempt.
First, as background, Kilian Jornet set a pair of speed records of 9 hours, 43 minutes for the ascent and 11 hours, 48 minutes for the roundtrip on Denali’s (McKinley’s) Rescue Gully route in Alaska as part of his Summits of My Life project.
Kilian’s effort, which occurred on June 7, bests previous records set by mountaineer Ed Warren in 2013 of 12:29 for the ascent and 16:46 for the round trip.
Kilian used a combination of skis and crampons to climb the 20,320-foot mountain located in the heart of Alaska on the Rescue Gully route. According to the press release, Kilian used the Rescue Gully route, which was a bit technically harder, instead of the traditional West Buttress route to avoid the short section of fixed lines on the West Buttress route.
Update: Kilian has clarified that he consumed 300 mL, NOT 300 cL of energy gel during his Denali speed record.
[Editor's Note: We've got another interview with more on Kilian's pre-Hardrock thoughts if you're interested.]
[Click here if you can't see the video above.]
Kilian Jornet Denali FKT Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I’d say a bonus question, but it’s a little bit of a bonus interview here. You just went to Denali and set a speed record there. How was your trip to Alaska?
Kilian Jornet: It was really beautiful. It’s beautiful mountains there. It’s really big. Yeah, it’s a big, big mountain. It’s really playful. With the skis you can go many places and do many things. The weather this spring wasn’t the best in Denali. We had three days of sun in three weeks, but other than the record, we were doing many steep couloirs and climbing. So we were really happy.
iRunFar: On the record itself—that was the main goal of the trip—you ran (skied) an incredible time. Was it about what you were shooting for in terms of time?
Jornet: Yes, I didn’t expect something before because you need to be in the mountain to see what it is. Then I think it’s really possible to go under another 1.5 hours. To go under 10 hours is really possible because the day of the record we start in sunny, but then from the camp at 17,000 feet it was really windy and snowing and no visibility. So all the last part of the uphill and all of the downhill it was no visibility, so I am really happy because for the conditions of the day we were going as fast as we can.
iRunFar: In terms of eating, you barely ate any gel or calories.
Jornet: Yes, I take 300 centiliters of gel and that was all. I think at altitude you feel less hungry first. Then it’s difficult to eat something more hard, so the gel was the only solution.
iRunFar: It worked for you?
Jornet: Yes, I was in the Himalayas with gels, too, and here. I think it’s perfect for altitude.
iRunFar: So you will use a lot of gels here or a mix?
Jornet: Not super much because after 20 hours the stomach is in distress, so real food like sandwiches and some fruit and then the last hours, gels.
iRunFar: Outside of the record attempt itself, what was your favorite part of the Alaska experience?
Jornet: Probably the four days we were in the mountains. I climbed with Jordi Tosas the West Rib. We were pretty, pretty fast. Then I skied down. It was a beautiful experience. It was maybe this. Then another day with Vivian [Bruchez] we skied the Orient Express with the midnight sun. They were the two best moments.
iRunFar: A dream.
Jornet: Yes, it’s just big mountains. It’s just what we like.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, keep living this wonderful experience and sharing it with us.
Jornet: Thank you. We will.