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Spain’s Kilian Jornet claimed to successfully summit Mount Everest in May of 2017, twice in one expedition without oxygen, both times. If he accomplished the feat, he would be the first ever to do so. A Sherpa apparently managed the feat; however, it took him two more days.

Athletics Illustrated posted an interview with American mountain runner Dan Howitt in February. Howitt is convinced that Jornet did not summit the mountain during either of the attempts. Jornet is adamant that he did.

Howitt claims that Jornet did not provide video or photo evidence, nor did he make a sat-cell phone call from the top or have any eyewitnesses. Additionally, Howitt says that Jornet’s GPS track from his watch stopped short, therefore according to Howett, the climbs did not happen.

The evidence against Jornet is convincing, however, Jornet maintains that he indeed successfully summited twice. He claims that he purposely did not have the sat-cell with him and did not take photos or any video footage at the top because he wanted to make the climb independently, without being virtually tethered.

So what really happened on Mount Everest in spring of 2017?

What was Jornet doing for the 18 hours that he was apparently missing-in-action?

In Jornet’s response to Howitt, he told him in August of 2017, “the major goal of this expedition was to see whether I was able to climb Everest without external support (camps, porters, deposits, communication in the mountain…) and by myself (one push, no jumaring…). I want to try what we usually do in other mountain ranges such as the Alps but in the Himalayas.”

Howitt did not accept this answer, suggesting that for the toughest climb of his life he should want to document the summit, at least for family and friends. This is speculation, but come to think of it, wouldn’t one want irrefutable proof of a never-before-done double climb of Everest sans oxygen?

“I don’t have any problems to admit whenever I don’t summit a mountain. I’ve expressed many times that, for me, the goal itself is not the summit, but the journey,” wrote Jornet.

Jornet said that making a big production of his summit is not his style, however, he is known, as Howitt pointed out, to video just about everything else he does. Most of his adventures are recorded with a GoPro video camera. Again, Everest is the biggest of them all, why not?

“The decision of not making a big cinematographic production, it was also a choice. Of course, I could have organized a big expedition with a production company and cameraman in different parts of the track to film me,” added Jornet. “I could have had a satellite phone on the summit to announce my journey. But I didn’t. It’s not my style and it’s not the way I want to go the mountains.”

Jornet’s two ascents are also suspect, according to Howitt due to his GPS map showing that he stopped short of the true Everest summit.

I was using the Suunto Ambit Peak Watch; to be sure that is recorded a maximum of hours (in altitude – cold, batteries last much less). For both ascents, I used the mode GPS OK, so the GPS can record every 10”.

He goes on about his battery dying after 30h56m, which is understandable after that amount of time in extreme cold.

Jornet explained that the photo and video evidence of him summiting Everest was held back for a documentary film that was to be released – no spoilers! Again, this is totally understandable.

So was it clear and obvious during the documentary that he summited Everest twice?

Apparently not (full disclosure: the author hasn’t seen documentary yet – provided password to Vimeo video is not working), but third-party testimony suggests that the images are inconclusive with poor lighting.

Did Jornet successfully summit Everest twice during one visit to the mountain? He may have, but there continues to be questions that need to be answered.

When in contact with Jornet’s office, his press attaché Laura Font wrote, “After Kilian returned from Nepal, he was interviewed by the Himalayan Database, the expedition archives of Elizabeth Hawley. Kilian’s ascents were validated by this institution, which is considered the maximum authority to certificate ascents on the Himalayas. Lately, Rodolphe Popier, also from the Himalayan Database team, has conducted further investigation reaching out the same conclusion.”

That may be all that Jornet and his loyal fans need, however, to answer the questions that remain, Jornet will need to repeat the performance with photo and GPS evidence or eyewitness and or video. Until then, a question mark will remain on this double summit performance, sans oxygen

Athlete’s explanation of the Suunto correction:
(owns Pb’s of: 2:31, 31:01, 14:55)

The Ambit3 Peak has a barometric altimeter built-in, so generally is extremely accurate with altitude. Strava knows this, so when you upload the data, it uses the altitude that the Suunto watch reports. When you don’t have a barometric altimeter, Strava computes your elevation from its database of maps, which are correct but approximate. That’s why if you look at data from, e.g., Hong Kong, the altitude data looks really erratic, rather than having a nice smooth curve: Strava only knows the average elevation of each square kilometer, so when you cross into a new grid cell, you jump up to the next average. Its European maps are much better (finer resolution) and its North American maps are really quite good.

However, sometimes the watch’s altimeter effs up (or so Kilian claims). So, Strava lets you recompute the elevation data from its maps database rather than use the altimeter data. That’s what I have done so what I saw was, pretty much, the *approximate real* elevation—probably about 150m less accurate over the entire run than if my watch had worked. On the other hand, the GPS data that I sent you in that .fit attachment is the data off my watch complete with all the errors. Kilian never corrected the data on Strava…I doubt that he even logs into Strava. So his always shows the data off his watch, no matter how inaccurate it is.

Keep in mind this has only happened to me once. It would be seriously bad luck if that happened to be my Everest climb! Usually, when the altimeter goes haywire, it literally thinks I’ve entered the stratosphere or Mariana’s Trench and then just stays there. I’ve only this once had data that was kinda close (only off by 200m) and then have it jump down to closer to correct (off by 100m) and carry on like nothing happened. It must’ve been some pretty funky weather, but it was a couple months ago…I don’t really remember the run. But at least there’s coincidentally some photos from that run (on Strava) to show what conditions were like.


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