Spain’s Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s foremost mountain runners, claims to have successfully ascended Mount Everest twice during a single 2017 expedition. The problem is, not everyone in the climbing community is convinced that the mountain runner achieved either climb.
Apparently, he ascended at odd hours that other expert climbers suggest would be foolish to do: 9:30 pm and midnight. Additionally, he did not provide the customary photo or video evidence, did not phone anyone with his satellite phone and his GPS watch stopped well short of the summit. Finally, there are apparently no eyewitnesses – no one has come forward. All of the above does not necessarily disprove both climbs; however, below is a conversation with Dan Howitt an experienced mountain runner himself who is convinced that neither climb happened.
During the years 2002-2004, Howitt completed several speedclimbs on the glacier volcanoes Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams, the four most difficult mountains in the US besides Denali. He also took in the Aconcagua’s Polish Traverse Route. Howitt has done trail running on Mt. Defiance in Oregon, which is one of the most difficult trail runs in the US, at 5 miles (8K) in length and 5,000 vertical feet (1524m).
But not everyone doubts Jornet. For example, Ian Corless apparently interviewed Jornet specifically about the climbs, comments about his admittedly biased blog post that was posted pre-interview, as well as the interview, are located at his website: iancorless.com
Below are two GPS map records of two different climbs done within days of each other of Adrian Ballinger and Kilian Jornet’s respective climbs. Jornet’s GPS map shows that he stopped and turned around well before the peak or true summit.
Adrian Ballinger’s summit of Everest from May 26, 2017.
Jornet’s GPS map from one of his two attempted ascents:
Howitt does not escape scrutiny as he was questioned by mounteverest.net
Dan Howitt backs off from speed records
20:59 p.m. EDT May 15, 2003
In the past two weeks ExplorersWeb has put a large amount of time and effort into the verification of Dan Howitt’s speed ascent/descent on Mt. Rainier this past fall, and his ascent record of Aconcagua this past winter.
We have not been able to find any proof of Dans claims. After presenting Dan with a proposed news article including the results of the investigation, Dan requested in a mail today for his speed ascents of Aconcagua and Rainier to be considered unverified.
Howitt categorically denies the above statement by the two-person, husband and wife “team” at Explorer’s Web statement. According to Howitt, he did not request his speed records to be unverified and discussed this openly with Disneval.
Christopher Kelsall: You have illustrated that it appears that Kilian Jornet did not successfully summit Mt. Everest during his two claimed ascents. Has he responded to your assertions?
Dan Howitt: He sent me an email response of about 40 lines, but it did not address any aspect of my 18-page report about him.
He sent the below photographs as his proof of having summited Everest for his second of two claimed summits. He stated that the photos are screen-shots; so apparently they are from his GoPro video camera. GoPro video cameras have excellent headlamp-illumination, and he should have been able to illuminate a significant extent of the summit region, and in particular, at least the summit point (with the posts and abundant flags that are strewn about the ground). He should have also been able to take illuminated video of himself on the summit, and alongside the summit point. He stated that I can “intuit” the summit flags in his photograph.
CK: You indicate that he did not provide photo(s), video evidence, did not phone anyone from the summit and his watch stopped short of the top. Apparently, he did not have eyewitnesses either. What is the protocol for proving one has successfully climbed to the top of Mt. Everest?
DH: The Nepal Ministry of Tourism requires photographic, video, and/or witness proof of having summited in order for a climber to be given a government summit-certificate.
Most climbers of Everest are extremely interested in having photographs and or video of themselves at the summit, for their memories, and to share with family, friends, and others. Since 1953, when the first photographs of Everest’s summit were taken by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, summit photography and videography has been prevalent.
Camera and video technology have improved dramatically since 1953 – they are substantially lighter (10-plus times lighter than in 1953); substantially smaller, substantially more resistant to cold, and the photographs and video are substantially better in quality. For Kilian’s Summits of My Life project, he took abundant summit photographs and or video at each of the mountains that he summited, but not the most important at Everest.
CK: Has Jornet failed to document other climbs?
DH: For Kilian’s frequency of climbing various mountains throughout the world, including during daily workouts, he uses his GoPro video camera to take substantial video of himself ascending to the summit, at the summit, and descending from the summit. Several times a month, he publishes the photography and video on his multitude of websites. His multitude of sponsors published the photography and videos as well.
Kilian’s Everest trip was 100% sponsored. They could have paid for a team of Sherpas to time-verify, and summit-verify, both of his claimed Everest summits.
As is shown in my report, Kilian’s gear list and the photograph of his gear shows that he travelled to Everest with a GoPro camera, satellite-cellphone, satellite-cellphone charger, radio, and GPS watch. In his email reply to me, he stated that he decided to not carry either his satellite-cellphone or radio. The question I ask is why did he bring them to Everest then? He brought them on all of his other Summits of My Life mountains, all of which were mountains that were substantially less life-threatening than Everest. He wrote, “I didn’t want to carry sat phone or radio, it was a choice of style for me, climbing alone and with not any link to the base camp or “home” to be the sole on taking decisions up there, it was a matter of style.”
I informed Kilian in 2014 about the high controversy about Chad Kellogg’s 2003 Denali record-claim and summit-claim, and 2003 Khan Tengri summit-claim, and sent him my lengthy reports on the matter. I emphasized how Kellogg has no summit-verification for these climbs, and that he, as is shown in my report, clearly engaged in a scheme of complicated fraud, including using two Denali basecamp managers who were friends of his (Mark Westman and Lisa Roderick) to perpetuate his fraud.
I also showed him how Kellogg took up-close pictures of his face on Khan Tengri, with no summit, nor mountain in the background or anywhere in the photos. I emphasized to Kilian that he chronically evaded obtaining basic summit-verification and time-verification.
Kilian has time-verification and summit-verification for all of his Summits of My Life climbs over three years, except his most important and final one, Mount Everest. And the evidence and proof against him about his Everest claims is overwhelming. And as I showed, he, in fact, lied about not using fixed-ropes on Everest as is shown in the video and photograph that I provided in my report, he took GoPro video of himself in his second climb that shows him using fixed lines, both in the ascent and descent and well below the summit.
On his websites, and in his press releases, his major claim is that he climbed solo, without oxygen, and without fixed-ropes. And, he does not use this video of him on any of his websites, likely because it exposes that he publicly lied. I found the video after weeks of searching – it is in French and likely was not intended to be published by Kilian.
I provided Kilian in 2014 with my history of Everest speedclimbing, which was a five-page report, and which provided all summit-photos of Everest speedclimbs, and extensive discussions about all of the record-claims. All other media summarize the history of Everest speedclimbing in three to four sentences, and lack all of the summit photos, and often confuse records with one another, and have substantially inaccurate information.
CK: You indicate that his finish time is 30h 56m, is this from base camp to what he claims as the summit and back down to base camp?
DH: Advance Basecamp to Summit to Advance Basecamp. And that was for his first of two Everest summit-claims.
CK: Of the 18 hours that he was missing in action, was this for climb two where he claims to arrive at about midnight, accounting for the total of 38 hours round-trip?
DH: One of his sponsors, Red Bull, in this article of theirs, state that he was out of communication for 18 hours during a particular climb (they do not state which one), during which time his friends and girlfriend were extremely concerned about him. In his own Everest movie-trailer, his girlfriend Emelie is shown in a state of extreme worry about his welfare during that 18 hours.
CK: It does seem like there is plenty of evidence mounting against him, however, apparently that model of watch is known to reset itself or re-calibrate its current track, losing athlete’s hundreds of metres.
DH: As I showed in my report on Kilian, he used his Suunto GPS watch (Suunto is one of his sponsors) for all of his other Summits of My Life climbs over three years, and his GPS data and GPS mapping and GPS elevation readings are quite accurate. Many of those run-climbs involved tens of hours as well.
Kilian’s multitude of monthly workouts, including marathon and ultra-distance, distances, have GPS data, GPS mapping, and GPS elevation readings that are quite accurate.
I’ve never seen GPS tracking from one of Kilian’s runs, climbs, workouts, etc., that consists of such severe errors, incompleteness, etc.
I have never heard of any GPS watches “resetting themselves” or “re-calibrating its current track”. And, none of his other GPS tracking involves any of what is shown in his Everest GPS tracking.
Editor’s note: Full disclosure: A friend who runs 150-160 kilometres per week with significant elevation change (for a road runner) has experienced the Suunto “recalibration”.
For his second Everest attempt, his GPS tracking begins in the exact place where he took his GoPro video for that attempt. His GPS tracking begins at that place and tracks his descent from that place. His GoPro video shows him sitting on the mountain in that place, and then descending from that place. It is clear that he began his GPS tracking at that place. And as I mentioned before, the GoPro video reveals that he lied about not using fixed-ropes.
And as I mentioned before, he does not use that GoPro video on any of his own websites, nor has sent it to any media, surely because it reveals that he lied about not using fixed-ropes, and even that he did not ascend higher than that place on the mountain. As mentioned, the video was published on July 16, 2017, by a French company, Holala, and Kilian apparently carelessly included the video of him using fixed-ropes.
CK: Regarding his 18 hours missing in action, could that simply have been him above the steps, crawling along to the summit? Is there any possibility of that?
DH: My point in highlighting that he went 18 hours without being in communication with his basecamp team, including girlfriend, all of whom were giving ongoing reports to Kilian’s family, and who were worried about his very life, and whether he may have died, is that he not only evaded obtaining any summit-verification for either of his climbs, and no time-verification for either of his climbs, but he even evaded providing communications of where he was on the mountain, over the 18 hours. I believe that he did not want to verbally lie to his friends, girlfriend, and family, on Everest itself, and so refrained from engaging in any verbal communication. Perhaps verbally lying to one’s loved ones during an act of fraud and during an attempted performance is different than doing so after the claimed performance is over.
CK: Jornet claims to climb Mt. Everest twice, without oxygen, but I saw a mask in one image. He also had no electronic back-up or witnesses at those unusual times of day for his summit. Would this be a first ever?
DH: It would be. The mask that is shown in the photograph of him in my report, and the video that I provide of him with the mask, is used to lessen the cold of the air and frostbite.
CK: How many people have soloed without oxygen twice in one trip?
CK: You have gone to great lengths to disprove Jornet. How sure are you that he absolutely did not make either climb?
DH: Unfortunately, it seems that it is fairly certain that he did not summit for either of his Everest attempts. And deceiving tens of millions of people is not acceptable.
Via his country’s primary sports’ publication, Desnivel Magazine, I offered Kilian $1000 US if he does an Everest climb (a speedclimb) and proves that he reached the summit.
CK: You mentioned that he has deceived many people with the supposed false claims of summiting Everest twice. How does the general climbing community feel about the results of the climbs?
DH: Kilian is from Spain, and one of the most important sports’ publications, Desnivel Magazine, did an extensive article about his Everest controversy for their February 2018 edition, including featuring it on the cover. That such an article was done in Spain, and by Desnivel, and by the chief editor of Desnivel, Dario Rodriguez, indicates that a substantial extent of the general climbing community does not think that Kilian has been honest about both of his Everest summit-claims.
There have been critical articles done on Kilian’s two Everest summit-claims, and his 2017 Cho Oyu summit-claim, in France, Italy, Russia, and Greece, which indicates the above as well.
There are some ongoing, extensive forum-discussions, such as at the well-respected LetsRun.com, that consists mostly of arguments that support my report against Kilian.
CK: Do you expect anyone to announce that his performances will be officially not recognized?
DH: The Nepal Ministry of Tourism might, as they did in 2017 of Pemba Dorje Sherpa’s 2004 Everest summit-claim and speed record-claim. Kilian has done what Pemba Dorje did; so the Nepal Ministry has the same basis to reject Kilian’s two summit-claims, and record-claims.
CK: Would you like Kilian Jornet to come clean and admit that he lied?
DH: I and others that I have had discussions with would like him to withdraw his Everest summit-claims and speed-record-claims, and his Cho Oyu summit-claim, and state that he will do attempts on Everest and Cho Oyu at another time in the future that are fully climb-verified and time-verified. He is fully sponsored by an array of companies, they pay for his entire trips, and provide the best gear available, and all of the advanced camera, video, communication and GPS technology that he brought with him.
He has abundant opportunity to abide by the Nepal Ministry of Tourism’s requirement that to be certified as having summited, it is necessary to have complete summit verification. He instead has resorted to stating that some climbers saw “his” climbing tracks to the summit, which is what mountaineers used to say 100-plus years ago. Also, climbing tracks on Everest in the summit region are blown away in seconds or minutes, and or filled in with snow and ice in seconds or minutes. It is interesting that he did not even leave an item on the summit, such as a distinctive flag that he attached to the other flags.
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 the 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.