This season on Mount Everest has been eventful, with climbers successfully reaching the summit, daring rescues taking place, and unfortunately, tragic incidents resulting in fatalities. Amidst this, a renowned figure in the mountaineering world, Kilian Jornet, has managed to survive an avalanche.
Taking on the West Ridge of Everest, a route initially conquered by Tom Hornbein and Willie Unsoeld, Jornet displayed his remarkable skills. It’s worth noting that Hornbein recently passed away at the remarkable age of 92, leaving behind a legacy of adventure. To learn more about his adventurous life, you can read about it here. As for Jornet, he has established himself as one of the fastest solo mountaineers globally, boasting an impressive collection of records.
Jornet faced challenging conditions on the West Ridge, encountering approximately a kilometer of arduous snow. After navigating through treacherous terrain, he patiently waited for several hours on the ridge until the fierce winds finally subsided. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he proceeded into the famous Hornbein Couloir, previously used by a Canadian team back in 1986.
Ascending a few hundred meters up the couloir, Jornet encountered a wind slab that gave way, resulting in an avalanche that swept him down the slope for about 50 meters. Following this incident, he made the decision to return to the base camp. Reflecting on his experience, Jornet gave this summary on his Socials…
Back from Khumbu, Nepal!
This expedition was a failure. Or?
I didn’t reach the summit I was aiming for. But everything else.
I’m a big believer in the how is way bigger and more important than the what, and in that sense the climb was just perfect. Like a big puzzle with all the pieces but one, the summit one.
In 1963 the late Tom Hornbein and Willi Onsoloed made a first ascent of this beautiful route. It was a pleasure to follow their footsteps for a little. My climb started climbing a steep couloir to reach the west shoulder, the conditions there were horrible, blue ice underneath with a top layer of deep snow, 2 steps up and one down for 1000m! When I reached the ridge it was very windy so I stayed under a cornice for 3h to calm down while enjoying watching the queues of climbers from both nepali and tibetan normal routes making their progression. After the wind calmed I continued the ridge and traversed on mixed terrain towards the feet of the Hornbein couloir. I felt great and conditions were perfect. After a few hundred meters on the couloir a wind pocket (I suppose recently created from the morning winds) broke and I got carried down in the avalanche for about 50m. I doubted whether to continue or to turn around and decided the latter. The downhill was interesting, with heavy snowfall that made me use the @corosglobal “back to start” feature following my way up, since visibility was 2-3m and my tracks were under deep snow.
Well, a great day in the mountains, where everything was beyond perfect except I didn’t reach the summit.