Sixty years after Willi Unsoeld and the recently deceased Thomas Hornbein made history on Everest by opening the demanding route to the summit that bears the latter's name, Kilian Jornet tried to complete this itinerary last Sunday. The climber advanced along the west ridge, at about 7,300 meters, crossed mixed terrain and continued along the famous corridor until he was caught in an avalanche that dragged him about 50 meters, according to a statement. "At that moment I doubted whether to continue or turn around, I finally decided to go back," he details. From Kathmandu, Jornet has sent the news of his latest adventure, that he has ended up without a peak but with a good taste in his mouth for having explored very difficult terrain and, most importantly, being able to tell about it.
While hundreds of people have easily climbed Everest this May by the normal Nepalese route, clinging to fixed ropes and with the help of bottled oxygen, Jornet tried to reach the summit alone by a route from another league, within reach only of the flower and cream of mountaineering. High-altitude tourism versus real mountaineering. The chances of materializing this type of challenge are slim and hence its great appeal.
When Jornet, accompanied by his family, was already in Nepal, Tom Hornbein, one of the architects of this colossal path, died at his home in Colorado at the age of 92, perhaps the most difficult path to tread the 8,849 meters of Everest.
Kilian left Camp II in Nepal on Sunday in what would be a 30-hour day that included everything. "My ascent started down a very vertical corridor that took me up the west ridge of Everest, at which point the conditions were horrible, blue ice with a top layer of deep snow. For a thousand meters I would take two steps forward and one step back! back!", detailed in his statement.
The wind was blowing strongly when he reached the west ridge, at about 7,300 meters, so he decided to stop and take shelter under a ledge for about three hours. He took the opportunity to rest and observe "the endless queue of expeditionaries who chose the traditional routes, the Nepalese and the Tibetan, to the top."
As the gale died down he continued up the west ridge, traversing mixed terrain that would bring him to the foot of the dizzying Hornbein runner. Kilian says that in those moments he felt comfortable, but after a few hundred meters he was caught by an avalanche that dragged him about 50 meters. Here he finished the ascent and began a descent complicated by the very low visibility. "But," he says, "it was a great day on the mountain, everything was perfect, except that I didn't make it to the top."
Jornet landed in Nepal on April 19 with enough time to acclimatize and prepare for his ascent, without the help of artificial oxygen. Before her attempt, he made four rotations, reaching, in the last one, 7,900 meters from Camp IV. In 2019 and 2021, she also settled in the Khumbu to study the possibilities of the Hornbein corridor. Previously, in 2017, and from the Tibetan side, he starred in a double ascent to the roof of the world in one week.