The possibility that the greatest mountain runner in the world did not actually summit Everest twice without oxygen or fixed ropes in May 2017, as he claimed, has been raised before. The evidence (or rather, the lack of evidence) has now been published in a book: The Rise of the Ultra Runners: a Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn.
Jornet has twice been named Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic. He has won some of the world’s most prestigious ultra-trail races (Hardrock 100, Western States Endurance Run, Ultra Trail de Mont-Blanc) multiple times, holds multiple course records and FKT’s (fastest known times), and is one of the world’s most recognizable names in both climbing and ultra-trail running. But his claim to have summitted Everest twice in one week without using bottled oxygen or fixed ropes is very much in dispute.
The relevant section of the book is by the American mountain runner Dan Howitt, who has analyzed Jornet’s Everest climbs in detail. Jornet claims to have summitted on May 22, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. (midnight) and again on May 27 at 9:30 p.m. Howitt demonstrates that there are no photographs, video footage, GPS data or satellite smartphone communication from the summit and no witnesses to his having summitted, despite clear evidence that he had all the necessary technology (including a Go-Pro, which has excellent lighting capability, and a satellite smartphone) with him on the expedition, not to mention that Jornet has always extensively documented his climbs, as well as his training workouts, with photos, video and verifiable GPS data.
According to Howitt, Jornet’s GPS data from May 22 shows the highest elevation reached as slightly higher than 8,500m (the summit is at 8,848m). The data from May 27 starts at 8,650m and descends from there. His climbing partner and photographer, Sebastian Montaz, is known not to have ascended beyond 7,620m.
Howitt examines every detail of the climbs and of Jornet’s claims. The fact that Jornet came within a few hundred metres of the summit on both occasions is impressive. But that is not what he claimed.
Jornet had planned to climb Everest as the last in his Summits of My Life challenge the previous year, in 2016, and was waiting for a window in Tibet when bad weather forced him to abandon his plans and return to Europe.
Finn is a UK-based journalist and the author of Running with the Kenyans and The Way of the Runner.