Next month, one of the planet’s top ultra-runners, renowned for his ability to thrive in high mountains, aims to set a speed record on Everest. We got the exclusive on the unique footwear he will wear to the top.
Kilian Jornet is a top ultra-runner and also no stranger to fast alpine ascents. He toppled speed records on Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Denali, and Aconcagua between 2012 and 2015 as part of the Summits Of My Life project.
His sights are now set on Everest, which Jornet will attempt in an extremely rare unfixed style this fall: To avoid bottlenecks and hazards from other (slower) climbers, Jornet will ascend without fixed lines up a less-climbed face of the mountain, likely via the Hornbein or Norton Couloirs.
Kilian Jornet Everest ‘Running Shoes’
Jornet will employ a prototype footwear system from his sponsor Salomon during the endeavor. It combines a running shoe, bootie, gaiter, and crampons in a three-piece system that nests together like Russian dolls.
At the end of July, Jornet visited Salomonʼs Annecy Design Centre in the French Alps to have his shoes ﬁt for the last time before departing for the Himalayas in the coming days.
The footwear system was developed with his input over nearly three years.
“Itʼs like one shoe for doing everything. You start from the base and you just add layers all the way to the summit,” Jornet said. “Itʼs modular, so you can get from the easy trails to the more technical terrain up high.”
Modular Everest Boot System
The ﬁrst shoe is a basic layer of insulation with the bottom of Salomonʼs S/Lab Sense shoe. It has an insulated gaiter that will allow him to run at the lower elevations until reaching the snow line. It will be used as the inner boot in the system.
Next comes a mid-layer boot designed with extra insulation to keep his feet warm. Those two pieces together will then be placed inside a large insulated boot with built-in crampons, which Jornet will use to climb at the higher elevations of Everest.
“The feeling is like you have a running shoe, so you can run from the base camp,” Jornet explains.
“Then when you come to the snow, you put it inside the other boot and then you feel like you are in a climbing shoe—itʼs completely stiff when you are on ice and that kind of terrain. But you have the freedom of the ankle of a running shoe.”
Running To The Everest Summit
Shoes aside, Jornet’s endeavor is far beyond the dreams of most climbers. Jornet rocked the climbing world in 2014 when he blew away the speed record on Denali, scaling the 20,237-foot mountain in under 12 hours.
On Everest, he’ll face his biggest challenge yet up either the Horbein or Norton couloirs, depending on conditions. Both routes are direct shots up the mountain, and both are rarely climbed.
Jornet told Men’s Journal he won’t be using any fixed ropes or established camps in favor of an ultra-light and fast method of climbing.
Thus, his equipment is largely customized for a super fast (and thus risky) attempt. It’s a climb unlike any the mountain has seen before.