On May 24th, Kilian Jornet, 35, set off an avalanche in the Hornbein Couloir on the West Ridge of Everest. He survived a 50-meter fall down the couloir.
The West Ridge is known as one of the most difficult and treacherous routes to the peak of Everest. The Hornbein Couloir is around 500 vertical meters, and it was first ascended by the legendary mountaineer Tom Hornbein (November 6,1930-May 6, 2023).
Jornet was born in Catalonia, and he is a record-holding mountaineer, trail runner, and world-champion skier who loves to push his personal limits and the sports he loves.
According to an article by Gripped, Jornet said the West Ridge was in suboptimal conditions during his attempt. He was forced to wait out high winds to start his ascent up the Hornbein Couloir in unpredictable snow conditions.
He climbed a few hundred meters when a wind slab broke off and started an avalanche that carried him 50 meters (~160 feet) down the couloir. He then returned to camp seemingly unphased by the perilous events.
Many onlookers and mountaineers themselves may see this as a failed mission, but it is more than that to Jornet.
In an Instagram post after the incident, he wrote,
“I’m a big believer in the how is way bigger and more important than the what. In that sense, the climb was just perfect. Like a big puzzle with all the pieces but one, the summit one.”
These athletes possess a unique quality that sets them apart from the rest of us. In their mind, undertaking such a colossal risk seems minor due to their methodical processes that they have honed their entire career. It’s step by step up the Hornbein couloir, and that is how it will be when he decides to return.
Jornet shows no signs of slowing down. Just a week later he was back home in Catalonia skiing gnarly couloirs with what’s left of spring skiing. He will continue to be an influential figure in the action sports world, ceaselessly pushing what humanity deems as possible.