It seems that there are always new challenges for Kilian Jornet. It’s less than a month since he returned from the expedition to Everest where he attempted to scale the roof of the world as part of his Summits of My Life project. Although it wasn’t a success, he returned from the Himalayas in good spirits and keen to continue climbing and mountaineering.
After only three weeks in Norway and the Alps he has retuned to mountain running. “I’m always itching for competition,” Jornet said, adding: “I haven’t been to La Fully for a long time but it’s an event I’ve always enjoyed. This year I didn’t have high expectations but wanted to test myself.”
Jornet last took part in La Fully in 2008 and returned with the aim of beating his record but unsure of his performance after spending a month in the Himalayas. Today he finished fourth in the Swiss event with a time of 30’33’’.
The vertical kilometre is a highly specialised event, and is one of the fastest and most explosive. It consists of completing a 1,000m ascent in the shortest time possible. Generally speaking, these 1,000km are spread out over 3-5 kilometres. However, La Fully is without doubt the vertical event par excellence as the 1,000m climb is compressed into a distance of less than 2km. A 50% gradient over most of the course allows for a rapid ascent following on old railroad track used to transport grapes from the vines in this part of the Valais valley
Several records have been set on this tough circuit, one of which Jornet held for some years. The current record of 29’42’’ is held by Urban Zemmer. Among the women, Christel Dewalle broke the record last year with a time of 34’44’’. There was no record this year but the event, which exhausted the 600 competitors in a few minutes, was just as spectacular.
Starting at 8am, one by one the competitors took on the challenge. At midday it was the turn of the favourites, Kilian Jornet and the Italians Urban Zemmer, Marco de Gasperi and Nadir Maguet. Jornet began well in the first stage across the Valais vineyards. The train tracks follow the escarpment and Jornet, shirtless and with ski poles, continued to climb along the rails.
However, about half way along, having passed 600 metres, Jornet’s legs felt heavy and he had to slow down. In spite of a surge in the final stage, Jornet knew that the cherished sub-30-minute time was out of reach, but was still happy as he crossed the finish line in a time of 30’33’’. “It’s been a tough but satisfying day. I felt good to start with but half way through my legs felt heavy and it was hard to make good speed. It’s less than a month since we got back from Everest and I’ve taken part in a fast event such as La Fully. I like this sort of versatility and I’m keen to be in the mountains,” he said.
Nadir Maguet (30’17’’) was the winner, followed by the legendary Urban Zemmer (30’28’’) and Marco Moletto (30’28’’). Jornet, who isn’t planning to take part in any other races this season in order to concentrate on mountain skiing, was happy to embrace the young Maguet on the finish line. In the end, he said, what matters is that you enjoy yourself.