Runner scales Mont Blanc in record 4h 57min

Most mountain climbers will take a few days to get up and down Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, but on Thursday one extreme athlete got up and down unscathed in just under five hours, to set a new world record. He managed it in shorts, a T-shirt and trainers.

Runner scales Mont Blanc in record 4h 57min
Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak. Photo: Richard West

The record for summitting Mont Blanc, which had stood proudly for 23 years, was shattered on Thursday as Spanish extreme trail runner and ski-alpinist Kilian Jornet set a new time by taking 13 minutes off the previous best.

Mont Blanc is considered a dangerous mountain to climb, with dozens of mountaineers having lost their lives on its slopes in recent years.

But Jornet managed to get up and down the 4,810 metre mountain unscathed in an astonishing 4 hours, 57 minutes and 40 seconds, breaking the previous world’s best time of 5 hours 10 minutes and 44 seconds set in 1990 by Pierre André Gobet.

Jornet, 25, set off at pace from the church in the town of Chamonix, which stands at an altitude of 1037 metres, at 4.46am wearing just a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and a sturdy pair of running shoes. It took him a mere 3 hours 30 minutes to summit the peak.

He was accompanied by Mathéo Jacquemond, but sadly the 22-year-old Frenchman was injured on the way down, which mean Jornet was left to make a triumphant return alone, arriving back at church at 9.43am.

“The snow conditions were good, so we were able to descend easily, by sliding down on our bottoms or running,” the extreme athlete said on his return. “It was a shame to finish alone. I did the entire ascent and the descent with Matteo.

"I think the record is for both of us even if I am the only one to make it back to the church.”

Jornet is not going to stop at Mont Blanc, however, and plans to set records for climbing eight other mountains, including Mount Elbrus (5642 metres) in Russia, the Matterhorn (4,478 metres) in the Alps and the biggest of them all, Mount Everest, where the current record stands at 20 hours and 24 minutes.

(Photo:  Killian Jornet stops for refueling in the Mafate circus during the 20th Diagonale des Fous (the diagonal of the fool) or Grand Raid, a 170 km raid across La Reunion, on October 19, 2012)

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Mountaineer dies on Europe’s Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts

A French mountaineer died close to the summit of Mont Blanc on Friday after rescuers made several attempts to get to him in a violent storm.

Mountaineer dies on Europe's Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts
A picture taken from a helicopter on August 7th, 2020 shows the Planpincieux glacier of the Grandes Jorasses, on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif, with the Courmayeur village in the background, Val Ferret, northwestern Italy.  Andrea BERNARDI / AFP

The man, in his forties, was climbing Europe’s highest peak when he lost his way and got stuck at 4,800 metres (15,700 feet), assailed by “the storm, the wind, the cold,” rescuer André-Vianney Espinasse told AFP.

He called for help on Thursday evening.

Several helicopters attempted to rescue him but couldn’t get to him due to the weather, Espinasse said.

As a result, one helicopter dropped rescuers off lower down, at 3,200 metres, forcing them to climb the rest of the way at night.

At two in the morning, after reaching a refuge and waiting for the weather to ease, they climbed further into heavy winds.

They found the man some two hours later, suffering from severe hypothermia.

But “at 5.30, in awful winds, the mountaineer suffered a cardiac arrest,” said Espinasse.

A fresh attempt by a helicopter to lift the victim off the mountain failed once again due to the high winds.

The rescuers then decided to leave the body and get out of “this extremely dangerous area”.

A rescue helicopter from neighbouring Italy eventually managed to lift the body off the mountain.

“Going solo on high mountains should really be avoided due to all the dangers involved,” Espinasse said.

Mont Blanc is between the regions of Aosta Valley in Italy and Savoie and Haute-Savoie in France