The AT50: Mountain Man Kilian Jornet Burgada (#32)
Sports: Skyrunning, Ski Mountaineering
Highlights: 2007-2010, 2012 Skyrunner World Series champion; 2011 Western States Endurance Run winner; Holds course record (2:30:57) for 4,015 meter summit of the Dôme de Neige des Écrins.
Quote: "After the school, we didn’t watch TV or rest at home, my sister and I were playing in the forest or mountains."
Fact: Burgada lives and was born in a mountain hut.
AT50 Point Total: 39
It's no wonder that Kilian Jornet Burgada is a mountain man. Like many Catalonian kids, he grew up with a picture of a mountain on his wall (the perfect spire of the Matterhorn, in his case). He poured over the books of Reinhold Messner, and his parents strapped skis on his feet before he'd taken his first steps. Shortly thereafter, they brought him hiking and climbing in the Pyrenees, and his formal education was begun. Today, he's an accomplished mountaineer and "sky runner" (someone who runs steep-pitched endurance races in the mountains above 6,600' altitude) who moves through the mountains with a primal grace that appears almost animal in nature.
Jornet Burgada's list of accomplishments is long: he's a five-time world champion and three-time European champion ski mountaineer, won the Skyrunner World Series in four out of five years from 2007 to 2012 and took the world-famous Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2008, 2009 and 2011. But his biggest challenge to date is still in front of him. Last year, he embarked upon Summits of My Life, a four-year-long project in which he hopes to shatter the speed ascent and descent records on some of the world's most lofty, spectacular peaks, including Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali, Everest and, yes, the Matterhorn. He already has the records on Kilimanjaro (5h22min up/7h14min down), and last September he shattered the record for a speed traverse of Mt. Blanc via the Inomminata Ridge (a 26-mile route with nearly 12,500 feet of elevation gain and semi-technical climbing) in just eight hours and 42 minutes.