“When it comes to climbing mountains, the reaching should never compromise the journey to get there.” Wise words from Kilian Jornet in Above the clouds for all of us. It’s not the goal that counts, it’s about the journey towards that goal.
To quote the great philosopher and spiritual leader Osho: “Never focus on your goals. Why should you? If you’ve reached your goal, you only have to find a new one. Enjoy the journey.”
Jornet says the same in his book Above the clouds. But maybe it’s easy to say, if you have reached almost every goal in mountaineering and running there is to reach. Not for nothing Jornet is called the Goat. Or better: G.O.A.T. Meaning the Greatest Of All Time. The guy went up Mount Everest several times, without oxygen, has won almost every long distance trail run there is and holds loads of race records. So how did Kilian Jornet become the greatest? In Above the clouds he gives us a glimpse into his life. To be fair, it’s a bit of a chaotic glimpse, as the book flies through time and is a mix of anecdotes, contemplations, life changing experiences, his struggles with social media/modern life and expectations. Or in his words: “I was a prisoner of other people’s projects”.
Little Kilian Jornet
One question it does answer clearly is how Kilian Jornet became the greatest trail runner of all time. We all know, to excel in a sport, you need a combination of the right DNA, hard work and the right people at the right time. Jornet grew up in a refuge ‘shared by mountaineers, skiers, and tourists passing through’. He started competing when he was still a baby: “My first race number was pinned on me by my parents before I could walk. I was two months old and my father took me, hanging by the arms, my skis barely grazing the snow. … I also remember myself at three years old competing for the first time in the cross-country skiing Marxa Pirineu.”
Life or death
Where some children may rebel against their parents, Jornet loved it and started to train like crazy. “To know my body and the benefits of better training I have experimented with sleep, hydration and several kinds of training, running at high altitudes, trying out different equipment, and practicing a hundred hours a week. … I know the way I train can be dangerous. For one reason: my method is oriented towards figuring out my limits. I could end up overstepping those limits and risking my life. … When I was a teenager people called me weird, because all I wanted to know was how far my body could go.” He didn’t do that on his own. Only twelve years old he entered the Centro de Tecnificacion de Esqui de Montana, the Spanish national youth team for mountain skiing. There he met Maite Hernandez, his first trainer, who had climbed Mount Everest.
Everest, or better, mountaineering is also where Jornet’s heart truly lies. Trail running races, and the publicity that comes with it, are not his favorite passing of time. “I didn’t realize at the time of my first World Cup win that my life would undergo a radical shift, and not exactly at the level of sport. Overnight, the entire media apparatus made me their central focus, and I lost my anonymity. That was when my love-hate relationship with trail running and everything surrounding it began.” Above the clouds, heigh in the mountains Jornet feels best at home. On his own. Which as a reader sometimes makes you wonder, how his friends and especially his wife must feel: “I’d left my satellite phone with Seb. That decision, which was making my experience more authentic, was making those who love me suffer. Neither Seb at base camp (on Mount Everest; jk) nor Emelie (his wife; jk) in Zegama knew where I was or what was happening to me.”
Maybe stories like that give you the most inside into Kilian Jornet, the athlete and the person behind the athlete, because that’s mostly what the book is. Stories.
The subtitle of the book is; How I carved my own path to the top of the world. But that part stays unanswered. If you read the book to help you become the next Kilian Journet, you better look for another book. He doesn’t share his training methods or schedules with you. At least, I didn’t learn anything from it and that’s were I’m always hoping for, when I pick up a book written by a famous athlete.
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Also, if you want to know which brand teams will help you best on your career path, the book isn’t telling you as well. Jornet reveals that brands wanted to work with him, and that he makes enough money for a good life, thanks to his sport, but doesn’t say which brand teams to focus on.
As said before, the book is just a book with stories, anecdotes and contemplations, presented in a random, even chaotic way. For me, it wasn’t a page turner. In the time I was reading Above the clouds, I read 3 other books and I’m halfway number 4. That doesn’t happen if a book really appeals to me. But he, who am I?