Jornet has, in just 10 years, won nearly 100 ultrarunning events, which are defined as races longer than 31 miles. Six of the past seven years, he has claimed the Skyrunner World Series title, the most prestigious award in mountain running. In the winter, instead of hanging up his sneakers and taking a sauna, he competes in ski mountaineering races, in which athletes climb several thousand feet up snowy peaks, ski down, and then do it again for hours. In that sport, Jornet has four overall World Cup titles. And he doesn’t just win races; he annihilates course records. ... In August 2014, FKT message boards began lighting up with some surprising news. A previously unknown Ecuadorean man named Karl Egloff had raced up and down Kilimanjaro in six hours and 42 minutes, destroying Jornet’s record by 32 minutes. Some considered it a fluke. Then, seven months later, he did it again, beating Jornet’s record on Aconcagua. ... “I’m not purposely trying to beat Kílian’s records,” he says with a chuckle. “But I decided I wanted to try to set records on all of the Seven Summits, and Kílian happens to have the records on a lot of those.” ... I’d asked Jornet about Egloff. We were at lunch, and he’d just taken a bite of a breaded-and-deep-fried-chicken sandwich (when you burn up to 7,000 calories a day, you can eat anything you want), wiped grease from his tanned face, and grinned. “It’s a cool thing,” he said of his competition. “And it’s cool for the sport. It shows what’s possible mentally and physically and generates more interest. I’m glad for Karl.”
On New Year's Day in 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980 was carrying 29 passengers and a hell of a lot of contraband when it crashed into the side of a 21,112-foot mountain in Bolivia. For decades conspiracy theories abounded as the wreckage remained inaccessible, the bodies unrecovered, the black box missing. Then two friends from Boston organized an expedition that would blow the case wide open. ... Mount Illimani, a 21,122-foot mass of rocks and glaciers rising from the eastern edge of Bolivia’s Altiplano region, towers over La Paz. The Andean mountain is so textured by ridgelines, high peaks, and shadows that, viewed from the city, it seems to move and change shape throughout the day. ... In all, at least five expeditions have climbed Illimani in search of the wreckage over the past 30 years. None of them found any bodies or flight recorders, nor could anybody establish what brought down the plane. Officially, it was designated a “controlled flight into terrain,” which means it couldn’t be blamed on a bird strike or an engine malfunction or hijackers. The NTSB ultimately filed its own report to supplement the Bolivian one, but it came to the same flat conclusion: the plane was destroyed because it ran into a mountain. ... As time passed, however, details emerged that invited speculation among South American journalists, the families of the victims, and anyone else still following the story. ... Where were the flight recorders? Where were the bodies? ... So here’s another question worth asking: What sort of foolhardy seeker suddenly takes an interest in a 30-year-old plane crash?