Montane athlete Jon Gupta sets a new English speed ascent record for Mt Kilimanjaro of just 8 hours 11 minutes.
2017 is Jon Gupta’s year. Starting in January, he and Tom Sutherland became the first team ever to complete the 430 mile category of the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra, enduring temperatures as low as -44°C over a gruelling 12 days. In May, not only did he guide client Mollie Hughes into the record books (she became the youngest woman in the world to scale Everest successfully from both north and south sides), but Jon himself became the youngest British male to summit successfully from both sides also. Closer to home, he then followed this up by achieving his Mountain Instructor Award in the summer – the highest UK qualification attainable for rock climbing.
This autumn, he set his sights on an ambitious speed ascent of the world’s highest free-standing mountain – Kilimanjaro (5,895m). Kilimanjaro’s air pressure is so low that its oxygen is recorded at around half that recorded at sea level. Walking in these conditions is hard enough, let alone running.
After acclimatising with a rapid ascent on Mt Kenya’s (5,199m) big ultra classic North Face rock route (800m IV+ 5.9), Jon headed to Tanzania for his Kilimanjaro speed ascent attempt. Without much ado, he achieved this via the steepest route in an incredible 8 hours, 11 minutes, setting a new English speed record in the process. Jon’s route for the approx. 60km round trip saw him ascend the Unbwe / Western breach and descend the following morning via the Mweka Route via Baraffu high camp.
Jon said of his new record: “This world is changing incredibly quickly – by 2060 there are predictions that all of Kilimanjaro’s ice will have disappeared. I know Kilimanjaro inside out [Jon has completed 18 ascents of Kilimanjaro] and in recent years have made some very fast speed ascents on other big mountains, like Ama Dablam (speed solo in 14 hrs). I love pushing my body really, really hard at high altitude. I’m not a runner but combining the two makes perfect sense for me. I just love moving fast in the big mountains. From 5,000m to the top of Kilimanjaro it was really tough – my lungs were burning but I felt absolutely great! I would stop for 5-10 seconds to feel normal again, then push on as fast as I could”.
As if this wasn’t enough, Jon then spent the same evening ice climbing into the sunset on the last of the remaining glaciers within Kilimanjaro’s summit crater. The next morning he took a leisurely run back down the Mweka Route from the summit in just under 3 hours. In figures, this is 4,000m + of ascent and descent between the altitudes of 1,800m – 5,895m. Jon’s Garmin preferred to display this as 39,000 steps.
Jon’s Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro antics are part of a Montane film he is currently making with his climbing partner Dave Talbot. The Sons of Africa is scheduled for release in autumn 2018.
Jon is very much at home in the world’s highest mountains. At the age of 30 he has achieved 1st British ski records on 7,000m peaks, guided on Everest from both North and South sides and over 60 other major expeditions to his name. He has no plans to slow down this year either: “Rest? I’m just getting started! I am toying with the idea of doing the Bob Graham Round after this…but then again this involves more running. This is something I’ve always dreamt of but never known if I could do, it’s absolutely nails! Then it’s a few months of climbing (maybe a little project climbing in Spain and Morocco in December) and planning and preparing for another HUGE year in 2018. Otherwise starting in January 2018 I am climbing 6 of the legendary ‘7 Summits’ back to back as part of a friend’s world speed record…that should keep me busy for a while”.
Jon’s kit list for his record-breaking speed ascent drew from Montane’s VIA Trail Series – a range of clothing, accessories and packs specifically for trail running and moving fast in the mountains. Designed and developed with Montane’s lead athletes and building on years of extensive endurance race event experience, the VIA Trail Series range offers premium performance apparel and equipment for ultra athletes worldwide. Jon’s kit includes: