Jason Black Climbed Mt Kilimanjaro Twice in 22.5 Hours, Mt Everest, and K2!
“If you can believe it, then you can achieve it.” – Jason Black
Would you ever contemplate climbing a mountain twice in ONE day?! Irish mountain climber and full-time-professional-global-endurance athlete, Jason Black, did just that in 2013. Get this, he didn’t even need the entire day – just 22.5 hours to climb Mt Kilimanjaro twice!
This 46-year old mountaineer has taken on the highest mountains in the world and is hungry for more! He tells us about his incredible experience on K2, reaching the top of the world on Mount Everest, and setting a world record on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Stay tuned next week for Jason’s tips on diet, training, and footwear for new mountaineers!
ub-cool: You hold the World Record for climbing Mount Kilimanjaro twice in under 23 hours – is that correct?
Jason Black: Yes, 22.5 hours. My guide, Lipman Mtui, and I accepted a world mountaineering record, a speed record, for mountain climbing up with full expedition kit carrying all of our tents, gas, stoves, and food. We climbed up the western side, went straight down from the summit, and back down the right side and turned around back to the top. And, we did it all in 22.5 hours. It was crazy.
Jason Black and his guide, Lipman Mtui, celebrating their world record at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (2013) | Image Source: Donegal Now
ub-cool: How heavy was your backpack?
Jason Black: We’re probably talking a good 40-45 kilos.
ub-cool: Why did you climb the western side?
Jason Black: I’m a purist climber. I don’t like to climb commercial routes. I like to try out my own route. On the western side, people usually don’t get to see the crater rim, which is basically where the volcano erupted on Kilimanjaro and spatted onto what they call lava tars. Also, this side hadn’t been climbed in 6 years because an American team had perished on that side of the mountain.
ub-cool: Did you plan from the very beginning to climb twice within 20 hours? Or was it a spur of the moment decision during the journey?
Jason Black: I kept it inside. I didn’t tell nobody. I had a fair idea that if the first ascent was successful then it would be game on for the second.
ub-cool: How about your guide – did he know your plan?
Jason Black: Lipman found out when we were approaching the summit on the first round. I said to him, “What do you think, could we give this another go?” And he looked at me with horns on his head, thinking “Yeah right, okay.” But he knew I was strong because he had said to me: “Wow. We could normally never move this fast on a mountain.”
Lipman Mtui | Image Source
We really enjoyed it and it was wonderful and we basked in the beauty of Kilimanjaro. It was wonderful to see the glacier on top, which is very unique, and then to turn around and whack it for the second time from the eastern side was just special.
K2 and Mount Everest
In addition to climbing Mt Kilimanjaro (twice in a day!), Black has taken on the biggest and most terrifying mountains on the planet. To name just a few, he has climbed K2 in Pakistan (2015), Everest in Tibet/Nepal (2013), Denali in Alaska (2014), Elbrus in Russia (2016), and the Aconcagua in South America (2016). Similar to Mt Kilimanjaro, Jason completed a double ascent of Aconcagua in 32 hours!
ub-cool: K2 – the most terrifying of all mountains. What motivated you to take on this challenge in 2015?
Jason Black: As a mountaineer, I’ve always seen K2 as being the holy grail. It was a badass mountain – it was a big, big mountain that nobody ever really wanted to take on. I was inspired by one other Irishman that was successful on K2, Ger McDonnell. But, unfortunately, he lost his life there ten years ago in 2008, and there’s a wonderful film on Netflix that features him called, The Summit.
He had been part of the Nordic team who, on that summit, had a tremendous accident and casualties. Ger McDonnell was the one guy that stayed behind to help a Korean team that had gotten into difficulty. They were hanging upside down on the ropes just below the serac and he turned around and helped them when the rest of the mountaineers decided to go on down and save their own lives. And, unfortunately, when he took them down they were hit by another avalanche.
The harsh conditions and terrain mountaineers like Jason, featured here, endure on such expeditions | Image Source: Jason Black
So I felt very empowered by the story of Ger McDonnell – the other Irishman – and also (a) I really wanted to take it on and, (b) I asked myself if I physically and mentally have the strength to take on the greatest mountain in the world?
In Pakistan, in 2015, I got up as far as Camp 3 before it was hit with an avalanche. There were some fatalities involved and that ended our expedition because we lost our tent, stoves, gas, food, fuel, and oxygen. Everything perished in the avalanche. It was a huge, huge avalanche. It took out the whole mountain. It was quite a special place to be as well as being the only second Irishman to take it on.
ub-cool: As far as I know, K2 has only been attempted by less than 500 people, and doesn’t it have the highest death rate?
Jason Black: Yeah, there’s only been 310 successes on the mountain worldwide, and it’s the deadliest in the world. 1 in 3 perish. And it’s so high and so exposed and so removed from the world. I mean it took us, I think, 9 days trekking – 10 hours a day – just to get to the Concordia Corner to turn left.
Waking up to spectacular views | Image Source: Jason Black
You don’t see K2 until you get to Concordia Corner, you turn left, and all of a sudden, this thing stands in front of you. A vertical mile straight up and you’re like, “Whoa!” because it’s crazy. When you look at it, it’s a vertical – there’s no room for mistakes. But that’s the challenge, that’s the beauty of it.
ub-cool: How many people were on your team?
Jason Black: There were 5 of us: a French climber, an English climber, a Canadian climber, Monique Richard, Arvid Lahti was Norwegian, and myself. We were travelling with a Nepalese company and their chief climber was Dawa – a fabulous climber.
ub-cool: As you say, you don’t have a chance to make a mistake on K2. It’s much, much tougher than Everest. What do you think was the key element of success that made you achieve this goal?
Jason Black: It’s self-belief. Some people view it as being arrogant while others see it as being passionately confident about your own ability to do something in life and having that self-belief. Because, the reality on any big bad mountain or in life or in adventure is that:
“if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re doomed.”
Self-belief drives Jason to climb every summit | Image Source: Jason Black
ub-cool: I believe everything is in our mind.
Jason Black: Absolutely, it’s all in our mind. The world is endless. There is no ceiling to the sky. It’s endless. It really is. And this goes for me:
“When I leave this world, as soon as I check out of this world, I want to explore every corner of this brilliant world – I want to explore and I want to encourage and inspire others to live a limitless life.”
ub-cool: What was the toughest climb to date both mentally and physically?
Jason Black: I would say to date the north face of Mount Everest. For me that was just super tough and, you know, I would have said K2 if the door had stayed open to K2. Had I stayed longer on that mountain, it would’ve been much, much tougher. I’m working towards getting back there again. And no Irishman has ever successfully summitted and returned from K2.
But definitely Everest, I mean, that last camp moving out of 8600 m in the Death Zone. I moved out of there at 8 o’clock at night, then at 7 o’clock in the morning. On 19 May 2013 the sun was shining, the steam was coming up from the south side and they took my photograph on the summit. And, it was incredible.
Stunning views while climbing Mount Everest | Image Source: Jason Black
We had gone through a storm the night before. There were many casualties. The Chinese team tried for the summit on the 18th but encountered a nearly 150 km storm, which I had sat out, and they didn’t summit. They returned snow-blind, were definitely heading for amputation.
ub-cool: What was it like to reach the top of Mount Everest – the top of the world?
Jason Black: It was spectacular!
“Standing on 4 square meters on top of the world, at 29,400 ft, and being able to see 360 degrees. I could see 360 degrees, the complete circumference of the Earth uninterrupted. There wasn’t a single thing on the horizon. I could see the complete circle of the Earth and it was special.”
Jason proudly waving the Irish flag at the top of the world on Mount Everest and enjoying the 360 view of the Earth (2013) | Image Source: Jason Black
ub-cool: I read that you also cycle. Tell us more about that side of you.
Jason Black: I’m also an endurance cyclist. In 2017, I completed the Race Across Italy from one side of Italy over the mountains and then back again. I qualified for Race Across America, which I’m going to do on 6th June 2018, which is 5000 km, from one side to the other. I’m going to try to set a world record from stateside California to Maryland in 6 days – 10 hours 8 minutes. Set the world record for fastest person to ever travel across America.
Jason Black’s Family & Motivational Advice
ub-cool: Do you have children? Is your wife also into sports?
Jason Black: I have three girls and one boy, and thankfully they are all involved in sports: Laura (18), Kate (17), Billy (13), Ella (12). My wife, Sharon, is a fabulous athlete and a wonderful marathoner. She’s run Boston, Paris, and the local marathon here in Ireland. I celebrate women in sport. I think women in sport, certainly endurance athletes, are better than men.
ub-cool: What message would you give our readers to inspire them to go on an extraordinary journey?
Jason Black: If you can believe it, then you can achieve it. The true risk of life is living it. It’s not your bank balance.
“Life is a bit like climbing a mountain. As long as you’re prepared to keep taking the steps going forward in life, it’s okay not to see the summit. It’s okay not to see the top. It’s okay not to see the final result as long as you’re prepared to keep taking the steps; as long as you keep believing that somewhere on the horizon is your destiny.
But I do believe in, with every turn of that icicle crank or with every step on that mountain that eventually the summit will appear, the clouds will lift, and beauty will be there – destiny will be there, and I will stand and bask in that glory.”
So maybe the sky really has a glass ceiling, it really is limitless. I don’t see an end. I just see a wonderful bright future.