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Sky Runner Kílian Jornet Preps for Everest

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Crouched over a Jetboil camp stove at the base of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at 22,831 feet above sea level, Kílian Jornet Burgada prepared himself tea. A swoosh of snow blew off the triangular peak looming nine thousand feet overhead, where he’d been a few hours earlier. Jornet showed no fatigue from that morning’s training run: after camping halfway up the mountain the previous night, he ran up to the summit and all the way back down to base camp.

It was mid-December, the start of summer in that region, close to the Andean border of Argentina and Chile. It was high season for climbing, with dozens of groups massed at base camp preparing to make what’s normally a four- to six-day ascent to the summit. It was still cold, and Jornet wore a blue puffy jacket that bulked up his lean frame. At five feet six and about a hundred and thirty pounds, he is built like a marathoner, but his mountaineering and skiing skills allow him to blur the boundaries between all three sports. The twenty-seven-year-old is a world champion in ski mountaineering and sky running, a sport of foot races over mountainous terrain that are sometimes longer than a marathon and sometimes just short and steep. Jornet is widely considered the world’s fastest mountain runner and one of the most exciting endurance athletes today; last year he was voted National Geographic magazine’s People’s Choice Adventurer of the Year.

Jornet has been attempting to speed up and down some of the world’s biggest mountains as part of a four-year-long project he calls Summits of My Life, which will culminate this year on Mt. Everest. The aim is to set a new “fastest known time” (F.K.T.) on each mountain. An F.K.T. can be accomplished on foot, skis, or some combination of the two, along semi-official routes that are defined more by geography than by supervised start and finish lines. In 2013, Jornet set F.K.T.s for running up and down both Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, in the Alps. That same year, he also attempted to set an F.K.T. for climbing Elbrus, the tallest mountain in continental Europe, but high winds and snow turned him back. (He intends to try again this year.) In July, he used skis and climbing skins to set one on Mt. McKinley (also known as Denali), the tallest summit in North America.

Aconcagua was Jornet’s most recent attempt. The F.K.T. for the mountain was between thirteen and sixteen hours for a course from the entrance of Parque Provincial Aconcagua at Horcones to the summit and back, a distance somewhere between thirty-five to fifty miles, depending on who you ask. (Records are tracked by locals and other informal parties, without a single certified oversight body.) Aconcagua does not require much climbing expertise, but the altitude (it is the tallest mountain outside Asia) and fast-changing weather conditions would present Jornet with new challenges. He arrived on December 11th and intended to stay about a week at base camp to acclimatize and familiarize himself with the route.

As Jornet searched for a tea bag at base camp, a voice called from inside his moss-green two-person tent, “Are you boiling water?” It was Emelie Forsberg, a twenty-eight-year-old from Sweden who is the women’s world champion of sky running; she and Jornet have dated for about three years. “Can you make extra?” she asked. Forsberg also planned to attempt an ascent-descent F.K.T. of Aconcagua. She had heard that a woman had previously run to the summit in about seventeen hours, but no woman had run both up and down. The couple could be seen all week, between runs up the mountain, preparing meals (rice, lentils, pasta, cheese sandwiches, bread smothered in dulce de leche) and eating alongside each other with their stockinged legs protruding from the door of their tent. Both are sponsored athletes, and arguably able to furnish a private camp with their own cooks, porters, attendants, and toilet. Jornet views all that as excess weight. Beyond hiring a local outfit called Inka Expediciones (with whom I was a paying customer) to haul their gear into base camp and handle the logistics of water and waste, they operated independently.

“It’s nice to travel light,” Jornet told me. “You can be more flexible. If any day you want to move, you can go.”

“Go” might be a one-word philosophy for Jornet. But Aconcagua also forced him to stop. He and Forsberg needed to adjust to the thin air by resting at base camp, where their presence was something like Jay Z and Beyoncé picnicking in Central Park. Many climbers who had seen films about the two and read numerous profiles wanted to take selfies with them. “I’m not usually a social person,” Jornet told me. “I like to spend time at home and read and write.” He sometimes seemed to be running away from people as much as toward the summit.

That search for solitude made work difficult for a French filmmaker named Sébastien Montaz-Rosset, who is documenting the Summits of My Life project. Montaz-Rosset could be seen on Aconcagua chasing Jornet for several hundred feet, then doubling over to catch a breath. “Usually I can’t keep up for more than forty seconds, one minute maximum,” Montaz-Rosset told me. Jornet grew up running in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain. His VO2 Max, a measure of a person’s maximum oxygen intake during exertion, has been measured at between eighty-five and ninety milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute. (A male adult in good shape can reach a VO2 Max of around forty-five to fifty-five; in the middle of his Tour de France streak, the cyclist Lance Armstrong had an eighty-five.) Cristian Pizarro, an Aconcagua ranger who was watching Jornet train from a police station at camp two (at an eighteen-thousand-foot elevation), called him “a monster.”

The weather forecast for December 19th was clear with low winds—an opportunity to go for the F.K.T. On December 18th, Jornet and Forsberg hiked from base camp back to the park entrance, a distance of fourteen miles, where they pitched a tent for the night. Forsberg set off at about 2:45 A.M. Jornet left closer to 7 A.M. Despite the forecast, weather conditions deteriorated as the morning went on. Gusts of thirty miles per hour slowed their ascents. Back at base camp, they each rested a few minutes and changed into warmer gear; Jornet put on thick socks, Forsberg switched shoes. As they continued up the mountain, the wind increased to gusts of fifty-five miles per hour and the temperature dropped well below freezing. Forsberg had made it to nineteen thousand feet when she decided to stop. Jornet reached just above twenty-one thousand feet before he also turned back.

The next day, a snow storm effectively shut down the mountain. While Forsberg now wanted to rest for the ski mountaineering season, Jornet wanted to try again, even if that meant they would not be home for Christmas. Four days later, on Dec. 23rd, the wind slowed and Jornet, after several days’ rest in a motel, was ready.

At 6 A.M., he started running from the park entrance. He covered the first fourteen miles to base camp in three and a quarter hours. The next four and a half miles to the summit took five and a quarter hours, during which he climbed nearly nine thousand feet in elevation and the terrain changed from sandy and rocky to snow-covered and icy. The altitude made him disoriented, and wobbly legs and a loss of balance caused him to fall repeatedly, he later told me. Montaz-Rosset was waiting near the summit to film; the director had  seen Jornet tumble only once or twice in years of filming, but he saw him continue to fall on the way down Aconcagua. At base camp, Jornet rested for twenty minutes, then he ran the fourteen miles back to the park entrance in just over two-and-a-half hours. A photo of his G.P.S. watch, posted on Twitter, shows a final time of twelve hours and forty-nine minutes, an indisputable F.K.T.

Perhaps the most valuable thing Jornet gained on Aconcagua was a lesson about altitude. This was the highest mountain he had ever raced, and it will inform the next leg of his project, a trip to Everest this spring, and force him to invest more time in acclimatization—a challenge for someone more accustomed to just going. Montaz-Rosset told me that the aim will be to run up and down the northern Tibet side starting from one of the last inhabited places before base camp, Rongbuk Monastery, at sixteen thousand four hundred feet. That route would translate to some twelve thousand five hundred feet of elevation gain—a little less than on Aconcagua. Jornet intends to carry only a backpack, without oxygen or the assistance of fixed ropes or other climbers.

If he succeeds, he will hold another F.K.T. by virtue of being the first to speed-ascend-descend the Tibetan route, Russell Brice, a longtime Everest guide and the owner of the mountaineering-guide company Himalayan Experience,  told me in an e-mail. He believes Jornet has the ability to set the F.K.T. But he has also cautioned Jornet to have ample support and advised that he first gain experience on another major Himalayan peak. “For mountain runners like Kílian, they just keep pushing the limits until one day they say that is enough,” Brice said. “Or, they in fact have an accident and do not survive.”

Jornet says that he knows the risks. He told me that he knows Everest will require additional time to acclimatize, and likely also more than one attempt. “For Everest,” he said, “it will be completely different.”

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Conde Nast Proudly Using Editors To Write Sponsored Content For Advertisers

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new-yorker-cover-phones-beachaFor quite some time, we’ve been telling you about a particularly pernicious evil that goes by various names — advertorial content, native advertising, brand reporting, branded content, sponsored stories, pure crap — that a growing number of websites have tried to slip past their readers as actual editorial content. The most ethical sites take measures to call these stories out as being bought and paid for, and many sites refuse to taint their editorial process by allowing their staffers to work on this nonsense. But Conde Nast has decided that the best way to use its highly qualified and talented staff is to have them writing shill content for advertisers.

The publisher of Vogue, GQ, Glamour, Golf Digest, Brides, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and numerous other high-profile magazines announced that it has created something called Studio 23, a new “branded content studio… which brings together the company’s content expertise, creative talent, distribution network and first-person data for advertisers and marketers.”

So the next time you’re looking at a Conde Nast publication’s website and see some story brought to you by Estee Lauder or Titleist or Travelocity, you’ll at least know that this unadulterated bilge was written by someone who has reached the top of the magazine publishing world.

“We are changing the branded content game with 23 Stories by Condé Nast by offering marketers, for the first time, access to our unparalleled editorial assets,” said the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, who we can only assume lives with himself by doing penance nightly, donning a hairshirt — a really stylish one, but a hairshirt nonetheless. “As clients seek to elevate their storytelling and define themselves as publishers, we believe Condé Nast is uniquely qualified to partner with them to deliver compelling content, targeted to the right audiences at scale.”

Here’s the myth that Conde and other supporters of this crap would have you believe — that it’s a way to bring you more quality content that you want. That implies that these are stories that, say Conde Nast Traveller, wants to do, but just doesn’t have the resources. That’s like assuming that your local baseball television team couldn’t give you the game’s starting lineup if it wasn’t sponsored by some bank.

These are not long-term investigative or research projects that would have been funded by grants or even by interested parties. This is just advertising in the form of an article.

Improving branded content, is just about providing advertisers with content that is less embarrassingly detached from what readers are seeking out. But shouldn’t that be the job of the advertiser to figure out its market and tailor its message appropriately, as opposed to paying experienced journalists to try to slip this lupine content in by dressing it in ovine outfits.

Conde claims that sponsored crud will be labeled as such, but as we’ve seen from other publications, there is no standard for how to appropriately call out branded content. Some think a mere byline mention of the sponsoring company is adequate, while others wrap the content in advertising, which may just confuse the matter. Some go so far as to include “Sponsored” or some other term in the headline so that even when it’s shared on Facebook or Twitter there is no mistaking it for actual editorial content.

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mkalus
9 hours ago
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Guess I won't renew my New Yorker subscription.
iPhone: 49.287476,-123.142136
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1 public comment
zwol
22 hours ago
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Today in "the advertising industry must be destroyed"
Mountain View, CA

January 25, 2015

3 Comments and 14 Shares

The secret kangaroo penguin club meeting went really well. I couldn't believe all the celebrities who showed up!
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emdeesee
7 hours ago
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Planned obsolescence and artificial scarcity vs. the internet.
Lincoln, NE
djmdjm
1 day ago
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Thought he was going to talk about D&D rulesets, but this is almost as good.
Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
jhamill
2 days ago
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Textbooks that are updated yearly are a scam.
Ontario, California
Technicalleigh
2 days ago
Submitted into the evidence as Exhibit B: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2014/10/03/353300404/episode-573-why-textbook-prices-keep-climbing

Drowning In Berlin

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By the time you read this, I’ll be finishing packing and out the door towards Berlin, where I have a meeting.  And it will be fucking freezing, because, for some reason, I only go to Berlin when it’s fucking freezing.  I’m sure Berlin is a lovely city, really, but whenever I’m there it’s full-on icy Cold War grimness just the way we and television drama imagined it in the 1970s.  Bad enough that I barely speak the language any more — I studied it at school for a few years, but I retain so little of it that the cab drivers laugh at me and say I’m from Monkey Island, which is what Europeans call us because we put so little effort into (or are simply, as a people, so bad at) learning other languages.  It’s a fair cop.  I can’t even do what I do in France, which is apologise in French for being English.  It’s appalling.  I simply have no facility for languages.  I’m still learning English.

The most terrible thing about that is that I genuinely love Germany(and France), to the point where I spent a beautiful Millennium eve in Hamburg.  But off I go, armed with ten words of German, the Word Lens app and a lot of well-meaning sign language.

Note: I’ve had to reset my personal website to a generic theme because about ten things broke when I moved it to its current hosting company.

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"Hey, everyone likes spiders, right?" "Well, uh…" "Of...

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"Hey, everyone likes spiders, right?"

"Well, uh…"

"Of course they do. Spiders are cute, and they keep the insect population under control.”

"They sure do, evolution."

"Anyway, I was thinking of making something similar, but for the ocean. Like a… sea spider."

"A sea spider."

"Mmm hmm. Only it’ll barely need a body, because I’m going to stuff most of its organs and its digestive tract down its legs. And instead of eating insects, it’ll stick its long proboscis into sea anemones and suck their insides out. What do you think?”

"Well…"

"I think everybody’s going to love it."

"Yes, evolution, I’m sure."

Source: NOAA Ocean Today / Creatures of the Deep: Sea Spider (click for video)

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January 24, 2015

3 Comments and 17 Shares

POW!
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djmdjm
1 day ago
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We need a word to express "bathos rollercoaster"
Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
srsly
3 days ago
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oh golly
Atlanta, Georgia
Michdevilish
3 days ago
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and yet, some things never change
Canada
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