After a smashing record, Nirmal Purja hopes he inspired the next generationThe 36-year-old former Gurkha made history on Tuesday after scaling all 8,000 meters peaks in the shortest span of time.
On Wednesday, at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja said that he hoped he had inspired the next generation of Nepali climbers to go out and break records. Just a day earlier, Purja had stood on the summit of 8,027 metres Shishapangma in Tibet, making history by scaling all 8,000-metre peaks in the shortest span of time.
The 36-year-old former Gurkha completed the record-setting feat in six months and six days—exactly 190 days—although it had been planned for seven months.
“I hope my feat has proven anything is possible with determination. If you do it from the heart, it is possible,” he told journalists in Kathmandu.
Purja had quit his job in the British Special Forces to undertake this seemingly impossible feat, as the last person to undertake this mission had taken years to complete it.
“I gave up my job in the United Kingdom. I gave up my pension and sold my house for this high-altitude, high-speed quest,” he said. “Nobody believed it could be done. Everyone was laughing at me when I launched Project Possible.”
According to Purja, he and his team—Mingma David Sherpa, Gesman Tamang, Galjen Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and Halung Dorchi Sherpa— faced numerous challenges when they were vying for all 14 Himalayan peaks during the past six months.
On April 23, while descending from Annapurna, Purja led a rescue mission for Malaysian climber Chin Wui Kin, who had been separated from his expedition and was without food, water or oxygen for 40 hours. Purja managed to get him down but the climber later succumbed to his injuries in Singapore.
Again, during their climb up Kanchanjunga on May 12, Purja encountered climbers who needed help.
“At 8,450 metres, we had to give our oxygen and start rescuing three other climbers,” he said. “That was a suicidal attempt and probably the hardest movement.”
In September, he had to face another challenge. He had just one final mountain to climb—Shishapangma—before he accomplished his world record, but Purja fell prey to something even he couldn’t surmount through his physical prowess—politics.
Despite repeated requests, the Chinese government had delayed providing Purja with a permit to climb Shishapangma. It was only after the Nepal government approached the Chinese government on his behalf that he was finally granted the permit on October 15.
“From rescuing people at high altitudes to fixing ropes, from supplying oxygen to opening routes and going nights without sleeping, we were doing multiple jobs and were testing our limits,” he said. “But we delivered.”
Shishapangma was the last among the world's 14 eight-thousanders on Purja's list. With this ascent, he snatched the record from South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who had climbed all 14 mountains in seven years, 10 months and six days. Kim was killed in a snowstorm at the base camp of Mt Gurja in Myagdi district in western Nepal in October 2018.
Polish Jerzy Kukuczka is the first mountaineer to climb all 14 eight-thousanders, a feat he achieved in seven years, 11 months and 14 days in 1987.
“The project was not for the race. There is no greed in the project,” said Purja, announcing that a book detailing his feat would be released in July next year, along with a documentary. Purja is also aiming to raise £750,000 to donate to children in need in Nepal.
Born in Myagdi, Purja is also widely known for his May 25 photo of the 'traffic jam' on Everest that went viral across the world.
Purja climbed Annapurna I (8,091m), Dhaulagiri I (8,167m), Kanchenjunga (8,586), Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in May. In the following month, he scaled Nanga Parbat (8,126m), Gasherbrum I (8,080m), Gasherbrum II (8,036m), Broad Peak (8,051) and K2 (8,611m), Manaslu (8,163m), Cho Oyu (8,188m).
In May, Purja climbed Everest (8,848m), descended to South Col and climbed adjoining Lhotse (8,516m), then flew to Makalu base camp and climbed that peak (8,481m) too—all in 48 hours. He broke his own previous world record for the same three peaks, taking five days in 2017.
Among 14 peaks, the only peak that really scared Purja was K2 in Pakistan.
“It was only on that mountain that I doubted my ability,” he said.