All 8,000 in seven months? The clock’s ticking

Nirmal Purja on the slopes of Annapurna

How possible is the impossible? Nirmal, called Nims Purja has baptized his challenge “Project possible”. In just seven months, the 36-year-old wants to climb all 14 eight-thousanders. That sounds wacky, if not crazy. By the beginning of June, the Nepalese wants to have scaled six eight-thousanders in his home country: Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga. In summer, the five Pakistani eight-thousanders are to follow: Nanga Parbat, K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II. And in fall he wants to complete his collection by summiting Manaslu, Shishapangma and Cho Oyu. „I firmly believe that everything in life is possible armed only with a determined approach and positive mindset,” says Nims.

“Not into the slaughterhouse of failure”

Nims on the summit of Everest (in 2017)

He will persist until he succeeds, says tough Purja: “I was not delivered into this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. I will hear not those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious. Let them join the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny.“ The somewhat martial tone is not without reason. Nims has just finished his service in the Gurkha brigade of the British Army after 16 years.

With bottled oxygen

In 2014, Purja scaled his first eight-thousander, Dhaulagiri. In 2016, he stood on the summit of Mount Everest for the first time. At that time Nims also saved an Indian mountaineer who had been left behind by her group. He brought the debilitated woman down to the South Col from an altitude of 8,450 meters. At that time he said goodbye to his dream of climbing Everest without bottled oxygen, says Purja (see video below). It had become clear to him that a rescue operation like this would not have been possible without breathing mask: “From that point I made a promise to myself that climbing on extreme mountains above 8000m or Everest is not about ego. It’s about just being yourself. Hence I promised myself to climb with oxygen.”

Three 8000m summits in five days

In 2017, Nirmal scaled Everest twice. As the leader of a (successful) British Gurkha expedition, he reached the summit at 8,850 meters along with the rope fixing team on 15 May. Just two weeks later the whole world talked about him: Within just five days Purja stood on top of three eight-thousanders: on 27 May on Everest, on the same day – exactly 10 hours and 15 minutes later – on Lhotse and on 1 June on Makalu. This gave him three entries in the Guinness Book of Records.

Always 100 percent

In the Lhotse Couloir (in 2017)

If Nims Purja was able to successfully complete his “Project possible”, he would replace the South Korean Kim Chang-ho in the record lists. It had taken him seven years, ten months and 16 days to scale the 14 eight-thousanders. “It’s not about competing with anyone else,“ he says. “It’s not about being better than anyone else, it’s just about giving what you can, you can always give 100 percent.”

Short of cash

The Ghurka has estimated the total cost of his project at 750,000 pounds sterling (around 880,000 euros). To get started, he has taken out a mortgage on his house. A crowdfunding campaign on the Internet has so far only brought in a little more than a tenth of the targeted sum. That’s why Nims is currently working on Annapurna – the first of the 14 eight-thousanders he wants to scale within seven months – as an expedition leader in order to keep costs down. So it is not only a race against time, but also against bankruptcy.

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