On his way to number 12. Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja and his team arrived at the base camp at the foot of Manaslu. The 36-year-old Nepalese, an ex-soldier of the British Ghurka regiment, wants to reach the last three summits this fall in the third phase of his “Project Possible” (all 14 eight-thousanders in seven months): Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma. The first he will tackle is Manaslu in Nepal, the eighth highest mountain on earth.
260 foreign mountaineers from 26 expedition teams, to whom the Nepalese government has issued permits for this fall, also want to climb the 8,163-meter-high peak. So the Manaslu summit ridge is likely to be crowded once again – especially if the commercial expeditions take the latest findings about the highest point of this mountain seriously and lead their clients far over the ridge to the “real” summit. In recent years, many commercial teams had declared one of the slightly lower elevations on the ridge to be the summit and had turned back from there.
Cho Oyu deadline: 1 October
Manaslu has developed more and more into the “Fall’s Everest”, because the Chinese-Tibetan authorities tend to close the eight-thousanders Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in the post-monsoon season. Reportedly, this fall all Cho Oyu expeditions must be completed by 1 October, China’s national holiday. There are tightened security regulations on this day to prevent protests by the Tibetan people. So it is not surprising that Nirmal Purja wants to have climbed the first two of the three remaining eight-thousanders by the end of September. Should he have to stay longer than planned on Manaslu, he and his team would also have the chance to climb Cho Oyu via the Nepalese south side of the mountain.
Negotiations at government level
This possibility does not exist on Shishapangma. The eight-thousander is completely on Tibetan territory – even if the South Face is only about five kilometers as the crow flies from the Nepalese border. But it is urgently advised against an illegal border crossing to China. As reported, the mountain should actually remain completely closed this fall season. But behind the scenes there are apparently intensive negotiations about a special permit for Nims and Co. “High-level bilateral talks are underway to open Shishapangma for climbing this year,” a senior official at the Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs who wanted to remain anonymous told the Kathmandu-based newspaper “The Himalayan Times”. So there is still hope that Purja’s “Project Possible” will not fail on the final straight because of insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles.
Carlos Soria: Dhaulagiri, take ten!
Carlos Soria and Sergi Mingote do not have to deal with such problems. The two Spaniards have permits for Dhaulagiri in Nepal this fall. Carlos, now 80 years old and currently acclimatizing in the Everest region, will be trying his luck for the already tenth time on the 8,167-meter-high mountain, the seventh highest in the world.
Soria is only missing Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma in his eight-thousander collection. He holds the age records on K2 (65 years), Broad Peak (68), Makalu (69, at that time he climbed solo and without bottled oxygen), Gasherbrum I (70), Manaslu (71), Lhotse (72), Kangchenjunga (75) and Annapurna (77). The super fit senior is meanwhile climbing with a knee prosthesis. In preparation for Dhaulagiri, Carlos summited the 7,134-meter-high Pik Lenin on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan this summer. In case he also scales Dhaulagiri and Shishapangma, Carlos Soria will be by far the oldest person on all 14 eight-thousanders. So far this “record” is held by the Spaniard Oscar Cadiach, who scaled Broad Peak, his last eight-thousander, in 2017 at the age of 64.
All eight-thousanders w/o O2 in 1000 days?
Sorias compatriot Sergi Mingote has set himself another goal. After the 38-year-old has scaled six eight-thousanders without bottled oxygen since summer 2018 – Broad Peak, K2, Manaslu, Lhotse, Nanga Parbat and Gasherbrum II – he wants to reach the summits of the remaining eight eight-thousanders without breathing mask by May 2021. In other words: the complete eight-thousander package in 1000 days. If the Chinese don’t put a spoke in his wheel. Sergi has planned to climb Cho Oyu and Shishapangma like Nirmal Purja now in the fall season – next year.