“Once again ‘Project Possible’ team made the impossible possible, as a result of positive mindset with outmost determination, teamwork and leadership.” Thus Nirmal, called “Nims” Purja, is quoted on Twitter after he reached the 8,611-meter-high summit of K2 today at 7.50 am local time in Pakistan with his companions Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and Gesman Tamang from his “Project Possible” team as well as Lakpa Temba Sherpa and Chhangba Sherpa from the team of the expedition operator “Seven Summit Treks” (SST). According to SST, it took the five climbers “eight hours of countless efforts” to reach the top.
For Nims it was already the tenth eight-thousander success this year and after Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I and II the fourth in the Karakoram within three weeks. In order to complete the second phase of his “Project Possible” as planned by the end of July, all he needs now is Broad Peak. And hardly anyone should doubt that he will “tick off” this eight-thousander as well.
Also involved in rescue operations
When Nirmal Purja announced at the end of last year that he wanted to scale all 14 eight-thousanders within seven months, many considered this a PR stunt of the 36-year-old former soldier of the British Gurkha Regiment. Nims had made headlines in 2017 when he had scaled Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in five days. Otherwise, however, he was a rather dark horse. But he proved the doubters wrong.
In spring, Nims scaled six eight-thousanders within four weeks – on the normal routes, with bottled oxygen. On Dhaulagiri he and his team managed the only ascent of the season under difficult conditions. Purja also participated in rescue operations after his summit successes on Annapurna and Kangchenjunga. And even a late arrival in Pakistan, because he had temporarily run out of sponsorship money, could not stop him.
Further summit candidates on hold
The success of Purja and Co. on K2, the first this summer, was anything but self-evident. Last week, a summit push by others had failed due to the danger of avalanches at 8,300 meters, above the so-called “Bottleneck”. Most of the teams had then declared their expeditions to be over because of what they considered to be too dangerous conditions on the mountain. Now that Nims and Co. have opened the route to the summit and secured the last section with fixed ropes, further summit successes on the second highest mountain in the world are expected this Wednesday and Thursday.
From the SST team alone, 17 climbers are still waiting in Camp 4. They want to climb to the highest point on 25 July. Among them are the German Herbert Hellmuth, who is tackling K2 for the third time after 2015 and 2016, and the Austrian Hans Wenzl, who wants to scale his ninth eight-thousander without bottled oxygen.
Update 4 pm: With the American Adrian Ballinger and the Ecuadorian Carla Perez, two climbers have reached the summit of K2 today – according to their words -without bottled oxygen. They were supported by Esteban “Topo” Mena from Ecuador and the Nepalese Pemba Gelje Sherpa and Palden Namgye, who climbed to the summit with breathing masks. “We did it! I (am) in C(amp) 4. I can’t believe it. I (am) crying a lot,” Ballinger writes on Instagram.