I had been following this guy since over a year, when he announced his intention to complete what is known as the mountaineering grand slam (ie scaling all 14 mountains that are over 8000m, located in Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet) in a mindboggling 7-month period! The previous record stands at 8 years. He was practically unknown then, and those who knew about it at the time dismissed it as ridiculous.
Fast forward to now, he has already completed his 11th- the 3 relatively easier ones are due this autumn- and has already become a force in his own right. The fan following has swelled, and the elite climbing community is watching him with keen interest and awe.
What is even more incredible is that he completed the first phase of his challenge (ie, 6 x 8000ers Everest, Lhotse, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna) in an unprecedented 31-day burst, including Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu in a ridiculous 48hrs.
Second phase of his challenge consisted of 5 8000ers (ie, K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2) located in Pakistan, which was accomplished in 23 days flat.
Add to this, he was involved in 4 risky high altitude rescues that substantially reduced his pace. He is also credited with having taken that now infamous Everest traffic jam photo that so shocked the world and prompted heated discussions. He grins and says “I got slowed down by all those people and ended up directing traffic on the Hillary Step.”
After having whizzed through the first phase of his challenge, he was forced to call the whole thing off for lack of sponsorship, but sprang back to life when an angel funder came to the rescue.
In Pakistan, during the second phase of his challenge, when he arrived at the K2 base camp – following his climb on Gasherbrum 1 and 2 (G1, G2), just a couple of days before – only to find the numerous expedition teams packing up to leave due to what was said to be unfavourable conditions. Suddenly, the K2 base camp was buzzing again as he immediately led a team of Sherpas to forge a way to the top. It was virtually a cake walk for the rest to follow the next day on the ‘killer mountain’. Such was the power of his presence alone! 48 hrs later, he was on the top of Broad Peak!!
Born into a humble family in a village at the foothill of the Annapurnas, he joined the Gurkha forces in the UK, and later served as a member of the highly coveted special forces SBS in the British Army. As if his physical achievements weren’t enough, he has a PhD too!
When this is achieved, personally I would say, this would go down arguably as the greatest endurance/athletic feat ever performed by mankind. His is a story of stamina, confidence, self-belief, setbacks, sacrifice, resilience, intelligence, grit, bravery, of epic proportion.
He has now set a new benchmark for human endurance which doesn’t seem likely to be emulated in any discipline anytime soon.
Here is the mountain man personified. This is Nirmal Purja, or NIMSDAI, (MBE).
Remember the name!!
All photo courtesy: @NimsPurja, Facebook.