Nepal man shatters speed record for scaling world’s tallest mountains

A long queue of climbers line a path on Mount Everest in May. Nirmal Purja took this picture during one of his Project Possible climbs, and it went viral. Purja set the speed record for completing the world’s 14 highest climbs in just over six months.(Nirmal Purja/@Nimsdai Project Possible via AP)

The quest was called “Project Possible,” but along the way, Nirmal Purja admitted that “I bleed from every angle” and called his attempt to set a speed record for climbing the world’s 14 highest peaks a “horrifically amazing journey.”

Purja, nicknamed “Nims,” wrote those words after successfully summitting his 13th peak last month and on Tuesday, he accomplished his goal, completing the journey to the top of the world 14 times on peaks of at least 26,000 feet in the so-called “death zone” over six months and six days.

“MISSION ACHIEVED!” his team tweeted upon reaching the 26,340-foot peak of Mount Shishapangma in China.

Other climbers accomplished the feat in years rather than months. According to Agence France-Presse, Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka completed the same feat after seven years, 11 months and 14 days in 1987 after Italy’s Reinhold Messner became the first to scale the 14 peaks a year earlier. Kim Chang-ho of South Korea beat Kukuczka’s record by a month but used supplementary oxygen, unlike Kukuczka, who died in a climbing accident in 1989. Chang-ho was one of nine climbers who died last October when a snowstorm destroyed the base camp at Mount Gurja in Nepal.

Purja, 36, was described by Mingma Sherpa of Kathmandu’s Seven Summit Treks, which outfitted the expedition, as being safe and in good health. “It is a great achievement for mountaineering and mountaineers and a milestone in the history of climbing,” Ang Tshering, who previously headed the Nepal Mountaineering Association, told the Associated Press.

Along the way, Purja became famous when he snapped a photo as he and an enormous line of mountaineers waited to complete the Everest climb and it went viral, symbolizing the annual traffic jam atop the mountain.

A former member of the Gurkhas (a unit of Nepalis recruited into the British Army), Purja began his journey last March, hoping to raise awareness for Project Possible, with his quest sponsored by Bremont, a watch company. On April 23, he climbed Annapurna in Nepal, followed by Dhaulagiri on May 12, Kanchenjunga on May 15, Everest on May 22, Lhotse on May 22, Makalu on May 24 and Manaslu on Sept. 27.

In Pakistan, he climbed Nanga Parbat on July 3, Gasherbrum 1 on July 15, Gasherbrum 2 on July 18, K2 on July 24 and Broad Peak on July 26. In China, he scaled Cho You on Sept. 23 and then things got a little difficult. He was allowed to climb Shishapangma only after the Nepalese government intervened with Chinese authorities.

So committed to the quest was Purja that he had images of the peaks, each of which stands at more than 26,000 feet, tattooed across his back, but he told the Nepali Times in May that he had several goals in mind.

“I want to show human capacity, I am not climbing to set any records. My competition is only with myself,” he said. “I was born in a small village in Myagdi. I want to prove that no matter what your background, you can do things considered impossible if you have the right thinking.

“My second objective is to raise awareness of the impacts of climate change. In 2014, me and my team had melted the snow at Ama Dablam base camp to cook food. Last year there was no snow there. Thirdly, I want to help promote tourism in Nepal, contribute to the success of Visit Nepal year 2020, and be engaged in social work.”

In an interview with AFP recently, he admitted, “everyone was laughing at me and saying ‘how it will be possible?’ when he told others what he was going to do.

“It is about trusting your ability.”

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