(NEW YORK) — When Nims Purja decided to try and erase the speed record for climbing the 14 tallest mountains in the world, he knew it wouldn’t be enough.
“I really wanted everyone in the world to witness this, be part of it. The message was to show the world that literally nothing is impossible,” he told ABC News.
So, in addition to climbing the death zones and operating with extremely limited funding, Purja began filming, using GoPros and drones.
“I was flying the drone at the same time as I was climbing,” explained the Nepalese mountaineer. “Yes, it’s very hard, it’s very hard, but if you really wanted to show it, if you really have the passion, you can do it.”
Two years later, the resulting footage made its way into a documentary, 14 summits: Nothing is impossible, directed by Torquil Jones, which was released on Netflix in late 2021. In its first week on Netflix, it was in the top 10 movies watched worldwide on the platform. a memoir, Beyond the possiblefollow-up in early 2022.
So now Purja can relive her epic feat, this time with the world to see it unfold.
In 2019, Purja, with a team of Nepalese climbers, summited the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 meters (over 26,200 feet) across the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges in less than seven month. The previous record was over seven years.
Purja decided to do it partly because he thought he could. As an elite Gurkha soldier and member of the British Special Forces, he had the opportunity to tackle Everest as part of a celebration of 200 years of the Gurkha Brigade. When that trip was delayed, Purja still tackled Everest on his own. He went a second time to Everest with the military group, then he unwittingly broke speed records when he decided to take the opportunity to climb Everest, then Lhotse, then Makalu in quick succession .
Seeing how well his body was functioning at altitude, he wanted to see what else he could do. Purja started climbing in altitude in 2012, at the age of 29, when he made the trek to Everest Base Camp with Nepalese mountaineer Dorje Khatri, having grown up in Nepal and feeling the attraction. After that, he began to attempt higher ascents, which he did in between his military service.
But you’re not making the sacrifices Purja has made – giving up his military career and pension and mortgaging his house for funding – just to see if you can.
First, he said, he wanted to inspire the world, to show that “as a kid you couldn’t have anything – literally nothing – and you can be anyone, but with that comes ‘hard work, dedication, commitment, harder training.’
“But the second thing was that I really wanted to elevate the name of Nepalese climbers,” Purja told ABC News. “We are the heroes of the 8,000, but we never had that credibility, we are always in the shadows, and now it’s time to honor these people, and I really felt it from the bottom of my heart. .”
Much of the reporting and record keeping among the 8,000 locals is limited to Western and non-Nepali climbers, such as New Zealander Edmund Hillary who is often remembered for being the first to summit Everest. – and that part of the mountain bears his name – while he did it with the Nepalese mountaineer Tenzing Norgay.
Even amidst this historic feat, Purja felt instances of fading as a Nepalese mountaineer. Purja and her team, who changed slightly between each mountain, didn’t just get in and go. They also established lines, inspired base camps, and worked to rescue struggling strangers at altitude.
In at least one instance, he told ABC News, he and his team didn’t feel rightly recognized for how they helped another team summit.
“I really talk about these things, and people think they can just put me in and out. Imagine a normal Sherpa, who doesn’t even have a voice, who doesn’t even have that tech savvy, who doesn’t don’t know how to tweet or how to talk – what would they have done?” he said.
That’s part of the reason he’s so pleased with the success of the film and, now, the book, and he wants people who enjoyed either “please raise awareness, help us to make some noise, spread this thing.”
In addition to this emotional impact, Purja was dealing with her mother’s deteriorating health, which plays a central role in the story. The physical climbing, he said, was the “easiest part” of the effort.
“The big challenge has been fundraising at the same time, dealing with social media, dealing with team dynamics, logistics, filming at the same time, dealing with the mental and health issues you have from your close being almost close until death,” he says.
It’s all of these factors combined that make record climbs such an extraordinary success, and Purja’s relentless attitude – which shines through in the film, the book and even on Zoom – is infectious. He hopes it inspires you, and if you’re interested in mountaineering, he said, give it a try.
“A lot of people think you have to be a super, super athlete to go climb that mountain. Not really. Because you might be the fittest guy at sea level, but at altitude it’s completely different. The best thing is you wouldn’t know it without trying,” he said. “And what you’ll learn from that is that it’s a very slow walk.
He advised: “Take time to ride, enjoy nature, suck it in, take time to take pictures — it’s a good excuse to take a break — and then, honestly, you’re going to love it.” Because nature always puts things in perspective.
And really, his message doesn’t just apply to the tops of the world’s tallest and most intimidating mountains – it applies to anything that anyone might think was too difficult, too ambitious, too daring, too much.
“Don’t be afraid to commit. Commitment is the biggest thing people are afraid of. They won’t be afraid to dream big. And I really hope they don’t let anyone tell her you’re impossible,” he said.
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