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Case study: Nims Purja

Enterprise

Find out how our always-on connectivity supported Nims Purja during his record-breaking winter ascent of K2.

Nirmal “Nims” Purja MBE is an elite soldier and mountaineer. Born in Nepal, he spent six years in the Brigade of Gurkhas in the British Army and 10 years with the UK Special Forces. Nims is an experienced mountaineering expedition leader and, most recently, led a team of 10 Nepali climbers to complete the first-ever winter ascent of K2. 

One National Geographic journalist describes Nims as having “stormed the world of high-altitude mountaineering” in recent years. As well as celebrating the skills of Nepal’s climbing community in his expeditions, he aims to highlight the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.

The challenge

In 2019, Nims climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains in six months and six days, smashing the previous record for summiting the so-called ‘8000ers’. His next audacious goal? The first-ever winter ascent of K2. 

K2 stands at 8,611 metres (28,251 ft) above sea level along the Pakistan-China border and is the second tallest peak in the world. Known as the ‘Savage Mountain’, climbing it in winter was considered by many to be impossible – sheer slopes that are prone to avalanches, temperatures below -65, wind speeds of 100mph+ and reduced oxygen levels make it even more treacherous than in the summer season. 

With the view that “everything in life is possible armed only with a determined approach and positive mindset”, Nims and his team were intent on taking one of mountaineering’s last great prizes. The right communications equipment would be a crucial part of their kit.

Nims and team trekking up K2

The solution

Having already had support from Inmarsat for his record-breaking 14-mountain challenge in 2019, Nims once again turned to our satellite connectivity services to keep everyone safe, secure and connected during his latest K2 expedition. We provided a highly robust and portable Cobham Explorer 710 BGAN terminal, which is Wi-Fi compatible with laptops, tablets and smartphones, and an IsatPhone 2 satellite phone, which can be used to pinpoint location and call for emergency assistance.

Operating on our resilient L-band satellite network and offering ultra-reliable voice and broadband data communications, the climbers could trust the lightweight BGAN terminal to provide always-on connectivity during the expedition. This meant they could stay in contact with base camp as they progressed up K2, even in extreme weather conditions. They could also contact their loved ones and post regular updates on social media so that people all around the world could watch them make history.

The results

On 16 January 2021, Nims and his team completed their record-breaking winter ascent of K2. The Nepali mountaineers were originally in competing teams but they had decided to form a 10-strong group to make the climb in their country’s name and shine a spotlight on the Sherpa community, the unsung heroes of the Himalayas. On the final day, they all stepped on to the summit together whilst singing the national anthem of Nepal. 

Thousands of people followed the climb from afar, thanks to regular messages and images on Twitter, Instagram and Nims’ own website – all made possible by satellite connectivity. 

When the team found that their tents and other equipment at Camp 2 had been destroyed by strong winds, Nims tweeted, “We have lost everything... sleeping bags, mattresses, heated shoe insoles, summit gloves/mittens, summit base layers, paragliding equipment, cooking equipment etc.” Followers from around the world rallied and posted messages of support on social media, which clearly gave the team a boost. “Waking up to all the positive messages from you all this morning. Thank you all!,” he responded.

Having reached the summit, Nims used the BGAN terminal to conduct live media interviews from his tent, including with BBC News and ITV News. His interview with the BBC’s Pakistan correspondent has had more than 200,000 views on YouTube.

Commenting on his team’s achievement, Nims said, “Mother nature always has bigger things to say and, standing on the summit, witness to the sheer force of her extremities, we are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible. Thank you for the support we’ve received from people all around the globe, it gave us fire in our chest to make this goal a reality.”

Key benefits of Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) and IsatPhone 2:

  • Inmarsat provides connectivity where infrastructure is damaged or does not exist
  • IsatPhone 2 allows responders to speak with their team and co-ordinate activities on the ground or back at base
  • BGAN provides connectivity for multiple devices to support a mobile operations centre
  • BGAN allows fundraisers to share images and video back home to boost fundraising efforts

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