Gurkha smashes mountaineering world record

30 October 2019: “Mission achieved!” Two words, transmitted via Inmarsat from the summit of Mt Shishapangma, marked the end of a veteran British Army Gurkha’s incredible challenge to scale the 14 highest mountains in the world in just one climbing season.

Rear view of three climbers on summit of Mt Shishapangma

Nirmal “Nims” Purja completed the feat in six months and six days, breaking seven mountaineering world records. The previous speed record for climbing all the mountains over 8,000 metres was closer to eight years.

For Project Possible 14/7, Inmarsat supplied Nims with a highly portable Cobham Explorer 710 BGAN terminal and IsatPhone 2 satellite phone, plus airtime, which he used to update social media with reports of his climbs. A photo he took of climbers queuing to summit Everest was published all over the world.

First ascent

The world’s 14 highest peaks are all located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges across Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan. The ex-soldier claimed his first successful ascent, of Annapurna, on 23 April. Everest, Lhotse and Makalu were crossed off the list in just 48 consecutive hours. All the climbs featured a rotating support team of fellow Nepalese mountaineers.

Nims, who was awarded the MBE for his outstanding work in high altitude mountaineering, was involved in four rescues during the challenge, highlighting the dangers of climbing.

The final ascent of Shishapangma, coming at the end of the climbing season and requiring a special permit, brought extreme challenges, including an avalanche and 75km/h winds. Posting this video, Nims commented: “Imagine the weather conditions where we couldn’t actually film and just had to carry on with the climbing?”

But the five-strong team battled on, reaching the summit at 8:58 local time on Tuesday, 189 days after setting out. Speaking of their amazing feat, Nims said: “The journey of 14/7 has tested us all the way though at many levels. Together we have been through so much, we climbed not only as a team but as brothers with one sole goal to make the impossible possible, pushing the human limitations to next level.”

Nims has used Project Possible to boost awareness of mental health issues and support children in need in Nepal. So far he has raised over £120,000.

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