Nims Purja MBE – elite soldier and record-breaking mountaineer

Nims Purja MBE – elite soldier and record-breaking mountaineer

One of the most remarkable feats of mountaineering in recent years was the record-breaking ascent of 14 of the world’s highest mountains in just one climbing season. The challenge, Project Possible, was carried out in 2019 by Nims Purja MBE, a former Gurkha and SBS soldier, who shattered the previous speed record of just under eight years by completing the feat in an astonishing six months and six days.

Born in Nepal, Nims had a distinguished 16-year military career, of which he spent six years as a Gurkha and 10 years with the UK Special Forces. Nims didn’t grow up in the shadow of the Himalayas, in fact he was born in the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal, and raised in Chitwan, the country’s flatland. His only focus growing up and whilst attending school was to become a Gurkha and join the British Army like his father and brothers before him. In 2003 that dream became a reality when he joined the Gurkhas at the age of 18. In 2009, six years after joining the Brigade of Gurkhas, Nims became the first ever Gurkha to join the UK Special Boat Service, a unit predominantly made up of Royal Marines. The SBS, alongside the SAS is regarded the most elite unit in the British Military. During his time with the SBS Nims developed an interest in mountaineering, that quickly developed into a passion. In December 2012, whilst on leave from his Special Forces duties Nims set out to trek to Everest Base Camp. This experience fired his passion and ambition for the mountains almost immediately.

As and when his military career allowed, the mountaineering continued with Nims eventually summiting Everest, as well as many mountains around the world. During this time Nims set his sights on becoming a record breaker, Project Possible was born.

Project Possible

With a plan to complete 14 summits in seven months, Nims made his first eight-thousander summit on 23 April 2019 and completed the first six-summit phase of his “Project Possible 14/7″on 24 May 2019: Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. He climbed with Sherpas Mingma Gyabu “David” Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi (Zekson Son), Geljen Sherpa and Tensi Kasang, amongst other mountaineers.

The last five summits were climbed in only 12 days. He broke his previous Guinness World Record by climbing Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu within 2 days and 30 minutes.

Nims completed the second phase in July 2019, climbing Nanga Parbat (8126 m, 6 July), Gasherbrum I (8080 m, 15 July), Gasherbrum II (8034 m, 18 July), K2 (8611 metres, 24 July) and Broad Peak (8047 m, 26 July), all in Pakistan.

The third and last phase started in September 2019. He summitted Cho Oyu (8188 m, Tibet, China) on 23 September and Manaslu (8163 m, Nepal) on 27 September. On 1 October 2019, Chinese authorities agreed to grant Purja and his team a special permit to scale Shishapangma (8027 m, Tibet, China) in the fall season, at the request of the Nepali government. Nims left Nepal for Tibet on 18 October 2019, leading a five-member expedition to climb the mountain and completed Project Possible 14/7 with a successful summit on 29 October using supplemental oxygen.

Other than the fastest ascent with supplemental oxygen of the 14 tallest mountains in the world, Nims then broke the following records:

  • most 8000 m mountains in the Spring season,
  • climbing six; most 8000 m mountains in the Summer season,
  • climbing five; fastest summit of the three highest mountains in the world, Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga;
  • fastest summit of the five highest mountains in the World, Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu;
  • fastest lower 8000ers, Gasherbrum 1, 2 and Broad Peak;
  • fastest higher 8000ers, consecutive summits of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 48 hours (beats his own previous record of 5 days).

More recently still, Nims became one of the first mountaineers ever to summit K2 during the winter season. K2, the second highest mountain in the world but arguably the most challenging, was the last of the 8000m peaks to remain unclimbed in winter until the successful summit in January 2021.


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