Life

TV review: Nothing is impossible says Nims Purja

Nims Purja and his team climb high in the Himalayas
Billy Foley

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, Netflix

Nirmal ‘Nims' Purja is a name you should know.

The Nepalese mountaineer will surely be recorded in the annals of human achievement.

His astonishing feat makes you question the things we believe humans simply aren't capable of.

And that, he says, was the purpose of his plan to climb all fourteen of the world's mountains over 8,000 metres in just seven months.

Purja says he was told so many times that his plan was impossible that he decided to name it ‘Mission Possible.'

Being born at altitude may have given Nims a genetic advantage, but the task ahead of him and his all-Nepalese team was extraordinarily difficult.

Climbing legend Reinhold Messner took 16 years to climb the highest 14, albeit he did it without oxygen.

Purja (38), who only took up climbing in 2012, was trying to break the more recent record of seven years. When he started, the climbing community had never even heard of him.

This Netflix documentary, released on Monday, tracks Project Possible 14/7 from the beginning.

Purja, who lives in England with his wife, joined the British Army's Gurkha brigade in 2003 and was the first from Nepal to qualify for the elite Special Boat Service in 2009.

After he started climbing he learned he had an ability to move at a speed in high altitude unknown to others.

But his journey to the summit of the 14 mountains was far from simple.

When he decided to leave the army in 2018 to pursue his dream he ran into trouble with his family who thought he was being selfish. They relied on a share of his income and his older brother pleaded with him to wait six years until he qualified for a pension.

When he tried to get financial backing for the plan he got a lot of verbal support but no money. His venture was “not investable” he was told.

So, with the agreement of his wife, Purja re-mortgaged their house to begin a journey which had a distinct likelihood of killing him.

Half-way through the ascents he had to go home to be at his mother's bedside. She had a heart attack and the doctors thought she wouldn't recover. If she died Mission Possible was over. She survived to see her son's achievement but passed away last year.

He battled through extreme weather, sickness and twice put his plans on hold to rescue other stricken climbers in the ‘death zone' above 8,000 metres. One climber died in his arms as they waited in vain for someone to climb back up with a bottle of oxygen.

Finally, when the task was almost completed and there was just one mountain to climb, the Chinese government refused him a permit to tackle Shishapangma in Tibet.

He had to divert from his route to pull political strings at home and create a diplomatic and social media campaign to convince the Chinese to change their minds.

When he stood at the top of Shishapangma in September 2019, he had completed his task in six months and six days.

In all he had broken eight climbing records, including summiting Everest (the world's highest), Lhotse (4th) and Makaula (5th) in just 48 hours.

In January this year, Purja achieved another first when he led a team to the first winter ascent of Pakistan's K2, the second highest in the world and regarded as the deadliest of all. Nims was the only climber to summit without oxygen.

If you want to be inspired, 14 Peaks is available on Netflix now.

I'm away to see if can I buy two posters of Nirmal ‘nothing is impossible' Purja for my children's bedroom walls.

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