Military Muscle magazine inside of Pathfinder International spoke to former Gurkha and SBS Operative Nirmal “Nims” Purja MBE who has recently smashed the World Record for climbing 14 of the World’s Tallest Mountains in just 6 months!
Nirmal “Nims” Purja is a machine – simple.
Not content with being in two of the hardest units within the UK Armed Forces (The Gurkhas and The Special Boat Service) he then smashes the World Record for climbing 14 of the globe’s tallest peaks in just 6 months, breaking the record by almost 7 years!
Sandwiched in between, Nims climbed Mount Everest, then climbed it again, along with a selection of the World’s top 3 peaks within days of each other. Here, editor Mal Robinson spoke to Nims ahead of a book launch to see what made the 2019 Red Bull Mountaineer of the Year for 2019 tick…
“I joined the Gurkhas in 2003 and did my basic training at Catterick and joined the Gurkha Engineers. Whilst I was with the Engineers, I did the All Arms Commando course and after that I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 as close support for the Royal Marines.
It was after this I went for the Special Forces selection and ended up in the Special Forces for 10 years” recalls Nims.
“In life I always look for the bigger challenges so when I was in Nepal, joining the Gurkhas was a big thing and once I joined the Gurkhas, I found out about the Special Forces and the reason why I joined the SBS was they offered specialist skills in diving and so I was quite interested in that as well and that’s why I ended up at the SBS.”
Climbing wasn’t always first on the agenda though as Nims explains…
“In 2012 during Christmas leave I set off to Nepal to do a expedition trek with another friend from the SAS and we ended up climbing 6,200 metre mountains and we had no experience, we didn’t even have crampons (a traction device for climbing) and from there, the mindset of the Special Forces, you think you are invincible and once I started climbing, the mountain completed the perspective for me.
It just showed you how tiny and how small we are.
From there I went back and I managed to get into the Mountaineering Troop and from there I started to do climbing in my own time, on leave and stuff and I was slowly improving my skills and experience constantly.
It was only 2014 and I managed to climb a mountain which was 8,167m whilst I was still in the services and 2016 I went and climbed Everest and I ended up rescuing a climber who was left behind just below the balcony at 8380m which is quite high up and I did that rescue in about 90 minutes or so, when it should take about five or six hours. That is when I decided I would just climb with oxygen.
After that I was still in service and in 2017 there was a Gurkha expedition to Everest and I went there as one of the instructors and every year there would be an official team that would fix a line to the summit, but they couldn’t this time because of the weather and what it meant for me was in thinking, whilst this was the second time on Everest for us using British tax payers money, when would I ever get the third chance to go and do this (Everest)?
To get an expedition signed off and all sorted and squared away to climb Everest is quite hard and another expedition would be expensive.
When people say you are a Gurkha, they think Mount Everest is in your back garden when being a Gurkha is more being a fearless soldier and not to summit a mountain in your home country would have been a bit of an embarrassment and because of all these factors and there was no one on Everest that year with experience enough, I stepped up and led the line fixing team long with two other instructors and Sherpas and we managed to fix lines to the summit and we reached the summit.
What happened after that was I got back to Kathmandu to celebrate with the guys and then and then I went up and climbed Everest again, Lhotse which is the World’s fourth highest mountain and Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in five days and during that process I had broken three World Records.
But obviously no one knew as I was still in the Special Forces.”
This did not deter Nims though…
“In 2018 I was appointed Head of the Mountain Cell as a badge representative and the idea was to go out and discover and learn any new skills and return back with the knowledge to teach to the service. It made sense for me to go and get that experience and improve my mountaineering but unfortunately, I couldn’t get out to do the climbs and this is when I thought, maybe I need to get out.
I think after serving 10 years (in the SBS) I needed a bigger challenge as well and I wanted to see what the human body could physically do when pushed to extremes.
So I came up with the idea of climbing several mountains and to break the World Record of climbing the 14 tallest and when I came up with the idea everyone was laughing about it saying if the record of the full marathon is in 2 hours then I will do that in like 15 minutes.
The idea was to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world at the 8,000 metre range and the fastest someone has climbed them was near 8 years and I did that in 6 months and 6 days and I did that in an unorthodox way.
You keep have people saying this is not possible, that is not possible, until you do it and then they say, “oh yeah that was possible!”
I have set fixed lines on mountains where people summited, I have been the front of the ropes, so basically you do the hard work which is called trailblazing, you are the first guy, you are opening the route and the rest of the guys follow on that path and when people are following you that is so much easier for them rather than you.
Most of the mountains I would do the trailblazing. We are the military, we adapt, and we learn lessons from previous experience. And in 2016 I decided to use Oxygen so I can save lives when needed.”
Tell us more about fixing lines and trailblazing?
“Fixing lines you are the first guy, the first team, you trailblaze, you fix the line and other people climb on the path that has been trailblazed, using the rope set out, so they can follow and that’s what I did on most of the climbs.
There were a few mountains where we opened a new route and even K2 when everyone had given up that season in 2019, we opened up the route to allow climbers to follow.
You are talking weather with winds of 70-80kms per hour, so not easy.
Through all of this I was announced as number one mountaineer for 2019 from Red Bull which was great.”
And what motivates you?
“I always love that challenge, I am always hungry, and I am never satisfied, I like getting out there and getting that experience challenging myself and that’s who I am. I would like to say that all of the guys and girls who have left the military and it is an amazing platform, don’t take it for granted. You learn how to be disciplined, you learn how to be humble, there are so many transferrable skills, even like the recent lockdown, that is just like operations for us.
It is all about breaking it down and transferring your military skills to go on and do some greater things. With that in mind if anyone is interested in trekking to the likes of Everest then I have a mountaineering expedition company set up called Elite Himalayan Adventures and we do provide quite bit of discount for military personnel, its all about looking after one another too.”
And your new book is on the horizon…
“The book Beyond Possible is out on the 12th of November and will cover what I went through as I encountered a massive mental challenge it was both physical and emotional, everything was draining to death! Climbing the mountains was the easiest part, the fundraising and managing the whole Bremont Project Possible agenda and deal with the politics at times, waiting for permissions to climb in various places for example the Chinese opened up one of the mountains only for my team to access, so the whole process including diplomatic stuff which has gone into this project was immense.
People will definitely get a lot from this book.”
Nims’ record breaking schedule for summiting all 14 of the world’s highest peaks in 2019 was as follows:
Annapurna 23 April
Dhaulagiri 12 May
Kanchenjunga 15 May
Everest 22 May
Lhotse 22 May
Makalu 24 May
Nanga Parbat 3 July
Gasherbrum I 15 July
Gasherbrum II 18 July
K2 24 July
Broad Peak 26 July
Cho Oyu 23 September
Manaslu 27 September
Shishapangma 29 October
Read the entire issue of Pathfinder International & Military Muscle HERE FOR FREE!