Nirmal Purja, a.k.a Nimsdai Purja born in the Myagdi district and grew up in the flatland of the Chitwan; unlike most mountaineers in Nepal, he wasn’t influenced by the massive snowy figurines growing up at their foothills. Little did he know that someday these mountain peaks in the background would make him the greatest living legend in mountaineering history.
With a humble beginning and aspiration to join the Gurkha Regiment of the British Army like his father and older siblings, he gave everything he had to enlist in the world-recognized regiment. Like how people say ‘hard work pays,’ it really did for this legendary mountaineer, but even after joining the Gurkha Regiment at just 18, he wasn’t done outshining others.
In 2009, he made history by being the first-ever Gurkha regiment recruit to join the British Special Boat Service (SBS). But that’s not where this story ends either; charmed by snow-capped peaks, Nimsdai’s underlying passion for life on the slopes starts to take a deep root, flipping the trajectory of his life.
So, in overall, this is a cumulative success story that goes beyond the slopes of struggles, despair, and failures, undying love and pursuit of what a heart truly yearns for.
Nimsdai’s Unprecedented Mountaineering Journey
Nimsdai Purja didn’t dream of conquering the tallest snow-peaked wonders while he was growing up in Nepal, which were virtually in the background. While growing up, he did really well in school, even in physical abilities, but he never had any inspiration for mountain climbing.
Instead, he was driven by something else in his growing years; like his father and brothers in the family, he was focused on joining the British Army regiment. Nimsdai grew up pushing the limits of his physical abilities to earn a place in the Gurkha Regiment of the British Army, a dream he turned into reality when he got selected for the service in 2003 at the age of just eighteen.
“Being a Gurkha was my only dream. It was the only thing I wanted to do.”
Even after his selection in the Gruka Regiment of the British Army, Nirmal Purja didn’t stop pushing himself for the next great feat. In fact, because of his physical prowess, mentality, and intelligence, Nimsdai became the first-ever Gurkha regiment recruit to join the British Special Boat Service (SBS). He accomplished such feats in 2009, just after 6 years of joining the army.
UK’s SBS is a highly selective special force in the military, Special Boat Service, along with Special Air Service (SAS), is regarded as one of the elite military power. SBS, made up of elite Royal Marines Commandos, specializes in classified operations and undercover raids.
Nimsdai Purja served as a cold-weather warfare specialist in the British Special Force, it was during his serving period as a specialist in the SBS that he discovered his passion for conquering the cold slopes.
Purja had leave days built off during his service, so instead of picking a warm beach destination to spend his holiday, he decided to go into the Himalayas.
That’s where the tale of one of the greatest historic mountaineering figures began.
Humble Start to Everest Base Camp (5,364 Meters), Where It All Started
Nimsdai Purja, with his built days in the SBS, decided to explore the foothills of the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest (8,849 meters). He set out on a trekking adventure to the Everest Base Camp in 2012; during his expedition, Nimsdai discovered his passion for the glorious snow-peaked wonders but was still far away from the realization that his journey to the Everest Base Camp was about to change the trajectory of his whole life.
His experience at the base camp of Mt. Everest, also known as the third-pole, lit a spark that was soon to inflame into a historical monument.
The ex-SBS cold-weather warfare specialist was simply not satisfied with the simple trekking experience after getting charmed by the alluring peaks of the Himalayas; it felt like an incomplete journey without a proper closure.
So, upon his return to Kathmandu after completing the EBC trek, he convinced the guide of his expedition, Dorje Khatri, to teach him how to climb the mountains ‘for real.’ Shortly after completing his trek, receiving guidance and assistance for mountain climbing from Khatri, Nirmal Purja was able to make his first successful ascent to the summit of Mt. Lobuche (East) at an elevation of 6,119 meters.
Two years after debuting as a mountaineer, Nimsdai climbed his first-ever 8,000-ers, Mt. Dhaulaigiri (8,167 meters), within 14 days and without acclimatization in 2012. The legendary mountaineer, during his first ascent to 8,000-ers, mountain ranges that are famous for their life-threatening death zones, led 70% of the expedition.
But it was in 2016 when Nimsdai discovered he wasn’t immune to acclimatization during his first-ever scaling of Mt. Everest. The mountaineering legend suffered from ‘Pulmonary Oedema,’ a condition caused by an abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs. Ascending faster on the slopes of Everest, which at a normal pace takes around six weeks, Nimsdai was pushing for it in five days.
Although, as an SBS mountain trooper, he knew that his body couldn’t handle going that fast, he kept on pushing because his body was feeling okay. Ashamed of the experience because the former SBS cold-weather warfare specialist had the knowledge to avoid it, but he had to keep on pushing to know the threshold of his limits, how much his body could take.
Nimsdai didn’t take such a risk putting his own life on the line for glory; he had done a proper risk assessment and understood very well the thin line between brave and stupid.
But he had to see how much his body could take; the mountaineering legend quite well comprehends the difference between ‘living in the moment and ‘getting yourself killed,’ and thus wants to ‘live in the moment for a long time.’
After all, knowing your weakness can make you even stronger and kinder.
Risking Everything for the Summit
Born on the flatland of Chitwan, with the great Himalayas always in the background, it would take him quite a long to come back home and explore the fascinating massifs that always appeared on the farther end of the open vistas.
Nirmal Purja was naturally good at studies, he used to be in the ‘top five’ ranks of his classroom; the mountaineering legend claims that he could have even snatched the first position if he really had tried. But rather than interested in being a great scholar or the aspiration to chase highly sought-out degrees like a doctor or an engineer, Nimsdai was putting up with education mostly because of his dream of the join Gurkha Regiment of the British Army.
While growing up, he mostly did sports, even in his school years, so it would help his chance to get into the British Army. Starting training at 15 in his hostel, Nimsdai would wake up at 3 a.m. and run strapping weights to his legs.
His hard work and dedication finally paid off when the former SBS cold-weather warfare specialist finally joined the Gurkha Regiment of the British Army in 2002; he was just 18 years old. Nimsdai made it to the list of 320 new recruitments out of a total of 32,000 applicants; in his second attempt to join the regiment.
Still, he didn’t stop to thrive in the regiment; selected for the British Special Force in 2009, Nirmal Purja became the first-ever Gurkha regiment recruitment to join the Special Boat Service (SBS). The recruitment process for the Special British Force is so fierce and selective that 90% of applicants don’t make the cut throughout the selection process.
But, Nimsdai was in dilemma when he had to make a choice between his existing dream and aspiration that were echoing in his soul. When the former SBC specialist made the fearless decision without stepping back, that’s where the legacy of the mountaineering legend was born.
There is no doubt the SBS force Purja served is only for the elite and something he is deeply proud of. It was a dream job for the mountaineering legend living life like a real James Bond and serving in sensitive missions across the globe.
When Nirmal Purja was appointed as the ‘head’ of the extreme cold-weather warfare in the Special Boat Service in 2018, he asked for 80 days off period to climb the ‘Top Five’ highest mountain in the world. As it would help his newly revised position as the warfare head in cold weather, Purja thought his command would give him permission to chase his passion on the slopes of the snow mountains.
However, upon reviewing Nimsdai’s preparation for the ascent of the tallest mountains, his command didn’t give clearance as they deemed it too dangerous and crazy. Considering the deaths of mountaineers while trying attempts like this, the command didn’t want to get held responsible for things that might happen to Purja on the slopes.
The circumstance put Nimsdai in a very difficult situation as he had already served 16 years in the British Army and had to put in just 6 more years to get the full pension. That’s where the soon-to-become mountaineering legend risked everything and left his position in the SBS to answer the calling of the alluring mountain peaks.
Never intimidated by the fiscal aspects of his dream job in the British regiment, Nimsdai Purja decided to leave his job and keep going on the path he had decided for himself. But he wasn’t showered with love and support right away after making such a big decision; his brother, in particular, got so mad that he didn’t speak to Nimsdai for two months.
The ex-SBS head/specialist had lot of responsibilities that depended on the paycheque from the British Military. Besides supporting his family in the UK, Nimsdai also looked after his half-paralyzed father, who was at the time residing in Kathmandu for medical attention. His mother and father had moved to the capital for advanced treatment, renting a room in Kathmandu. Nimsdai was supporting their living and the treatment of his father from his earnings in the British Force.
It’s not over until it’s over.
It’s been only 2sec, I have completed Phase 2 and I’m here in Islamabad working my ass for the 3rd phase; no funds & also some bigger issues. Seems like Phase 3 will be the be biggest hurdles in terms of logistics, access and funding #nimsdai pic.twitter.com/yLXPJPnULq
— Nirmal Purja MBE (@nimsdai) August 4, 2019
Nothing Is Impossible : No Excuses – Nirmal Purja Aka Nimsdai
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Journey to ‘Project Possible’ That Changed Everything
Originally starting with the goal of climbing the top five highest peaks in the world in less than two months, which wasn’t cleared by the Special Boat Service command in the British Force. And the Gurkha legend, who was doing so well with his military career, had to take the leap without looking back to answer his true calling as a living legend who redefined mountaineering.
But it wasn’t the first time his work came in between the passionate yearning for the slopes of the snowy figurines; even during his first ascent of an 8,000-er, Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters) in 2012, Nimsdai had to keep it under wrap as he didn’t want his SBS command to learn about it. The legendary mountaineer followed the same routine during his summit of Mt. Everest in 2016; with just a couple of weeks of military leave, he pushed for the summit without official approval and told everyone he was a medic back in London.
Still, he did get the opportunity to officially lead the expedition to the slopes as a member of the Gurkha regiment in the British Military. In 2017 the Gurkha regiment partook in the expedition to Mt. Everest, celebrating 200 years of allegiance to the British Crown; this expedition held great significance, and once again, the brave Nimsdai was again in the center of it all.
In the British Crown’s second expedition to the world’s tallest mountain, after the first expedition was jeopardized by an earthquake in 2015. The legendary mountaineer led the 13-member summit team to the top of the world in 2017.
As the elite Gurkhas are recognized as the bravest of the brave and are considered to have grown up watching Everest in the back garden, the reputation of the Gurkha regiment was at risk in the 2017 Everest expedition. Due to the unpredictable weather, the official rope fixing team that year had yet to fix ropes on the slopes of Everest.
So, the mountaineering legend decided to lead the fixing team himself; with the name of his homeland and the brave Gurkha regiment at stake, Nimsdai decided to lead the fixing and expedition team to the summit. When words of his decision spread around the base camp, other mountaineers started to question if he knew what he was doing and who he was.
The soon-to-become living legend in mountaineering history successfully submitted with his expedition team from the southern side.
Although Nimsdai is not quite clear when he discovered his undying love for the mountain slopes started blooming or how he acknowledged that he had the potential to lead a glorious life on the slopes of these alluring peaks. The former SBS specialist in one of his Special Forces mission was stranded on a mountain; the helicopter rescue team couldn’t reach him because of the bad weather. So, he started running throughout the day and throughout the night from the Base Camp and covered six days’ worth of trekking distance in just 18 hours.
That’s when the Nimsdai realized he had got something, something far more than the self-potential he had comprehended, the true essence of his strength in a depth that was beyond human expectation.
His mission for the conquest of all 14 peaks began in 2019, named ‘Project Possible’ because a lot of people assumed it wasn’t possible. Nimsdai dreamt of conquering the tallest peaks in the world in just seven months; the last climber to accomplish such a feat was the Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who conquered all 14 peaks in the world in 1986, taking seven years, ten months, and six days.
But, the former SBS cold-weather warfare specialist’s wish to complete the 14 peak expedition in just seven months meant that he had to skip the acclimatization process on the slopes of the tallest snowy figurines, which is a very crucial component of a successful and safe ascent to the summit of any mountain. But it didn’t take him more than six months and six days to accomplish such an amazing feat that engraved his name in mountaineering history as one of the most extreme and badass climbers of all time.
However, it wasn’t an easy journey, the ‘Project Possible,’ due to lack of funding, had to start the mission with just 5% of what they needed to complete the whole project. Struggling to find sponsors for the project, Nimsdai was even driven to the point where he cried and started questioning why he was doing it. But, after collecting himself and telling himself that he was doing it for a bigger reason, the legendary mountaineer remortgaged his house and took a £60,000 loan to start the project.
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On 23rd April 2019, the ‘Project Possible’ expedition team successfully ascended their first 8,000-ers, Mt. Annapurna (8,091 meters). But, Nimsdai Purja’s 14-peak conquest expedition was limited to just successfully scaling the tallest mountain in the world; his rescue stories of stranded climbers made him a mountaineering hero.
During his expedition to Mt. Annapurna, his expedition team rescued Malaysian climber Dr. Chin Wui Kin at 7,500 meters after he was stranded by his team. The expedition team aborted their mission to rescue the Malaysian climber (sadly, Dr. Chin died in hospital). Similarly, during their Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 meters) ascent a few days later, the Project Possible team rescued three more climbers from the slopes of the treacherous mountain.
Nimsdai’s project and heroic rescues in the mountains started making headlines worldwide; he also took the infamous photo of the mountain climber queuing in line to summit Mt. Everest. Gradually funds for his project and sponsors started rolling in from across the globe; people also started donating to his GoFundMe page, which made the project that initially started with 5% of the fund now started to seem like a probable dream.
After six months and six days, Nimsdai stood at the summit of Mt. Shishapangma (8,027 meters), engraving his name in the history of mountaineering as the youngest climber to climb all 14 of the 8,000-er peaks and breaking the time record held by Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner who did it in more than 7 years.