Nirmal Purja Claims Six 8000-Meter Peaks in Spring Season but Challenges Loom

One of the big stories from the spring climbing season has just passed has been that of Nirmal Purja. The former Gurkha soldier set an enormous goal for 2019 with the hopes of climbing all 14 8000-meter peaks over the span of just seven months. He calls this endeavor Project Possible 14/7 and over the past few weeks he has made significant strides towards his goal, although financial constraints have now put the entire expedition in jeopardy.

Before dropping off the grid in British Columbia last week, I had reported that Purja had already successfully summited three 8000-meter peaks in Nepal but hoped to climb three more in as many days. He was able to achieve that feat, knocking off Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu in rapid succession. At that point, he had already climbed Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, and Kangchenjunga as well, giving him a total of six mountains so far. That’s a new record of course, as no one has ever climbed so many 8000-meter peaks in such a short span of time.

The next phase in the Project Possible schedule will be no less daunting however. Purja hopes to travel to Pakistan for the summer climbing season, where he plans to knock off five more peaks, including K2, Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum I and II. If that stage of the project is successful, he would then return to the Himalaya in the fall and climb Cho Oyu, Manaslu, and Shishapangma in Tibet.

At this point, the biggest challenge isn’t whether or not Nirmal Purja is strong enough and experienced enough to climb those mountains. Instead, his biggest hurdle seems to be coming up with the funds to pay for the expedition moving forward. After a very successful spring climbing season, he now finds himself low on cash to pay for the next phase. That has put his plans for going to Pakistan in serious jeopardy, with just a few weeks to figure out what to do next.

Obviously climbing 8000-meter peaks is an expensive endeavor. An expedition to Everest alone will cost a minimum of $30,000 and more likely will run most people twice that amount. Nirmal has economics of scale working in his favor, and these individual expeditions won’t cost him that much each. Still, it is expensive to climb the mountains and he is now facing the hard reality that Project Possible may come to a halt simply because he doesn’t have the financial support and sponsors that he needs. It would be a shame to see it end because of that, but it’s looking quite likely at the moment.

Hopefully Nirmal will find some backers to help defray the costs moving forward. It would be a shame to see this impressive endeavor come to an end now when he has shown how strong he can be in the mountains. But even if he has to delay until next year, he’s still well ahead of the record pace for climbing all of the big mountains. I’ll post updates on his status as we move forward.

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Kraig Becker