Throughout the spring and summer climbing seasons in the Himalaya and Karakoram, Nirmal “Nims” Purja has been a force to be reckoned with. The man who boldly claimed that he would summit all 14 8000-meter peaks over a seven month period stunned the mountaineering world with his audacity when he announced his Project Possible plan early in the year. But after systematically knocking off 11 of those mountains in Nepal and Pakistan, it seemed that the road was cleared for him to complete that quest this fall. After all, what could prevent him from climbing the relatively easy –– in 8000-meter mountain terms mind you –– peaks of Manaslu, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma? As it turns out, it might not be the mountains, Nims’ health, or a lack of funds that dooms the project, but the Chinese government instead.
According to a report on the Adventure Mountain blog, run by esteemed adventure sports journalist Stephen Nestler, Nims may not be issued a permit to climb Shishapangma this fall. His current plans are to summit all three of the remaining peaks during the autumn climbing season, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, it seemed the former Gurkha soldier was on track to wrap up Project Possible as expected. Receiving a permit to climb Manaslu –– which is located in Nepal –– shouldn’t be an issue at all, but any time you cross over the border into Tibet things can get a little strange. Nestler says that sources have told him the Chinese are considering shutting down Shishapangma for the fall for “security” reasons, which would prevent Purja from even stepping foot on the mountain.
For his part Nims hasn’t mentioned anything about having issues receiving the permits, nor has he commented on his specificities plans for the fall. For all we know, there may not be any truth to these reports. That said, Nestler is well placed in the mountaineering community and has a lot of knowledgeable source. He also isn’t known for reporting stories that are off base, so there is a good chance that there is fire to go along with this smoke. Hopefully these bureaucratic hurdles can be cleared in time for the fall season however, as it would be a shame to have this be reason Nims isn’t able to complete his quest on schedule. But as Nestler also points out, Shishapangma has been closed regularly in the past –– as recently as the fall of 2017 –– and Chinese authorities never make exceptions to the rules. In other words, if they do choose to shut down the mountain, Nims isn’t likely to get any special treatment.
Further complicating things is that new regulations in Tibet are causing the price of expeditions there to go up in price fairly dramatically. Operators are now required to have one Sherpa for every climber, plus stricter rules governing the removal of trash are also bringing prices up. Nims has already struggled with raising funds to cover the costs of his previous expeditions, but the price of climbing in Tibet may also be a challenge that is difficult to overcome.
For now, we’ll just have to wait to see how things unfold. If Nims can climb Manaslu and Cho Oyu in the fall as planned, he may be able to summit Shishapangma in the spring, closing out Project Possible and still smashing the previous record for climbing the 8000-meter peaks. It won’t be the “14/7” angle he was looking for, but it would still be an impressive feat nonetheless.
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