The final phase of Project Possible is officially underway. Earlier today, Nirmal “Nims” Purja officially received his climbing permit for Shishapangma and he has now left Kathmandu for the mountain. If successful, he will have made good on his promise to climb all 14 8000-meter peaks in less than seven months. That’s more than seven years faster than the previous record and would be one of the most impressive feats of mountaineering in recent memory.
The road to this point has not been an easy one. Purja announced his plans back in February of this year with a fair amount of skepticism within the mountaineering community. Climbing all 14 of those mountains seemed impossible for a number of reasons, including the wear and tear it would put on his body. But in addition to facing the difficult and exhausting climbs, he also had a number of logistical hurdles to overcoming, including raising funds to pursue this goal. Now, a little more than five months later, he stands on the edge of mountaineering history. Only the 8027-meter (26,335 ft.) Shishapangma remains.
In the spring Purja made believers out of many by climbing Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhoste, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, and Annapurna in rapid succession. He followed that up with a busy summer in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, knocking off K2, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, and Gasherbrum I and II. That left just Manaslu, Cho Oyu, and Shishapangma for the fall. The first two of those peaks were summited in short order, but due to the Chinese government closing down Shish, for a time it looked like he wouldn’t even get a chance at the mountain. Some back-office lobbying by Nepali officials helped Purja to receive a climbing permit however and now he and his team are on their way to clear the final obstacle.
According to The Himalayan Times, Purja and his companions left for the Nepal-Tibet border this afternoon local time. That group includes Mingma David Sherpa, Gesman Tamang, Gyalzen Sherpa and Jangbu Sherpa, all of which are strong and experienced climbers. Managing Director at Climbalaya Treks Mingma Sherpa will look after the base camp management while logistic support was provided by Seven Summit Treks. And as a side note, if Mingma David Sherpa summits Shishapangma, he’ll have climbed all 14 of the 8000-meter peaks as well.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of news to come from today’s report is that Purja now says that he and his team hope to summit by October 23, weather permitting. That gives them just five days to reach the mountain, set up camp, and launch a summit bid. Obviously they are all well acclimatized after the past six months in the mountains, but that isn’t a lot of time to scout the route and make their way to the top. That said, Shishapangma is the lowest of the 14 8000-meter mountains, although it is about the middle of the pack in terms of challenge. This isn’t K2 or Kangchenjunga for instance, but it isn’t a walk in the park either. That said, if conditions are right and their isn’t too much snow on the mountain, the team could make a rapid ascent and be done by the middle of next week.
Why the October 23 deadline? If he finishes on that day, Purja will have officially climbed all of the mountains in exactly six months. Will he do it? Stay tuned to find out.
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