Yesterday I wrote a blog post indicating that the autumn climbing season on the 8000-meter peaks were all but over. The last teams had left Everest and Dhaulagiri and were heading for home, while operations on the other Himalayan mountains were either already over or winding down as well. But, I did note that there was still one big expedition to follow as Nirmal “Nims” Purja was still waiting for his permit to climb Shishapangma and finish his mind-blowing Project Possible expedition. Today, comes word that he has officially been granted that permit, clearing the way for the former Gurkha soldier to make history.
We first heard about Nims’ goal of climbing all 14 8000-meter peaks in a seven month period way back in March of this year. At the time, it seemed like an overly ambitious – and possibly dangerous – plan, but one that was certainly very intriguing. But during the spring Himalayan climbing season Purja made believers out of all of us, systematically knocking off Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Kangchenjunga, and Annapurna. Later, during the summer in Pakistan, he added K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and II, as well as Nanga Parbat to his resume, summiting 11 of the world’s highest mountains in just over three months.
This fall, he returned to the Himalaya to summit Manaslu and Cho Oyu, although for a time it looked like he wouldn’t get a crack at Shishapangma thanks to the Chinese government closing that mountain down altogether. It seemed that Project Possible was doomed to miss its deadline due to bureaucratic red tape rather than Nims actually reaching the limits of human possibilities. Thankfully however, Purja has some friends in high places, as high-placed Nepali officials lobbied the Chinese for a permit. Word came two weeks ago that he would receive that document, but he would have to wait until after the celebration of 70 years of Communist rule in China was over. That celebration took place last week, clearing the way for the permit to be officially handed over today.
Nims now says that he will leave for Tibet “in a couple of days,” bringing some talented support with him. Joining him on the expedition will be Mingma David Sherpa, Gesman Tamang, Gyalzen Sherpa, Temba Sherpa, Jangbu Sherpa and Mingma Sherpa. If Mingma David Sherpa tops out, he’ll also join the club of climbers who have summited all 14 8000-meter peaks, so he also has a vested interest in Purja’s success.
The official goal it to complete Shishapangma by November 23, which is the deadline for the seven month goal. But on Facebook, Purja himself has said that he now wants to wrap up Project Possible in six months. That would mean he would have to summit by October 23 instead, which doesn’t give him and his team much time. They should all be fully acclimatized after several other expeditions this fall, but they’ll still have to install fixed ropes and establish a few camps along the way, so there is a lot of work to be done. Additionally, since no one else is on the mountain this fall, there is no intel on who much snow is found on the route. Still, all of that said, it seems likely that Nims will wrap up the expedition before the end of the month, weather permitting of course.
As we have all year long, we’ll continue to keep a close eye on his progress. More updates to follow soon.