Himalaya Fall 2019: Nims Purja Responds to Kuwaiti Flag Controversy

Kuwaiti Flag Controversy: Yesterday I posted a story about a controversy that had brewed up around a recent stunt on Ama Dablam involving a group of Kuwaiti climbers, a massive Kuwaiti flag, and Nims Purja’s new expedition guiding company. Essentially, quite a few people were upset that the climbers unfurled the flag — more than 100 meters (328 ft) in length from the summit of the mountain,

With many saying that it defaced the mountain and that it ignored the principles of Leave No Trace. Some, expressed disappointment from Purja, who has just launched his guide service with this first expedition to the mountain. The Nepali Ministry of Tourism also says that it wasn’t informed that this stunt was going to take place and promised to take appropriate action against those involved.

The incident took place last week and started to make headlines over the weekend. When I posted my story yesterday, Nims had yet to respond, but not long afterwards he did post an update to Facebook. This is what he posted to help clarify the situation:

“Yes, I have helped our friends from Kuwait to take their National flags on the summit of Amadablam, to help them celebrate their National day that is coming up soon.
It seems like people don’t do enough research nowadays and they seem very keen to put their opinion with only little knowledge. As a quote says “little knowledge is dangerous “ .
To clear this up: We have taken the flags up to the summit “complete” & WE HAVE BROUGHT DOWN THE FLAGS BACK TO KATHMANDU “COMPLETE” . Yes the COMPLETE package is back with us. We leave no trace on the mountains.
Yes I know it’s a very high risk mission, but every risk was calculated by myself. I was there on the ground/summit managing all the risk and ensuring every one is safe and we leave no trace on the mountains. For those who doesn’t know and are apprehensive of this project and it’s success, please note :
1. All my team members are safe and sound.
2. The mission didn’t hamper anyone’s climb at all . We put the flags up once all other mountaineers descended.
3. The project employed 17 Nepalese sherpa guides; 4 base camp kitchen staffs and 20 Nepalese porters and definitely helped in country’s economy.
4. This project has definitely promoted Nepal’s government campaign for next year “Visit Nepal 2020” in Kuwait .
5. This project has definitely strengthened the relationship between Nepal and Kuwait.
6. This project has definitely shown the ability of A Nepalese exped/local leaders and local agency in terms of managing risk and can perform equally or more than the western/European leaders or tour operators.
7. Everyone takes the flags on the summit and I apologise our flags was definitely bigger but unlike many we didn’t leave the trace up there.
I hope this clears up all and let’s start being more positive and let’s start looking into the positive aspect of things? The negative energy will drown yourself !”

As reported in my post yesterday — and confirmed by Nims — the flag wasn’t left behind on the mountain. It was set up as a photo opportunity, reportedly was left in place for about an hour, then retrieved and hauled back down the mountain. If you believe Purja, no trace of it was left behind, and other than disrupting a few other climbers on the mountain at the time, there was little harm done. Whether or not the Nepali government agrees with that, remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, this post from Purja didn’t end the controversy, but may instead have spurred more outrage. As of this writing, there are 140 comments on the post, but there have been some that have claimed their negative replies have been deleted from the page. Many of those posts reportedly have come from Nepalis who were upset that the giant flag was placed on Ama Dablam, which is seen as a scared mountain. Worse yet, the stunt took place on the Mani Rimdu Festival, which is an important time for many Sherpa.

In my post yesterday I essentially said that I didn’t quite get the outrage over this. Yes, it’s kind of a silly PR stunt, and we have plenty of those in the mountains already. I also expressed empathy for anyone who was on the mountain at the time and may have felt that their summit experience was diminished.

However, Purja and his team also seem to have shown a serious lack of understanding about the impact of their circus act on those who have witnessed it. There have also been some reports from individuals on the mountain that dispute some of Nims’ claims. Either way, it appears that this stunt has divided the mountaineering community and brought the wrong kind of publicity to Purja’s new company.

Yesterday I indicated that I didn’t quite get the outrage. The flag was reportedly in place for less than an hour and the team removed it and brought it back down, without leaving a trace. I still mostly stick by those comments, although I do have empathy for anyone who was on the summit and may have had that experienced diminished by this move.

Beyond that however, I do also understand and respect that this mountain is scared to the Nepalis and get the context of why they would be so upset with what happened there. Ama Dablam is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world (It’s on my logo for The Adventure Blog and Podcast) and this stunt does show a lack of respect for that place. While I don’t necessarily share the outrage, I do understand it a bit better today.

What are your thoughts?

Kraig Becker

5 thoughts on “Himalaya Fall 2019: Nims Purja Responds to Kuwaiti Flag Controversy”

    • I tend to agree Kathie, other than Ama Dablam being a sacred mountain. I can understand why local Nepalis would be upset with the stunt, but otherwise it seems like much ado about nothing.

  1. Of course Nims Purja should have asked The Nepali Ministry of Tourism for permission to dress the mountain in a flag before launching the stunt. It is impossible not to believe that he had thought about it, and that when he didn’t ask, it was because he reckoned that they wouldn’t allow him. What he has done, is very impolite, disrespectful and aesthetically distasteful. It shows Purja’s lack of sense of nature.
    A mountain is no more sacred than a flower. Not to say that a flower is not sacred. The flower and the mountain both belong to the mystery, they both contain a god’s idea. But nature produces all degrees of beauty, and Ama Dablam is the bearer of a beauty so striking that perhaps only people who use nature as a sports arena, can come up with the (political) idea of defiling one of its most beautiful creations with a gigantic flag. It’s ugly, it’s banal and it’s plump, and it should never have been done.
    – And in that regard, Kraig Becker: Your Adventure Blog logo is – with all due respect! – not beautiful. I don’t know if you’ve got an illustrator to compose it, but the title, “The Adventure Blog”, doesn’t belong where it’s placed, flashy, across Ama Dablam’s South West wall. It is – excuse me – a little tasteless and a little disrespectful. It spoils the mountain. I recommend you to move the title up to the right, into the blue sky, make the letters smaller and not partly in italic style, and to remove the black lines. It will still be easy to catch sight of your logo title. The hole logo will be be more rhythmic and harmonic, and the mountain will, in a better way, give an impression of what your site is about. – And its beauty won’t be disturbed.

    – With the best intensions and kind regards,
    Ove Steen

  2. Another reason for not being happy about the flag is the problems Nepali workers have in Kuwait. They are not being paid properly and living in poor housing conditions.

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