Back in 2019, the mountaineering community was transfixed with Nims Purja’s attempt to climb all 14 of the world’s highest peaks in record time. The previous record was more than seven years, but Nims stunned the world by finishing in six months and six days, setting a new mark that most people felt was impossible to beat.
Fast forward just three years and that record is already being challenged. Norwegian climber Kristin Harila is currently on pace to also climb the 8000-meter mountains in just six months, with the potential for just a few days separating her from Nims.
Spring in the Himalaya
Like Nims, Harila launched her speed attempt in the Himalaya this past spring. As has become the norm in recent years, she started on Annapurna, a mountain that is notoriously dangerous due to poor weather, frequent avalanches, and difficult technical climbing. Strategies for climbing the mountain have shifted, with teams arriving earlier in the year in an attempt to top out before spring thaws make things more unstable. This worked in Kristin’s favor, as she was able to summit the peak on April 28.
Not long after nabbing Annapurna, she moved on to Dhaulagiri and Kangchenjunga, adding those two peaks to her resume in rapid succession. But she really demonstrated her strength and abilities as a climber on Everest and Lhotse, where she completed the coveted link-up of those two mountains, summiting both in just nine hours. Five days later, she reach the top of Makalu, giving her six 8000-meter peaks in 29 days.
For those keeping track at home, that is two days faster than Nims, who scaled those same mountains in 31 days. Not a bad start to her efforts to say the least.
Summer in Pakistan
After a successful spring campaign, Harila has moved on to Pakistan for the summer. Last week she reached the halfway point of her goal by topping out on Nanga Parbat. Her team was the first to reach the top of the mountain this year, helping to fix the lines to the top. That keeps her on pace, although big challenges remain.
Kristin has since moved on to K2 base camp, where she is currently waiting for an opportunity to climb that notoriously difficult mountain. The plan is to grab it and Broad Peak in the coming weeks so she can keep Nims’ record in sight.
The Road Ahead
Assuming Harila is successful on K2 and Broad Peak, she’ll still have five more 8000-meter mountains left to complete. That list will include Makalu, Cho Oyu, Gasherbrum I and II, and Shishapangma. Each of those mountains is accessible following the summer monsoons in Nepal and Tibet, although there will be some major hurdles to clear first.
While the climbing and logistical challenges will remain the same, Kristin Harila and her team will have to convince the Chinese government to grant them access to Shishapangma—a peak that is typically closed to climbers. Nims had to get special permission for his expedition back on 2019, which required assistance from the Nepali government. Those government officials will be less likely to want to help the Norwegian in her attempt at the record, but hopefully she’ll get a chance at the mountain.
Eitherway, the fact that anyone is in a position to challenge Nims’ speed record is remarkable. Even more so when you learn that Harila didn’t seriously take up climbing before 2019. When she was younger, she was a competitive cross-country skier, but she lived in a part of Norway that was mostly flat. She even stopped training altogether at one point as career and a busy life took hold. But three years ago she quit her job and decided to make a change and has been skiing, trail running, and climbing ever since.
We’ll continue to follow her progress in the weeks ahead and wish her luck on the upcoming peaks. Like Nims, she is already an inspiration to us all.
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