Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja.
Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja.

ISLAMABAD: Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja has set his sights on breaking the world record for climbing all 14 peaks above 8,000 metres.

The previous record for this feat is eight years, but Mr Purja plans to achieve it in seven months. The 35-year-old is now three 8,000-metre peaks away from his goal.

Before coming to Pakistan, Mr Purja had climbed six 8,000-ers in Nepal in 31 days. It took him 23 days to climb all five of the highest mountains above 8,000 metres in Pakistan – K2 (the second highest mountain in the world), Nanga Parbat, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum I and II.

In all, it has taken him roughly three months to climb 11 out of the 14 tallest mountains on earth, he said.

With four months left to complete his project, Mr Purja told Dawn on Friday that he has plenty of time to summit the remaining three peaks – two in Tibet and one in Nepal.

Before coming to Pakistan, Mr Purja had climbed six 8,000-ers in Nepal in 31 days

“The biggest take away from all this time in Pakistan is that I was concerned about the security, especially after the terror incident in June 2013, when 11 foreign mountaineers and a Pakistani were killed at the Nanga Parbat base camp.

“But I find the people really friendly. I am really happy to say that I feel very safe here. That’s my statement. I hope that will open tourism for foreigners in the future. And I will say this to all my media at home as well,” he said.

Describing his first time in the country as “amazing”, he added: “What I really like is how they say here that mehmaan bhagwan hai. I have come to admire the hospitality extended to guests.”

Mr Purja said Gasherbrum I was an extremely difficult climb for him.

“We trekked directly from Askoli to base camp in three days and started climbing immediately. We were tired from the trek, carrying so much gear,” he said.

Within 10 hours of summiting K2, he was heading for the summit on Broad Peak.

“I did both K2 and Broad Peak within 48 hours,” he said.

“I must say that the highlight was K2, which was the hardest. We took risks on K2 and were rewarded.

“Everybody had given up on K2 because they could not fix ropes above the avalanche-prone bottle neck, a 100 feet steep section and above,” he said, explaining how he managed to open the route in collaboration with other climbers.

He added that he climbs with supplementary oxygen.

Alpine Club of Pakistan Secretary Karrar Haidri told Dawn 31 people climbed K2 this season, nine of them without bottled oxygen.

“Nepali climbers are not just really good mountaineers, they are also trained climbers. Had they not opened the route and fixed ropes, others would not have been successful on K2. Nirmal Purja has set the world record in speed climbing,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2019