Besides Nanga Parbat, Purja very nearly comes to grief on Kangchenjunga, Annapurna, K2 and the Gasherbrums, showing us why this kind of climbing is so dangerous. Despite this, he abides by the strict military code of not leaving comrades on the battlefield. The end of the book has Purja’s ‘8 commandments’ on ethical climbing that could be applicable in every other sphere of life.
On Annapurna, after summiting the first of his 14 peaks, he helps bring down a Malaysian climber despite being ‘knackered’. He rescues an Indian woman on Everest, and two more Indian climbers on Kangchenjunga. All of them were too far gone to make it, but the important thing is that Nimsdai did not leave them to die on the mountain.
In fact, on the mountain Nimsdai Purja behaves more like a commando than a climber. His ‘ascents’ are ‘attacks’, it is either ‘death or glory’, he has to make Broadpeak ‘bomb-proof’, ‘nailing the peak’ is like clearing a minefield. After climbing Everest and rescuing a stranded climber, Nimsdai returned to his unit in Afghanistan, and writes:
‘I was back scrapping with the military where I kicked in doors and took down bad dudes, counting off the days until it was time to climb another mountain.’
He witnesses the crowds on Everest in May 2019, and his photograph of the ‘traffic jam’ at the South Summit goes viral, but he agrees with Karma Tenzing who argued in this paper against capping climbers on Everest, and instead vetting them for experience. With each climb, Nimsdai Purja see signs of climate change on the glaciers and slopes and uses his growing profile to become an activist to raise awareness about the melting mountains.
Purja wonders if his international fame would have been greater if he had not been from Nepal. He writes:
‘It’s highly likely that if I’d been a climber from America, Great Britain or France, then every outlet in the world have noticed the effort. I was also a realist. Those media companies with the biggest global outreach were mainly owned by western investors. The story of a climber from Chitwan and his attempts to scale the world’s tallest mountains in record-breaking time didn’t carry the same impact as a mountaineer working towards a similar goal from New York., Manchester or Paris. Even though I was technically a British citizen, my nationality had positioned me under the radar of almost everyone.’
What’s next for Nimsdai Purja? What lies ‘beyond possible’? At the end of the book, he tries to answer this question. The mountains are there to be climbed, and he wants to pick ‘which ones to take and the style to do them’. Indeed, Nimsdai Purja is taking part in the K2 challenge and to repeat his climb, this time in winter.