It will be considered ludicrous if someone says they want to conquer all the 14 peaks that come in the “Eight Thousander” clan, in their single lifetime. But you know what would be considered even more absurd; when a person says that he would climb all the 14 peaks in 7 months! Yes, that is what Nirmal Purja committed to. The documentary, 14 peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, focuses on this unbelievable journey of a man who was determined to prove everybody wrong and do something that seemed to be impossible.
14 peaks: Nothing Is Impossible directed by Torquil Jones, makes us understand about the human spirit, its peculiar nature, and most of all, about how “belief” can move mountains.
‘14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible’ Summary
Nirmal Purja, better known as Nims, was a Gurkha before he joined the Special Boat Services. The Gurkhas are considered to be one of the most feared and celebrated warrior clans. The British forces, as well as the Indian forces, have a regiment of Gurkha soldiers. They are known to be fierce, loyal, and above all, selfless towards their goals. Nims was inducted into the forces when he was 18 years old. After serving in the Special Boat services, he had the opportunity of climbing three peaks from the ‘Eight Thousander’ clan. He came across a surprising and rather unfair revelation.
Every year mountaineers from all over the world gather in the Everest base camps and try to climb the highest mountain peak. In recent years there has been a lot of coverage, exposure, and films that are being made on the experience of climbing the Peak, which in turn has allured a lot of people to try it at least once in their lifetime. The experience has become a part of the bucket list of many individuals. This has increased traffic in the climbing season and has also led to increased stress on the natural ecosystem of the mountain.
Nims saw that mountaineers who climb the Peak are provided support and guidance by Sherpas. So generally, there is one Sherpa for each climber who accompanies him throughout. But, not a lot of credit is given to them for their support in the whole expedition. Sometimes even their names are not taken, which makes them faceless before the entire world. The incentives they get are far lower than Westerners, given they do the same job.
Nims wanted to change that. He wanted to bring these native Nepali climbers into the limelight and at least give them their due credit, if not anything else. So he decided to do “Project Possible.” The earlier record of climbing all the 14 peaks was seven years, and Nims had decided he would climb it all in 7 months.
Barriers Beyond the Peaks
The first person to conquer all the 14 peaks, Reinhold Messner, had once said that mountains are not fair or unfair; they are just dangerous. But mountains were the least of the worries of the determined Gurkha warrior. Nims was finding it hard to get sponsorship and had decided to put his house on a mortgage to fund his expedition. He had an ailing mother back home. He didn’t know whether he would be able to meet her after he was done climbing considering her critical condition. The Chinese government had refused to give him a climbing permit to one of the peaks named Shishapangma. From political influence to garnering support on social media, he tried everything just so that he could climb that Peak and be successful in what he had set out to do.
Nim’s elder brother, Kamal Purja, was unhappy with his decision to leave the forces and go on this suicidal expedition. He didn’t talk to him for a period of three months. Nirmal Puja says that climbing felt easy as compared to dealing with the society, the bureaucracy, and the expectations.
Did Someone Die During Mission Possible?
Nims and his team had conquered the nasty Kanchenjunga, and with almost little or no energy left, they started moving down. One hundred meters below the summit, they found another climber. He was not in a good state. The “Mission Possible” team knew that if they would have left him behind, he would have surely died. But the team was not in a state to stop and help other climbers.
The only hope they had was to send SOS to the climbers and rescue troops in the camps below and hope that help would arrive. Nims had never left anyone behind in the army before, and so leaving the climber was not an option for him. “It’s not in my blood to leave a person behind,” said a determined Nims. The team gave their oxygen to the climber that helped him sustain a bit longer. But it became dark, and no help arrived. The climber succumbed to the unkind and grating glacial temperatures.
Nims called his wife and told her that he had lost. The climber had died in his arms. Though Nims couldn’t save him, it said a great deal about the man. In times of peril when even your own kin leaves your side, Nims was ready to give his life for a complete stranger. The climb, the mission, and the determination of Nirmal Purja might have made him a prodigy. Still, his empathy had set an example for a world that is slowly becoming devoid of humanity. Though he had set out for the cause native people of Nepal, his morals and ethics had set a high benchmark for the whole of mankind.
Usain Bolt of 8000 Meters
Nims asked this question to himself: is he doing it for self-glory or for something much greater. This question, I believe, should be asked by every rebel who sets out on his own expedition in life. If it’s to prove somebody wrong or just to catch eyeballs, then I believe one should quit it right away. But Nims was not doing all this to merely grab attention. He was doing it for the people of his homeland.
An endeavor to reach a destination where people around you haven’t reached before, teaches you many things about human behavior. Most of the people will always tell you that it is not possible even without hearing out what you have to say. It is not because you cannot do it but because they can’t. They believe that their limitations are aligned to the human species in general and are a universal truth. But what they don’t know is the peculiar nature of the human spirit.
Belief is a strong word, and I think in times of adversity, the best of words. It’s the fuel that makes you move forward even when nobody believes in you. It’s that instigator that tells you not to give up even when you’re down and out. It’s an eye-blinder that makes you impervious towards opinions and negativity. A lot of people fight their demons and cry themselves to sleep, but only a handful get up the next morning only to face those demons once again with the same zeal and enthusiasm.
While covering the story of Nirmal Purja, a newspaper wrote how the mountaineer became a social media sensation “overnight.” What they didn’t see was the years of endurance that the body and mind took before that.
“In the death zone, I come alive,” says Nims when asked about how he tackled the harsh conditions of the death zones. He says that the soul became a part of the mountain. Climbing a Peak so treacherous often puts you in a state of meditation. You are far away from all the perceptions and opinions. You start making your own path. You start discovering new things about yourself. There is an intimate relationship that develops between you and the pain you endure. It becomes a part of you. But that’s when you have the ability to inspire a whole generation and break the boundaries that limit you from achieving your goal.
14 peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, is a must-watch documentary for all the dreamers, wanderers, rebels, outcasts, and underdogs. It tells us that it isn’t over unless you say it is. The documentary directed by Torquil Jones is streaming on Netflix.