Reflections While Waiting for News from Shishapangma

Nirmal Purja. Photo: Project Possible

More than 12 hours have passed since Nirmal Purja, Mingma Gyabu (David) Sherpa, Galjen Sherpa and Gesman Tamang reached the summit of Shishapangma. The incredible feat of summiting all 14 8,000m peaks in six months and six days has captured worldwide attention. Purja and Mingma David now occupy positions 43 and 44 on this elite summit list, with Purja by far the fastest, and Mingma the youngest, at 30 years old.

At ExplorersWeb, we are anxiously awaiting word that the climbers have safely returned to Base Camp, or at least to some higher camp. As every mountaineer knows, the summit is only half-way home. The high winds and heavy snows of recent days have may have created difficult conditions, especially in their isolated circumstances.

Soon enough, there will be time to check details and reflect on this new page in the history of high-altitude climbing. The mountaineer’s ultimate tick list, which not long ago was itself barely more than a fantasy, has been accomplished within 189 days of a single climbing year.

In many ways, of course, comparing Purja’s effort with previous times is unfair. Kim Chang Ho of South Korea and Jerzy Kukuczka were not racing when they took seven-years-plus to complete the feat. Kukuczka’s climbs, in particular, included three winter firsts, and he did not use supplementary O2 except on Everest. The resources, technology and equipment that this child of the Cold War had at his disposal cannot be compared either to the logistical machinery that Purja employed.

On the other hand, Purja has actually never tried to compare himself with anyone or claim that he was “faster than”. His has been a strictly personal quest.

From a climbing purist’s perspective, Purja’s achievement possibly relies too much on logistics — custom helicopter shuttles, a strong team and plenty of O2 when needed. He also had good luck with weather and conditions. But applying a strict climbing perspective wouldn’t be fair to Purja either, because it ignores the enormity of his accomplishment. He needed not only determination, fitness and skill, but good use of risk management and even diplomatic clout to score that final, elusive permit for Shishapangma. Finally, the Nepali climber showed great leadership and an endless capacity for suffering. As he successfully notched each peak and the end goal came into sight, the pressure must have been tremendous.

He has made people around the world, including mountaineers, think twice about what is possible. And he fulfilled the promise that he laid out in his seemingly insane proposal. Glorious dreams made real always give light and hope.

Now let’s wait till he is back in a safer place, ready to tell us his story.

Related article:

Breaking: Purja Summits Shishapangma

Edited 10/30 to reflect Kukuczka’s use of O2 on Everest.

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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7 Comments on "Reflections While Waiting for News from Shishapangma"

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Good respects in the artical and Nims… As mentioned we all know he had support which he organised and was honest about. Regardless this is one of the most amazing achievements!


JK used O2 on Everest. He wanted to summit without O2 but was outvoted by the team, since the expedition was a big national team style endeavour. On his first successful 8000m summit, a year earlier on Lhotse, he carried O2 to high camp and even carried it with him when he set off for the summit (just in case), but he then dropped it as it was slowing him down.


Also JK was racing with Messner though Messner’s lead was so commanding that the fact that he came close it a wonder in itself. His harrowing tale to get from Dhaula BC to Cho Oyu BC in winter with frostbitten feet is an epic in itself. He would have love a chopper ride 🙂

Delwyne L Trefz

Thanks, Angela, for the beautifully crafted tribute to Nims and for respectfully beginning to put into words what his accomplishment means to the world of high altitude mountaineering.


Had the chance to share a moment with Nim and the team in Skardu last summer. Humble folks, with or without additional O2, it still requires incredible strength and nerve. The helicopter transit in Nepal was too much ? I guess they offset that bit with fheir Baltoro trek without porters.. Overall it’s what you get with a team approach I suppose. Hats-off to them all.
Only pity is that they didn’t attach their project with medical science,

Gary Goldenberg

Angela, thanks for another good article. An editorial note: “enormity” is misused here. The word should be used to describe (to quote one dictionary) “the great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong,” as in the enormity of war crimes.

Damien Francois
Having been able to summit all the big guys also points at something almost “dvivine”. Especially in Pakistan, we know that the weather often does not cooperte. Nirmal Himal had touched by the hand of the mountain Shiva, I guess, bissed and blessed, to have a go at each of the 14. Sure, sometimes he took great risks, but the gods were with him, definitely! And let’s not forget that he helped people whenever there was the need for it. I was on Everest and followed closely the rescue of Dr. Chin, who unfortuanetly died a few days later –… Read more »