Mixed Reviews: Himalayan Climbers Assess Purja’s Feat

Simone Moro and Reinhold Messner.

As Nirmal Purja does his well-earned round of media interviews, prominent mountaineers have stuck their heads above the parapet to voice their thoughts on the man of the moment.

One of contemporary Himalayan alpinism’s most revered practitioners, Italian climber Simone Moro, has said that although he considers such climbing “high-altitude tourism,” Purja has eliminated “all those who consider themselves heroes for accumulating 8000’ers with good weather, oxygen, fixed ropes and guides.”

The Italian added that such a “clear worldwide reference” may spell the end of “false heroes” and climbers claiming superficial mountain records.

Moro said that from his own vast Himalayan experience, he could “make a list with less than ten names who, with the same means, could repeat this milestone of climbing the 8,000’ers in six months and six days.”

On the emerging debate around Purja’s style, Moro criticized those purists who dismiss his achievement. Instead, he said, mountaineers should focus on repeating Purja’s project without oxygen or fixed ropes, doing the 8,000’ers in winter, tackling unrepeated routes, high altitude-link ups, or hunting out “exclusive and virgin peaks, or pristine regions.”

Simone Moro and Nirmal Purja. Photo: Nirmal Purja

Moro suggested that future mountaineers should not “waste” their career collecting 8,000’ers if they wished to become an “adventurer or explorer”.

“Until yesterday, you could have an alibi [for doing] the normal route on the 14 8,000m peaks.” he said. “Now, at least when it comes to sponsors and media attention, Nirmal Purja has put a virtuous and healthy end to this show.”

Reinhold Messner, the first man to climb all the 8,000’ers, has expressed surprise at how fast Purja completed all 14. Purja demonstrated, he said, “a great capacity for economic management, leadership, logistics organization. And obviously, exceptional physical resistance.”

Reinhold Messner and Purja at Nanga Parbat Base Camp. Photo: Nirmal Purja

Messner agreed that while Purja’s style has “nothing to do with the Jerzy Kukuczka’s,” Purja did not set out to “do better than the great Pole. He has never hidden the use of bottles above 7,500m, or helicopters to accelerate travel [on the mountain itself].”

Laying down the gauntlet to purist mountaineers, Messner wonders when other climbers will “be as fast as he is, and so resistant, without using oxygen cylinders.”

Messner believes that Purja has shown that Nepali climbers, and not just Sherpas (Purja is not ethnically Sherpa, nor was he born at high altitude), can independently lead Himalayan expeditions, much as local guides did in the Alps from the late 19th century onward.

Moro and Messner have sought out a silver lining in Purja’s achievement. Other Himalayan giants have not.

Chris Bonington said, “What he has done is quite extraordinary, but it isn’t mountaineering. Real mountaineering is exploratory –- finding new routes up to big peaks…I don’t see this as a major event.”

Everest new-router Stephen Venables added, “The fact that he used supplementary oxygen detracts from the feat. I know he also used fixed ropes. It isn’t exactly alpinism, as I understand it … It will certainly make it into the Guinness Book of Records, but in the history of mountaineering, it will only be a footnote.’

But the most stinging criticism came from the head of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Amit Chowdhuary, who said, “We don’t support this kind of gimmick. If you have 20 people supporting you, of course you can achieve this.”

Such widespread commentary in the mountaineering world is expected when such a project as Purja’s leapfrogs the alpine journals to achieve global attention.

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About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK. He juggles a day job as a public health scientist with a second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, international magazines, and on various websites. Major bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Porsche, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

He holds two degrees in Exercise and Health Sciences, and a PhD in Public Health.

His areas of expertise are polar expeditions, mountaineering, hiking, and adventure travel. In his spare time Ash enjoys going on small independent sledding expeditions, outdoor photography, and reading adventure literature.

Read more at www.ashrouten.com or follow Ash via @ashrouten on Twitter and Instagram.

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Drewbach
Drewbach
1 year ago

I’d like to see the Indian Mountaineering guy do it.

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Delwyne L Trefz
Delwyne L Trefz
1 year ago
Reply to  Drewbach

Agreed! Absurd and irresponsible to suggest that anybody with 20 supporters could repeat Nims’ accomplishment!

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Blabla
Blabla
1 year ago
Reply to  Ash Routen

Indian expeditions in the Himalayas most of the times turn suicidal no matter of the amount of people engaged in climbing and route fixing activities (supporting) and yet they are blaming Purja for risking lives when he completed all 14ers in a single season with no single member of his team getting seriously hurt? I thought they should invite him to teach them something about safety instead, am I the only one?

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Damien Francois
Damien Francois
1 year ago
Reply to  Blabla

Absolutely! Look at Everest this year!
https://www.nepalitimes.com/banner/overkill-on-everest/
https://www.nepalitimes.com/here-now/because-we-are-there/
The exception is the Indian Armed Forces. Very nice, competent and strong people.

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Trish
Trish
1 year ago
Reply to  Blabla

and he went out of his way to stop and rescue other people in need.

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Adrian Cornescian
Adrian Cornescian
1 year ago

There aren’t any heroes nowadays.
Unless you climb Everest solo, without suplemental oxygen, fixed lines, sherpas support, blind (Erik Weihenmeyer did it) without legs( a few did it), at 80 years old, during the winter months, it’s just tourism.

Come climb a new route in the Canadian Rockies, zig-zaging through avalanches during the 8 months of winter or cross fierce rivers, while encountering bears and become one!

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Dave Mycroft
1 year ago

It won’t only be a footnote to either the people who rescued on 4 of the ascents and their families. Nor will it be a footnote for those who followed when the fixed lines were the ones he broke trail to lay down, those who wouldn’t have achieved their summits either without those lines. The arguments over style will no doubt give others a cause to quote when seeking the massive levels of sponsorship needed for such a project. Of course there’s also the issue of the record being 6 months and 6 days but also it could be classed… Read more »

Delwyne L Trefz
Delwyne L Trefz
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Mycroft

Great points. The real controversy, in my mind, is what are we to do now with all the “real” mountaineers who have for decades rationalized their failures to attempt rescues in the death zone by explaining that to attempt such a rescue is almost certain suicide? We are each entitled to define “mountaineering” however we choose, but It is hard for me to imagine how setting the route on Annapurna, and the top, most dangerous portion of the route on K2–both under atrocious conditions–don’t qualify as mountaineering.

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Petya
Petya
1 year ago

Nirmal is just an extraordinary man, it is a huge achievement, I am wondering Who can repeat the climbs in such short term 😀 congrats Nims! You are a hero, and thanks for the efforts, you proved that person can achieve the impossible following a dream!

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Petya
Petya
1 year ago

Exceptional physical resistance MESSNER said!

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Ande Rychter
1 year ago

An air of acrobatic exploit waffts from Nims’ achievement. You know this when the elapsed time of the race is given to the nearest minute. The Brits have characterized it well. Kukuczka and Messner in my opinion remain examples to follow.

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Christopher Cameron
Christopher Cameron
1 year ago

Love how these God’s of the mountains clam not pure, not Alpinism, Gimmicks. Everyone has a way to do mountain adventures. Don’t claim your way is better. Just because you climbed with or without Oxygen isn’t the point. Being in the mountains is the thing. I’m tired of these Gods of the mountains acting like they own the place or have a higher standing then others..shame on you blow hards. When you climbed it was novel, just because others come along and do a great act behind you yet with Oxygen and a guide don’t think that your better because… Read more »

Snowbelle
Snowbelle
1 year ago

Bonington and his ilk do themselves no favours with their sour grapes.
Who can truly take seriously, the words of someone who claimed and got the glory that should have belonged to Don Whillans?

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Suds
Suds
1 year ago

Whenever someone achieves something great there will be detractors. What Nirmal did is amazing no matter what, learn to appreciate and give him credit it won’t take away from your own achievements. You may have conquered mountains but not your narrow mindedness. Big high five to Nirmal Purja 🖐️

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Jack Disraeli
Jack Disraeli
1 year ago

Only climbing free style with no outside help is real mountain climbing.

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Sam
Sam
1 year ago

I cant believe the egos of some of these climbers. With oxygen or without, with fixed lines or not . Purja’s feat was extraordinary awesome. People will always find ways to bring people down, egos and jealousy seem to rule in the mountains these days. I would like to see if anyone else even with support could do this feat as fast.

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Jbraden
Jbraden
8 months ago

Nims is the man… Get from behind the keyboard pack ur gear get a team climb those 14 peaks fixed ropes or not…then come back to the comment section….until you do that .. Keep ur mouths shut. Respectfully

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