Neither Toothache Nor Wind Stalls Purja’s Push

Shishapangma is not making things easy for Nirmal Purja. On the last stage of his quest to climb all 14 of the 8,000m peaks in under seven months, the Nepali faces unstable snow, high winds, whiteouts, an avalanche on the way to Camp 1 — and a toothache!

Purja, distracted but not defeated by an aching tooth. Mingma David snoozes behind. Nice pillow! Photo: Nirmal Purja


Purja and his team reached the foot of Shishapangma on Monday and intended to climb as fast as possible, despite high winds and biting cold. But ironically, they had to postpone their march to Advanced Base Camp for a day, because their leader was down — not from the elements but from a toothache. Feverish and in pain, Purja still looked forward to starting the climb, when, as he put it, “the voluntary pain of climbing at extreme high altitude will supersede this involuntary pain.”

Almost two days later, there has been no further comment about the tooth, although such an issue can’t be taken lightly, since any infection or swelling rapidly worsens with altitude.

Purja had a chance to test the beneficial effects of voluntary pain on Friday when he and his team trudged to Camp 1 in the middle of a blizzard. (See video.) “We climbed for 15 hours nonstop in…winds over 75kph,” Purja wrote.

In the near-zero visibility, they needed over three hours to find their route along a glacier. Once, they triggered an avalanche, luckily without consequences. “I was like wtf, I can’t even run,” Purja recalled.

Some hours later, safe in Camp 1, they drew up their summit plans: No partial climbs for acclimatization or setting higher camps. Sunday, when the winds will supposedly lessen, they will hurry to Camp 2. On Monday, ignoring the return of higher winds, get to Camp 3. On Tuesday, October 29, winds should drop somewhat again, and that is their projected summit day. All three days should be sunny, although when high winds rip into the loose snow and envelop climbers in a whiteout, as it did en route to Camp 1, it hardly looks like a bluebird day.

Shishapangma’s forecast for the next few days. Chart:

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Purja: How Fast Will He Do Them All?