#236 Nims Purja Mountain Climber

Summary Notes


Nepali mountaineer Nimsdai Purja, a former Gurkha and UK Special Forces soldier, set an incredible world record by summiting all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks in just six months and six days, shattering the previous record of nearly eight years. In his memoir "Beyond Possible," Nimsdai shares his journey from humble beginnings in Nepal to achieving one of the most remarkable feats in mountaineering history. He attributes his success to his extraordinary work ethic, instilled by his mother, and an unyielding belief in himself, despite facing skepticism and life-threatening challenges. Nimsdai's story is not just a tale of physical endurance but also a testament to the power of positive thinking, resilience, and the human spirit's capacity to overcome the seemingly impossible.

Summary Notes

Early Life and Motivation of Nims Purja

  • Nims Purja grew up in poverty in Nepal but was determined to achieve great things.
  • Inspired by his family, especially his mother's work ethic, he developed a strong sense of resilience.
  • He had two ambitions as a child: to become a Gurkha soldier like his father and to serve his community akin to Robin Hood.
  • Nims learned from an early age to thrive on the bare minimum, a skill that later supported his military and mountaineering endeavors.
  • He believed in the power of positive thinking and relentless self-belief, which he carried into his attempts to join the Gurkhas.
  • After initially failing to join the Gurkhas by one spot, his perseverance paid off on his second attempt.

"As a kid, I wanted to be one of two things. My first option, I wanted to serve as a Gurkha soldier. Like my dad. Gurkha soldiers were legendary, and their motto was, better to die than to be a coward."

This quote reflects Nims' early life aspirations and the influence of his father's legacy as a Gurkha soldier, which instilled in him the values of bravery and determination.

The Mountaineering Challenge: Project Possible

  • Nims Purja set out to summit all 14 of the world's 8000-meter peaks in under seven months, a task many considered impossible.
  • His military background and climbing experience on Everest prepared him for the physical and mental demands of the challenge.
  • Nims named his mission "Project Possible" to reflect his belief in achieving the seemingly unattainable.
  • He regarded every step forward as significant progress and part of a greater team effort.

"The title, which means project possible, later, came to feel like a one-fingered salute towards the people who wouldn't or couldn't believe."

This quote encapsulates Nims' defiance against doubters and his confidence in his mission, emphasizing the importance of self-belief and resilience in the face of skepticism.

The Power of Self-Belief

  • Nims Purja is an advocate for extreme levels of self-belief, which he sees as essential for success in any challenging endeavor.
  • He wanted to demonstrate through his mountaineering feats that nothing is impossible with dedication and a strong mindset.
  • Nims' early experiences with climbing and training under a Nepali mountaineer shaped his approach to mountaineering and life.
  • His ability to perform exceptionally well at high altitudes was both a natural gift and a result of his intense training and mindset.

"But why? These were some of the most inhospitable places on the planet. A challenge of that magnitude, with a deadline for only half a year or so, might have sounded like madness to most people, but for me, it was an opportunity to prove to the world that everything, anything was possible if you dedicated your heart and mind to a plan."

This quote reveals Nims' motivation behind undertaking such a monumental challenge and his desire to inspire others to believe in their potential to achieve the impossible.

Lessons from Mountaineering and Military Experience

  • Nims Purja learned to balance his confidence with the realities of climbing, recognizing the dangers of letting ego override capability.
  • His experiences taught him the importance of conserving energy and not burning out unnecessarily.
  • The mountains offered Nims lessons on teamwork, perseverance, and adapting to the demands of high-altitude climbing.
  • His military training contributed to his disciplined approach to mountaineering and his ability to thrive in extreme conditions.

"The mountains were delivering their first major lesson. Never burn yourself out unnecessarily. From then on, I vowed never to waste vital energy."

This quote highlights a key lesson Nims learned during his early climbing experiences, emphasizing the importance of energy conservation and strategic effort in achieving long-term goals.

Overcoming Obstacles and Embracing Challenges

  • Nims Purja's journey was marked by overcoming obstacles, such as the initial rejection from the Gurkhas and the dangers of high-altitude climbing.
  • He embraced challenges and used setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow stronger.
  • Nims' mindset was characterized by an unwavering belief in his abilities and a positive attitude towards adversity.

"I soon learned that with relentless self-belief, anything was possible. I would need every ounce of it to get accepted into the Gurkhas."

This quote reflects Nims' determination and the role of self-belief in overcoming the disappointment of his initial failure to join the Gurkhas, which ultimately led to his success on the second attempt.

Physical and Mental Preparation for Gurkha Selection

  • Nims Purja discusses the rigorous physical tests required for Gurkha selection, including the Doko race.
  • The Doko race involves carrying a 65-pound sand-filled bamboo basket on a 3-mile uphill circuit in under 48 minutes.
  • Nims adopted an unorthodox approach to training by sneaking out at 4 AM for extra workouts.
  • His dedication and extra effort led to his success in various assessments and achieving his dream of becoming a Gurkha.

"One of the better known tests in the Gurkha central selection phase was the Doko race, in which applicants were ordered to carry... a bamboo basket on your head that's filled with 65 pounds of sand... And I had to complete an uphill circuit of 3 miles in less than 48 minutes." "I'd previously taken an unorthodox approach to race preparation at school and would often sneak away at 04:00 a.m. To run through the nearby streets."

These quotes highlight the extreme physical challenges faced during Gurkha selection and Nims's unique and rigorous preparation method to gain an advantage.

Aspiring for UK Special Forces

  • Nims served six years in the Gurkhas before applying to the UK Special Forces.
  • He understood the necessity of adapting to an increased workload for Special Forces selection.
  • His preparation included intense physical training, such as cycling, swimming, and running with a relay system.
  • Nims's mindset was similar to other high achievers like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan, and Sam Walton, who all valued hard work and mental dedication.

"My application to join the UK special forces selection, the intense six month long trial that separated those with the guts to join the group from those without, was accepted." "To prepare myself physically, I push myself hard... Combat swimming was a major part of SBS training... But when 05:00 p.m., arrived, I'd rush back to the house to shovel down a small dinner before heading to the gym for a 70 miles bike session."

These quotes describe Nims's transition from the Gurkhas to the UK Special Forces and the rigorous training and mindset required to succeed in the selection process.

Nims's Unyielding Mindset and Code of Conduct

  • Nims Purja emphasizes the importance of mental fortitude and emotional control in enduring physical challenges.
  • He adopted a day-by-day focus, concentrating on giving 100% each day without worrying about future challenges.
  • Nims also highlights the significance of having a personal code or philosophy to guide one's life and actions.
  • His personal code was "Bravery above all else," which drove him to extraordinary feats and ultimately becoming a member of the Special Boat Service (SBS).

"Emotional control was only one of the many traits I needed to possess to become elite." "Today I will give 100% and survive. I'll worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes." "I had a code. Bravery above all else. There was no other way for me to live."

These quotes encapsulate Nims's approach to overcoming the grueling selection process for the Special Forces and the personal principles that guided him through his military career and beyond.

Solo Climbing and Overcoming Negativity

  • Nims Purja faced disbelief and negativity when he stated his intention to climb solo.
  • He applied his military training to adapt and survive, choosing to ignore negative attitudes.
  • Nims focused on finding solutions to challenges rather than grumbling or giving up.

"I'm doing it solo." "You're fucking kidding." "Having been trained to adapt and survive, I picked up my gear and tried my best to forget the snarky comments, knowing that glooming thinking was both destructive and contagious."

The quote reveals Nims's determination to climb solo despite the disbelief of others and his commitment to a solution-oriented mindset, dismissing negativity as harmful.

Psychological Warfare and Startup Emotions

  • Nims Purja relates climbing to the emotional rollercoaster of startup founders, citing Mark Andreessen's quote about euphoria and terror.
  • Lack of sleep is mentioned as enhancing both emotions, implying the intensity of experiences in both startups and climbing.

"So we go back to Mark Andreessen's famous quote about he hits building the emotional states that you go in between when you're building a company, and he nails it."

The quote highlights the similarity between the emotional states experienced in mountaineering and founding a startup, with both involving highs of euphoria and lows of terror.

Pushing Physical Limits and Acclimatization

  • Nims attempted to climb faster than usual, bypassing the recommended acclimatization period.
  • He faced physical challenges, including the brink of collapse, and used psychological strategies to find extra energy.
  • High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) was a serious risk encountered, emphasizing the life-or-death nature of his climbs.

"I'm struggling massively, but as always, I'm going to make this happen." "I was developing a high altitude pulmonary edema, hape."

These quotes illustrate Nims's struggle against physical exhaustion and the dangerous reality of high altitude sickness, yet he remains determined to succeed.

Inner vs. Outer Scorecard

  • Nims Purja's climbing philosophy is compared to Warren Buffett's concept of the inner scorecard, focusing on personal standards rather than external opinions.
  • He saved a climber named Seema, validating his decision to use oxygen, despite mountaineering purists' criticism.
  • Nims's inner scorecard behavior is exemplified by his independent decision-making and disregard for others' judgments on his climbing methods.

"Nobody could dictate to me why or how I climbed the mountains, just as I didn't have the right to dictate that to others."

This quote reflects Nims's commitment to his own principles and decisions, regardless of external criticism or standards.

Unusual Drive and Determination

  • Nims Purja's drive is described as unusual and not normal, which he sees as an advantage.
  • He emphasizes the importance of having a clear objective and the binary nature of success or failure.
  • His extraordinary feats, such as running to Kathmandu in 18 hours, are driven by a desire to discover his true capabilities.

"There was nothing normal about me. My drive was not normal. My vision of where I wanted to go in my life was not normal."

The quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger parallels Nims's own exceptional drive and vision, rejecting conventional existence and embracing the extraordinary.

Project Possible and Financial Sacrifices

  • Nims Purja decided to pursue Project Possible, aiming to climb all 14 peaks, despite the financial implications.
  • He forwent a substantial pension from the Special Forces, valuing his climbing ambitions over financial security.
  • His upbringing in Nepal equipped him with the resilience to live minimally if necessary.

"I was raised a poor kid in Nepal. If I had to, living out of a tent for the rest of my life would be no problem at all."

Nims's quote showcases his willingness to sacrifice financial comfort for his passion, drawing on his humble beginnings for strength.

Fundraising Challenges and Positive Affirmations

  • Starting Project Possible with only 15% funding, Nims struggled to raise money but remained optimistic.
  • He used positive affirmations to maintain self-belief and to inspire belief in potential supporters.
  • Nims remortgaged his house to fund the project, demonstrating his commitment and belief in his mission.

"First you believe, and then you work on making other people share your belief."

This quote underscores the importance of self-belief as the foundation for convincing others to support one's vision.

Morale, Team Unity, and Rest

  • Recognizing the importance of morale and unity, Nims balanced the pace of the climb with team welfare.
  • He understood the necessity of rest and recovery to prevent team failure.
  • Nims prioritized team spirit, arranging for rest and recreation to lift morale during the project.

"I understood the importance of climbing quickly, but the growing unity within the project possible team was also important."

The quote highlights the dual focus on efficiency and team cohesion, with Nims valuing both rapid progress and the well-being of his team.

Life Philosophy and Extreme Choices

  • Nims Purja's life philosophy embraces extremes and the pursuit of exceptional experiences.
  • He views moderation as limiting and believes in pushing boundaries to realize one's potential.
  • His decisions, such as leaving the Special Forces for climbing, reflect a preference for a life of adventure over security.

"Do you want to push the boundaries of your capabilities? Do you want to walk around in a fog, butting up against your potential, but never actualizing it?"

Rich Roll's quote reflects Nims's philosophy of living exceptionally and pushing limits, rather than settling for a moderate existence.

Betrayal and Disappointment in the Mountaineering Community

  • Nims Purja expresses a sense of betrayal from the mountaineering community.
  • He recounts how others claimed to offer help but failed to do so.
  • Nims reflects on the stark reality of mountaineers ignoring a dying man.
  • The incident highlights the harsh truth about people he once respected.

"People are nasty, man. I thought the mountain showed me the truth about who and what I really was. On both the climb up and on the way down, as I'd worked to keep our small unit alive, I could hold my head high. But the painful reality of people I once respected within the community was also revealed."

This quote conveys Nims Purja's disillusionment with the mountaineering community, where he witnessed a lack of support and empathy during critical moments.

Inspiration and Achievement

  • Nims Purja shares his journey from climbing his first mountain to aiming for all 14 of the world's 8000-meter peaks.
  • He emphasizes that it's never too late to make significant changes in life.
  • His story serves as an inspiration to others, showing what can be achieved with determination.

"I climbed my first mountain in 2012, and not seven years later, I was on my way to working through all 14,000 8000 meters peaks in seven months. I'd proven to everybody that it is never too late to make a massive change in your life."

Nims Purja highlights his rapid ascent in the mountaineering world and uses his experience to motivate others to pursue their goals, regardless of their starting point.

Harsh Realities of High-Altitude Mountaineering

  • Nims Purja describes the grim reminders of mortality on the mountain.
  • He encounters corpses, which serve as warnings of the dangers.
  • These encounters underscore the unforgiving nature of high-altitude climbing.

"There's also a number of unpleasant reminders of the harsh and unforgiving nature at life of high altitude. I passed at least three corpses along the way, the most unsettling being a man in a bright yellow summit suit, his jaw set askew in a grin."

The quote illustrates the perilous and deadly conditions faced by mountaineers, which Nims Purja confronts firsthand.

External Threats and Preparation

  • Nims Purja discusses the real threat of Taliban attacks during his expeditions.
  • He recounts a harrowing incident where climbers were executed by Taliban fighters.
  • This story highlights the need for meticulous planning and consideration of all risks.

"An attack from the Taliban forces was a very real concern during the months building up to project possible."

This quote underscores the additional dangers mountaineers may face beyond the natural challenges of the mountains.

Self-Sufficiency and Entrepreneurship

  • Nims Purja links his mountaineering experiences to entrepreneurship.
  • He emphasizes the importance of self-reliance and controlling critical aspects of one's endeavors.
  • His approach to mountaineering is compared to managing a startup, with similar lessons in self-sufficiency and resilience.

"This is my guess why his team is self sufficient. Like, they would set their own lines, they would carry their own equipment. They didn't need nor want assistance from other people."

Nims Purja's strategy of not relying on others for safety and progress on the mountain is paralleled to the entrepreneurial mindset of controlling one's own business operations.

Confronting Dishonesty and Danger

  • Nims Purja confronts a team that falsely claimed to have fixed climbing lines.
  • His team faced danger due to this misinformation.
  • The incident led to Nims questioning his own trust and the integrity of others.

"Why did you fucking lie? I shouted. Why did you say you fixed the lines when you hadn't? I nearly lost my most capable guy because of you."

This quote captures Nims Purja's anger and the serious consequences that resulted from the other climbers' dishonesty.

Coping with Negativity and Challenges

  • Nims Purja discusses his approach to dealing with negativity and adversity.
  • He uses humor and a positive attitude to maintain morale.
  • His philosophy involves tackling the most challenging tasks first, mirroring advice from Mark Twain.

"Come on, bro, what do you think we're climbing on a mountain? A bloody heat wave."

This quote exemplifies Nims Purja's method of using humor to diffuse tension and encourage a positive outlook in the face of difficulties.

Instilling Self-Belief in Others

  • Nims Purja encourages other climbers to believe in themselves despite setbacks.
  • He leads by example, setting fixed lines and summiting to demonstrate what's possible.
  • His actions result in 22 other climbers achieving their dream of summiting K2.

"We'll lead the way, and a day later you'll summit."

Nims Purja's confidence and leadership inspire others to overcome their fears and succeed in their mountaineering goals.

Overcoming Doubts and Setting Records

  • Nims Purja reflects on his motivations and the satisfaction derived from overcoming struggles.
  • He stresses the importance of keeping promises to oneself and the value of perseverance.
  • His achievements serve to push the boundaries of what is considered possible in mountaineering.

"I've overcome all these feelings, all these emotions because I've lived for a bigger purpose where me, myself and I mean nothing."

This quote encapsulates Nims Purja's philosophy of transcending personal ego and limitations in pursuit of a greater goal.

Future Aspirations and Secrecy

  • Nims Purja hints at future plans but chooses to keep them private to avoid doubters.
  • He believes in the element of surprise and continues to challenge himself.
  • His story ends with a commitment to pushing limits and not resting on past accomplishments.

"And quitting is not in the blood."

The closing line reaffirms Nims Purja's unwavering determination and refusal to give up, regardless of the obstacles he may face.

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