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Usain Bolt of Peaks

 If you don’t dream you won’t do it

A tale of grit and determination of a Mountaineer who scaled 14 of the highest peaks in the World in a short span of seven months. Mrinalini Oberoi reviews the Netflix Documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible for The Wise Owl.

Project Possible: 14X7, is emblazoned across his T-shirt. 14 peaks. 7 months. This was the ambitious goal Nims Purja set himself in 2019. He intended to scale the 14 highest peaks in the world, all of them above 8000 metres, in a shot span of seven months. His peers and seniors of the Mountaineering community scoffed at this impossible-sounding goal. This feat had taken Reinhold Messner, a veteran climber, 16 years and several attempts. The shortest time-period docked for scaling these 14 peaks was 7 years. And here was a young upstart claiming confidently that he would do it in seven months with the help of his team of Sherpa brothers. No one considered this claim seriously. No funding for the project was forthcoming. But Nims, a Gurkha soldier and a member of the British Special Boat Services, had never learnt to give up. He says, ‘You’re taught to come up with solutions, not look for excuses.’ So, he mortgaged his house to raise funds for his project and put together the equipment and team of Sherpas for this ambitious expedition.

Torquil Jonas’s documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible, follows Nims Purja and his team on their historic climb. The joie de vivre and self-assurance that Nims exudes makes this expedition look easy, as does his camaraderie with his brother Sherpas. Purja makes it a point to introduce the Sherpas by name, pointing out that ‘without names they are ghosts’, which is not fair as they are responsible for bailing out mountaineers from sticky life-threatening situations. The journey is in 3 phases. The first phase entails climbing the peaks in India and Nepal, the second phase is all about the effort required to scale the peaks in Pakistan and the final phase is about making it to the summit of the Shishapangma peak in China. Every phase is marked by a physically demanding trudge up the barren, snow-clad, dangerous mountains that beckon with their pristine beauty but may become the final resting ground for climbers. Purja, despite his desire to enter the world records by summiting 14 peaks in a short time, never once sacrificed his humanity at the altar of his ambition. Twice, during the course of his expedition, he put his life in danger to save a fellow climber, once even handing over his limited ration of supplementary oxygen and despite suffering from HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema)  

But no success is without its share of criticism. Nims succeeded in achieving an impossible goal, but his achievement was belittled by many who criticized him for using fixed ropes and supplementary oxygen above 7500 metres. But Pujara shrugs off this criticism with his usual unfazed demeanour. Hats off to this man of strong resolve and will power. A 90-minute documentary that is worth every minute spent watching it. The documentary is a travelogue of amazing grit and determination and teaches the viewers a thing or two about man’s ability to surmount insurmountable odds. Nims says ‘if you don’t dream you won’t do it’ and he walks the talk. 

~Mrinalini Oberoi

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