We sat down with Nirmal Purja MBE, a former Gurkha and Special Boat Service soldier, on his return from breaking a new world record — speed-climbing 14 of the world’s tallest mountains in just six months, with his trusted Bremont Supermarine S300 dive watch strapped to his wrist
For Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja, 2019 has been a remarkable year. At 08:58 local time (00:58 GMT) on October 29, the Nepali mountaineer and former British Marine summited China’s Shishapangma – the 14th mountain over 8,000m he had climbed in just six months and six days as part of ‘Bremont Project Possible’. In doing so, he took his place in the mountaineering record books, smashing the old world records of seven years, 11 months and 14 days for this feat, set by Jerzy Kukuczka in 1987, and the subsequent record set in 2013 by South Korean Kim Chang-ho, who beat Kukuczka’s previous best by a month and eight days.
‘The feeling hasn’t really sunk in,’ he admits when we ask him how the achievement feels. ‘For me, it was the whole journey not the final summit that felt emotional. Although when I called my mum and told her the mission was achieved — my tears came then!’
An unforgettable journey
On paper, the project sounds completely impossible, even to the most experienced of mountaineers. Purja summited Annapurna on April 23 this year, and then, incredibly, went on to climb Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in just a month as part of the first phase. For the second phase, which took place from July through to October, he defied the odds again, conquering Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Gasherbrum II, K2, Broad Peak, Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma. Together, these are the world’s 14tallest mountains, and are all located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges across Nepal, the Tibetan autonomous region of China, and Pakistan.
At over 8,000m, mountaineers must enter the so-called ‘death zone’ where the levels of oxygen are too low for humans to survive. Together with his rotating support team, made up entirely of Nepali climbers, Purja was undeterred, bagging all 14 in record time and joining a list of just 40 climbers to have completed what is considered by many to be the ultimate mountaineering goal.
Bremont steps in
Purja’s success is all the more incredible given the challenges he’s faced since day one.
‘I always said there would only be two things that would stop me,’ he says. ‘The first was danger, like an avalanche, which is out of my control, and the second was funds. Other than that, I was pretty content I could make things happen.’
Avalanches aside, Bremont, a British watch brand known for its daring and adventurous spirit took care of the second problem. It came on board for the project’s first phase in the spring and fully signed up to the second phase just a week before he was due to fly to Pakistan this summer. The partnership couldn’t have been more apt given Bremont’s motto, ‘Tested beyond endurance’, and its British heritage.
‘I wanted to work with a British brand because of my Gurkha background, so having Bremont’s support meant so much to me,’ says Purja. ‘It’s so nice to be part of the Bremont family.’
Bremont Supermarine S300 White
Bremont equipped Purja with its Supermarine S300 White. With its unidirectional rotating bezel and hands filled with highly visible Super-LumiNova®, the 40mm chronometer-certified watch is designed to withstand some of the world’s most inhospitable environments. It also has a white dial and a blue ceramic bezel that sets off the lighter dial beautifully.
Features of the watch include:
- BE-92AV automatic chronometer with 42-hour power reserve
- 40mm Stainless Steel Trip-Tick® case construction
- Water-resistant to 30 ATM, 300 metres
- 20mm blue Temple Island rubber strap and additional blue and white Nato strap
‘It doesn’t even have a scratch!’ says Purja. ‘It’s super-robust. It never came off. I wore it on all the mountains. The strap is a bit dirty so I’ll have to wash it – although maybe I won’t because it will always be very important to me now.’
Defying the odds
Bremont’s support wasn’t the only thing Nims had to secure. In September, the project was almost thrown off course while he waited for permission to climb the final mountain, Shishapangma. The Chinese government hadn’t issued any permits to climb the mountain this year, but they did grant Nims a permit onOctober 15 after the Nepali government approached them on his behalf.
As well as politics, Purja also had to contend with treacherous conditions. ‘Dhaulagiri and Broad Peak were the hardest mountains to climb, but Kanchenjunga was probably the toughest experience because I had summited Dhaulagiri only the day before in extreme weather conditions, and I hadn’t slept in four days,’ he recalls. ‘Normally people go to camp one, two, three, four and then summit Kanchenjunga, but I had to skip those camps to keep on track, having not slept. And then, at 8,450m, we had to rescue two climbers and give up our supplementary oxygen. It was intense.’
Purja has also achieved a further six world records including the fastest summit of the three highest mountains in the world, the fastest summit of the five highest mountains in the world, the fastest summit of the lowest 8,000m mountains (Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2 and Broad Peak) and the fastest summit of the higher 8,000m mountains, with consecutive summits of Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 48 hours (beating his own previous record of five days).
‘The whole journey has been unforgettable,’ he says. ‘It shows to people across the world what is possible. If you have a vision, you need to believe in yourself. Even mountaineers didn’t believe I would do it. I think the project gives inspiration to our generation but also shows people that if you really believe in yourself and have positive determination then anything is possible.’
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