Book review: Beyond Possible

Beyond Possible

Nimsdai Purja

Hodder & Stoughton

Review: Roshiela Moonsamy

This book will be as much appreciated by all those intrepid adventurers who hit our mountain trails daily as it will be by anybody who has ever had a massive obstacle to overcome.

It includes tales of extraordinary strength and endurance − of mountain climbing at high altitude, standing up for what you believe in and following your dreams.

Nimsdai Purja, also known as Nims, was born in Nepal and served as a Gurkha with the British Armed Forces and in the elite Special Boat Service of the UK Special Forces.

In 2018 he announced his plan to beat the previous best time of seven years, 10 months and six days for climbing the 14 “Death Zone peaks” − mountains all over 8 000 metres above sea level where the air contains little oxygen.

Nims planned to completely smash the record by climbing in just seven months the peaks of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Manaslu in Nepal; Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I and II, K2 and Broad Peak in Pakistan; and Cho Oyu and Shishapangma in Tibet.

In this book he shares the other proverbial mountains he had to climb to reach his dream in what would become known as Project Possible, including securing the funding and facing his critics who said his goal was impossible.

Nims also wanted to use Project Possible to highlight the “politics of the mountain” and the often unsung role of the Sherpas in mountain climbing.

He felt that for too long their work and extraordinary skills have been overlooked.

“As far as I was concerned, they had been the driving force behind a lot of successful expeditions above 8 000 metres, and propelling every against-all-odds expedition was a support network of Sherpas that performed all the heavy lifting. Who do you think set the fixed ropes on Everest? And who carried the heavy equipment and supplies over huge distances while their paying clients moved relatively freely?”

He also wanted to raise issues about pollution on the mountain and climate change, noting how global warming was causing even the famous Khumbu Icefall on Everest to get thinner and smaller.

This book is a quick, easy read but packed with adventure and inspiration.

The story is told in a conversational style, almost like a fireside chat, with Nims sharing his life story, from growing up in Nepal to following in the footsteps of his father and brothers who also served as Gurkhas and how being a soldier helped him psychologically to take on the dangers of high altitude climbing.

There are avalanches, near-death falls and daring rescues.

When he isn’t leading expeditions to the roof of the world, Nims shares a lot of his initiatives and adventures on social media.

Recently he highlighted the hunger strike in London by retired Gurkhas who were demanding the same pension as their British-born counterparts.

His enthusiasm for life and adventure is infectious.