Story and art by Rohit Karandadi and Suprya Tirkey
This story in Comixense was inspired by real-life incidents surrounding ‘Project Possible’ planned by Nepalese mountaineer Nirmal Purja (known widely as Nimsdai). ‘Project Possible’ was an undertaking by Nimsdai towards setting a world record of climbing all of the 14 peaks that stand above 8000m in a single climbing season of under 7 months. The story gets its name from the mountaineering term ‘Death Zone’ that refers to altitudes above 8000m, where oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended time span.
Purja finished ‘Project Possible’ by summiting all of the 14 peaks in an astounding record time of 6 months and 6 days, leaving far behind the earlier record of 7 years 310 days by Kim Chang-Ho of South Korea.
Purja now also runs Nimsdai Foundation, a charitable trust to support communities and young talent.
Learn more about Nirmal Purja and Project Possible here:
All of the 14 8000m+ peaks are located in the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in Asia. The feat of climbing them is possible due to the backbone of generational knowledge of the Sherpa community, but their accomplishments garner far less attention and are often appropriated by western climbers who possess greater means and resources to shine a spotlight on their own undertakings.
Porters take up immense, often inhuman loads, to and from camps. Guides take on extremely difficult roles – setting up tents, carrying heavy loads of cable lines, often trailblazing in chest deep snow, making multiple trips carrying equipment and doing weather and safety checks between the high altitude camps – to make their clients’ climbs as safe as possible. They are also often called upon to act as on-location medics. Their remuneration for such work is disproportionately insufficient and losses to life hardly given importance as opposed to that of their western clients.
Just a few highlights of the work of sherpas:
• Kima Rita Sherpa holds the record of climbing the most 8000m summits – 38 in total, including 26 climbs of Mount Everest.
• Ang Rita Sherpa, also known as the Snow Leopard – has climbed Mt Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen and is the only person to do so in winter.
• Babu Chiri Sherpa once spent 21 hours on the summit of Mt Everest without auxiliary oxygen.
• Lhakpa Sherpa is one of the most successful woman climbers, holding a record for summiting Mt Everest 10 times.
The 8000m summits