Back in 2019, a photo of a “traffic jam” of climbers moving up to the summit of Mount Everest went viral. Now, a new documentary on Netflix, 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, allows us to watch the photographer of the photo, climber Nirmal "Nims" Purja, go through the journey to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in only seven months.
I am the Usain Bolt of 8,000 meter.Nirmal Purja
Named Project Possible, Purja broke the previous record of seven years, alongside his amazing Sherpa team, while also contending with extreme weather, life-or-death situations, an ill mother back home and needing to raise money to continue on his journey (including getting a second mortgage on his home).
At one point in the documentary, Purja describes the feeling of developing High Altitude Cerebral Enema (H.A.C.E.) during this adventure.
“You can’t control your movements,” he said. “I was scared, to be honest.
“I needed to get down the mountain quickly... It was a matter of life and death.”
We also get to learn more about Purja’s childhood in Nepal through the mountaineer himself as well as his family, including his time in the U.K. Royal Navy.
“I understood the risk but I think it was in his character,” Purja’s wife Suchi says in the film. “He is very driven… I knew it was going to be life-changing for him.”
This incredible story is inspirational, using first-hand video footage taken by Purja himself during this adventure.
“I had always believed that this project, this story needs to be told to the rest of the world,” Purja told Yahoo Canada. “It's not about me, but it's somebody else who believed in the vision to change the world for a better perspective, better reason.”
“So I always have thought that something has to be made out of this stuff and hence why I was recording everything.”
A thrilling adventure with a lot of heart
The filmmaking journey started when director Torquil Jones was introduced to Purja through a mutual friend, when the climber was about halfway through Project Possible, then in the U.K. trying to raise funds to continue his expedition.
“We had a really good personal connection straight away and we stayed in touch, and then he very kindly invited me to his home after he finished the project and we spent a day looking through some of the footage,” Jones told Yahoo Canada. “I was just blown away by it...and then we started to talk about a film and how that film will be structured.”
“We wanted to tell an action-adventure, fast-paced, a thriller, but also a kind of multi-layered story that would have a real kind of heart and a real emotional connection with the viewers.”
The challenge at that point was to take the hundreds of hours of footage Purja had and cut that down into a 90-minute story.
“Most films about mountaineering and climbing are about one mountain or one ascent or one summit, so the real challenge was fitting 14 into one single narrative, and making each mountain feel like it's an individual story, introducing each mountain, detailing Nims’ summit, resolving each mountain satisfactorily,” Jones explained.
“It's really taking Nims’ footage as the base and then adding on top of that interviews, historical archive, contemporary archive, modern filming, 3D graphics, animation, music. We really wanted to have a kind of roller coaster narrative so every chapter feels different, every chapter feels like something new and it's fast paced and matches how Nims approached the project.”
'Nothing is impossible'
One aspect of Purja journey, which he mentions in the film, is that he wanted to to recognize the underrepresented Nepali climbers, because “if not you are a ghost,” as it’s stated in the film.
“We got the right platform to be able to do justice to those underrepresented, extreme high-altitude ninjas,” Purja said.
“I'm also a little nervous [about] what will be the outcome of all this. But...the whole thing is about positive stuff.”
Purja has one very clear message he wants viewers of this film to take with them - nothing is impossible.
“Stories about exploration, mountaineering, climbing, I think they've always captured the world's imagination, going right back to Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary,” Jones explained. “I think because we feel a kind of collective ownership over the stories because they're about the limits of what a human can do.”
“What Nims did, climbing the 14 peaks, is extraordinary. But I think equally extraordinary is his life story, which is interwoven into the narrative of the film. Coming from where [he] came from in his early childhood to being this person who's at the forefront of human endeavour, it just shows that you can do anything.”