’14 Peaks’ captures record-breaking mission to climb world’s tallest mountains
The new Netflix documentary about the Nepalese climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja, 14 peaks, has a subtitle: Nothing is impossible, and it is an appropriate encapsulation of his subject’s approach to life. Purja is like spiked Tony Robbins, an infinitely energetic man with a knack for delivering inspiring speeches even in the most difficult of situations. (Purja jokingly calls himself “the 8,000-meter Usain Bolt.”) Wading through waist-deep snow on Annapurna, he said to his pocket camera, “Giving up is not in the game. blood, sir. It’s not in the blood! Later he and his happy climbing team arrive at K2 base camp and boost the morale of downtrodden climbers, and in more than one case they save lives on the mountain. If anything, “nothing is impossible” ends up underestimating both Purja’s accomplishments and her upbeat attitude.
Purja is not the first to climb the 14 peaks above 8,000 meters, the altitude being roughly defined as the beginning of the “death zone” inhospitable to human life. But the fastest the series has ever been completed is in seven years, and its goal is to do it in seven months. To do this, you have to be the first climber in history to reach six 8,000-meter summits in the spring; be the first to climb Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu back to back in a total of 48 hours; and get permission from the Chinese government to climb the Shishapangma in Tibet. It’s a lot! But still optimistic, Purja named this series of brutal obstacles Project Possible. And not only is it possible – he and his team reach their goal in just six months and six days – but Purja accelerates the record itself while making time for several trips to help other climbers. At one point, the group spends the night on the Annapurna to rescue a missing climber almost immediately upon returning from their own summit; later they donate their own oxygen to help three climbers on Kanchenjunga. On the way back down the mountain, Purja helps a climber with high altitude cerebral edema return to base camp safely while suffering from HAE himself.
The film, directed by Torquil Jones and produced in association with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s production company Little Monster Films, follows Purja to every peak as an actual Greek chorus of great climbers explain what makes Project Possible if intimidating. (“People today, if you ask them, ‘Why are you going to the high peaks?” They say, “Because it’s fun,” Reinhold Messner says at one point. don’t think so. It’s no fun. ”) But it’s not just a documentary about Purja’s athletic achievements: 14 summits manages to fit into timely asides about Purja’s family history, his wife Suchi’s incredible self-possession over her terrifying job and near-death experience as Gurkha representing Nepal in British special forces. One of the most touching storylines concerns Purja’s relationship with her mother, Purna Kumari Purja; it’s about ten minutes of scenes that will make anyone with working tear ducts a whiny mess by the time the movie is over.
The film has already reached the Netflix Top Ten in its first week of streaming, suggesting that its thoughtful exploration of ambitious themes has won over even viewers who aren’t keen on rock climbing.
The documentary also explores how the Nepalese identities of Purja and her teammates affect their experience in the mountaineering world, with enough depth that it doesn’t look like the usual spoon-feeding of Western audiences. “The Nepalese climbing community has always been a trailblazer of 8,000 people, but it never got the respect it deserves,” he says. “I want to represent the Nepalese climbing community. Purja, an experienced climber, struggles to secure financing for the project, so much so that he ends up remortgaging his house. One scene discusses how some purists would criticize Purja’s decision to climb in a hybrid style, using supplemental oxygen above 8,000 meters. Purja’s response is that her team’s self-sufficient approach (which involves putting in their own landlines and carrying all of their own gear) is much more difficult than that of many Western climbers who rely on the Sherpas to do this job. After all, he’s used to other climbers waiting for his team to fix ropes for them. This is one of the film’s many blunt condemnations of the tendency of Western mountaineers to be suspicious in acknowledging how much they owe Nepalese mountaineers. “So many western climbers have climbed with the tremendous help of the Sherpa. What I heard most of the time was ‘My Sherpa helped me’ and that’s it, ”Purja says later in the film. “It’s wrong because it has a name. What they should say is ‘Mingma David helped me’ or ‘Gesman Tamang helped me’… Otherwise you’re a ghost.” He Also makes a point of paying his team better than Western expeditions would.
The film has already reached the Netflix Top Ten in its first week of streaming, suggesting that its thoughtful exploration of ambitious themes has won over even viewers who aren’t keen on rock climbing. “In life, you have to keep doing what you believe in,” Purja says towards the end of the film. “You have to ask yourself, do you really want this from your heart?” Is it for the glory of oneself? Or is it for something bigger? 14 summits makes it easy to believe that Purja and her partners are certainly climbing for something even more meaningful than the record itself.
14 summits is now broadcast on Netflix.