Review: '14 Peaks' Documentary About the Remarkable Nimsdai Purja
by Alex Billington
November 29, 2021
This film was screened as part of the 2021 DOC NYC Film Festival. If you ask someone to name a famous Nepali person, they might be able to recall Tenzing Norgay. He was one of two mountain climbers (the other was New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary) to be the first ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. But ever since then, Nepalis have mostly remained in the shadow, as other climbers from around the world have marched their way into the Himalayas to make their mark and set new records. This all changes with 14 Peaks and the climber known as Nimsdai. 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is an extraordinary, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring documentary experience about Nimsdai's remarkable achievement - climbing the 14 highest mountains in the world within 7 months. It's not about whether he could do this, it's all about the journey, as it always is, and how momentous this achievement is. Free Solo is a cinch compared to 14 Peaks.
Directed by filmmaker Torquil Jones, 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is a thrilling, invigorating doc film about a Nepali climber named Nirmal Purja - best known by his other name Nimsdai (or just "Nims" as they call him throughout the film). After growing up in Kathmandu, he joined the British Special Forces and spent years training with and working for them. But then he decided to return home and focus on his own conutry – Nepal. After spending years honing his mountain climbing skills, he decides to pull off something impossible. Nimsdai puts together a team and plans to climb all of the 14 mountains over 8,000 m (26,247 ft) and summit each one of them within 7 months. The first person to achieve this was a German climber named Reinhold Messner - but it took him 16 years to do this. Nimsdai calls it "Project Possible", as a way of showing that anything humans think is impossible, can be possible with the right mindset and training. This is the epitome of inspiration, a grand adventure to encourage & inspire anyone to achieve the "impossible."
Watching Nimsai and his friends do this is OMFG astonishing. This film establishes an extremely important and iconic legacy for Nepal in the most breathtaking way. What Nims pulls off is an utterly extraordinary achievement in the history of adventure sports, even more awesome that it was all captured on camera with some of the most stunning mountain cinematography I have ever seen. There are moments in this that are so jaw-dropping I couldn't even contain myself, I was up and cheering for him. He is a hero in my eyes, no question about it. I would honestly say this is the second most important achievement in mountaineering in Nepal after Tenzing Norgay's original summit of Everest, and the film is completely right to compare and connect them. By the end I was thinking I am so glad that they made this as-perfect-as-it-can-be film about what he did, and had footage for every single part of it, so that the world can see with their own eyes what he achieves. How he made the impossible possible. And that he deserves, as do all Nepalis, the utmost respect.
This film sets a new high bar in terms of mountain filmmaking, along with the unbelievable accomplishment of climbing all 14 of these mountains in less than 7 months. He could die at any moment, and almost did, but kept going. And then turned around and helped other climbers on the verge of death. 14 Peaks is an instant all-time favorite doc along with Jennifer Peedom's film Sherpa, which changed my life, and I am so moved and humbled and inspired by everything I watched. It's even more exhilarating that 2021 has given us not one, but two, of the best mountain climbing movies ever made - 14 Peaks and The Summit of the Gods, an animated film from France about Japanese climbers. They are both reminders of how climbers are drawn to the mountains, how they must go on and never stop climbing, how they find peace in the clouds. But most of all this irrefutably establishes the epic legacy of Nimsdai, and his fellow climbers, as they show the world that Nepali climbers, born in the Himalayas, deserve to be as known & as revered as anyone else.
I will never forget how much my heart was racing watching this film. How it connected so deeply with me, and reminded me to be passionate and determined no matter what. I will always think of Nims from now on, and talk about him as a genuine hero. Nepal is a beautiful country, with wonderful people, and it's gratifying to see them get a chance to share this with us on camera in the most unforgettable of ways. Nimsdai forever.