Nimsdai Purja MBE

An elite soldier, a mountaineer,
a life in the death zone.

Nirmal Purja MBE

Born in Nepal, Nims had a distinguished 16-year military career, spending six years in the elite Ghurka regiment, and 10 years with the UK Special Forces (SBS). He’s now become a truly historic figure in the world of mountaineering, with an ever-growing list of climbing records under his belt.

Conquering the ‘Savage Mountain’

Most recently, in January 2021, Nimsdai and his Elite Exped co-founder, Mingma David Sherpa, took on one of the last, great challenges of Himalayan mountaineering: tackling K2, nicknamed the Savage Mountain, during the most dangerous season for climbing.

Despite multiple attempts since the 1980s, no-one had ever set foot on the world’s second-highest summit in winter. But on 19th January, Nims, Mingma David and their team walked the last few metres to the summit, singing the Nepalese national anthem as they climbed into the history books. Summiting K2 in winter was an incredible feat in its own right, but it also marked the first time an all-Nepalese team had achieved such a feat.

Once again, Nims’ natural aptitude for expedition leadership and high-altitude mountaineering had been proven. Once again, he had clearly demonstrated that with the right mindset, planning and team all things are possible. And as with his incredible, record-breaking run in 2019 - where he climbed all 14 of the world’s highest peaks in the space of just six months - Nims had not only ensured that everyone in his summit team made it to the top, he’d brought them down again safely. 

Highly decorated

Over the course of his relatively short climbing career, Nims has already notched up an impressive collection of world record achievements. The kind of CV that any professional mountaineer would be proud to achieve over a lifetime, let alone in eight years. In 2020, he was awarded the prestigious Piolet d’Or by the Union of Asian Alpine Associations.In addition, he was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his outstanding achievement in extreme high-altitude mountaineering. The citation included a mention of the rescue he carried out in 2016, his efforts in helping the Gurkha Everest Expedition achieve its aim of getting a serving Gurkha to the top of the world the following year, and his achievements on the higher 8,000ers in 2017.

Humble beginnings

Astonishingly, given his seemingly god-given abilities in the high mountains, Nims didn’t grow up in the shadow of the Himalayas. In fact he was born in the Dhaulagiri region of Nepal and raised in Chitwan, in the country’s flatlands. He performed well at school, but had no particular yearning to climb mountains. Instead he had another focus: to become a Gurkha, a member of the elite British Army regiment, like his father and brothers before him. He made that dream a reality when he joined the Gurkhas in 2003, at the age of eighteen.

m:3x4 d: 3x4
Nimsdai on parade joining the Gurkhas

An 18-year-old Nims proudly joins the Gurkhas in 2003

m:3x4 d: 3x4
Nimsdai Purja MBE in combat gear on Special Forces duty

Nims while serving in the UK Special Forces, Special Boat Service (SBS)

Nimsdai Purja MBE
High altitude expedition leader

Being a Gurkha was my only dream. It was the only thing I wanted to do.

Always a little higher

Never one to shy away from pushing himself #alwaysalittlehigher, in 2009, Nims became the first Gurkha ever to join the UK Special Boat Service (SBS). The highly-selective unit is predominantly made up of Royal Marines Commandos, and specialises in classified, undercover raids. Along with the SAS, the SBS is regarded as the most elite unit in the British military.

His interest in mountaineering developed over the course of the next decade, beginning with a trek to Everest Base Camp in 2012, while on leave from the SBS. It might be a long way from the record-breaking summit expeditions he leads today, but the experience lit a spark. Nims felt compelled to achieve more. Not content with simply returning to Kathmandu after the trek, he managed to convince his guide, Dorje Khatri, to teach him how to climb “for real”. He successfully summited the 6,119-metre-high Lobuche East with his Khatri shortly after. It was his first peak.

Nims’ primary focus and loyalty remained with his unit, carrying out tours and operations behind enemy lines. Eventually he earned the position of Subject Matter Expert for Extreme Cold-weather Warfare within the mountain cell of the SBS. Throughout the military chapter of his life he developed the skills needed to quickly evaluate situations, then act decisively to ensure the welfare of others, all while keeping eyes on the overall objective. He might not have known it at the time, but this skillset would prove invaluable for his future climbing career.

As and when his military deployments allowed, the mountaineering continued. His #alwaysalittlehigher mindset was the driving force for further climbs around the world, eventually leading him towards his first ascent of Everest, in 2016. His achievement was made even more remarkable by a selfless act of solo rescue, helping a stricken climber during the descent, high in the death zone.

That same year, he met the man who would become his close friend, climbing buddy and ultimately, business partner: Mingma David Sherpa. Their relationship is built on a deep respect for one another, and an implicit trust in each other’s abilities. But it was tragedy that first brought them together. Mingma David was mentored by Dorje Khatri, the guide who’d first taught Nims to climb. Sadly, Khatri was killed in an avalanche in the Khumbu Icefall, near Everest, in 2014. When Nims sought out Khatri’s young team mate, two years later, he realised they shared more in common than just their respect for the late great guide.

m:3x4 d: 16x9
Nimsdai leading fixing team on Everest.

2017 when leading the fixing team on Everest. Pictured at the balcony with the view of Makalu

The natural advantage

Soon after he started climbing, Nims realised he had a natural physiological advantage – he was able to climb and acclimatise to altitude quicker than most mountaineers. This newfound awareness naturally fuelled even greater ambition. So, after serving in the British Tier One Special Forces unit (SBS) for ten years, he took the brave decision to leave in early 2019, to pursue a dream - a project so ambitious, nobody thought it possible.

m:3x4 d: 3x4
Nimsdai Near the summit of Manaslu, September 2019 during Bremont Project Possible

Near the summit of Manaslu, September 2019 during Bremont Project Possible

m:3x4 d: 3x4

Nims on the balcony of Everest in 2017

Achieving a new possible

At the time the record for climbing the world’s 14 highest peaks (the so-called 8,000ers) was just under eight years - set by the celebrated South Korean climber, Kim Chang-ho in 1987. Nims’ dream was to do it in seven months. He called the initiative Project Possible - because so many people assumed it wasn’t. But as with everything in his life, Nims believed that “everything in life is possible armed only with a determined approach and positive mindset”.

A little over six months later, with weeks to spare, Nims stood on the summit of Shishapangma, accompanied by his friend Mingma David, and proudly declared “Mission Accomplished”. He had cemented his position in the annals of mountaineering history. Meanwhile, Mingma David, who’d summited six of the 14 peaks with Nims, had set his own record - as the youngest person ever to climb all 14 of the 8,000ers.

m:3x4 d: 3x4
Nimsdai Purja MBE pictured climbing K2 in summer 2019 with the magnificent Baltoro Glacier below.

Nimsdai Purja MBE pictured climbing K2 in summer 2019 with the magnificent Baltoro Glacier below

m:3x4 d: 3x4

Nimsdai Purja MBE at the summit of K2 during winter, 2021

Elite Exped

Founded by Nimsdai and Mingma David that same year, Elite Exped was born of a desire to help others achieve audacious goals in the mountains. Whether it’s their impeccable safety record, their proven planning and preparation, or simply their unmatched mountaineering ability, Nims and Mingma David are the best of the best. They look forward to helping you achieve your ultimate ambitions, as they have theirs.

Our newsletter

Sign up to the Elite Exped newsletter for our latest news & announcements.

Your privacy is important to us. We always keep your data secure. You can unsubscribe from our newsletter at any time. You can view our privacy policy here.

Reinhold Messner
Mountaineer, explorer & author

Nims has a great capacity for economic management, leadership, logistics organization, and obviously, exceptional physical resistance.

Mingma David Sherpa climbing K2

David Sherpa

As the youngest person ever to climb all 14 x 8,000ers, Mingma David joined Nims in the first successful winter summit of K2, carving his name into the history books.

Nimsdai and team discussing strategy and progress high on Manaslu, 2019

Build your skills

Our tailored approach to training will help you improve as a climber, developing the mental and physical skills you need to achieve your dreams.