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 Nepalese person, they may remember Tenzing Norgay. He was one of two mountaineers (the other was New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary) who was the first ever to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. But ever since, Nepalis have mostly stayed in the shadows as other climbers from around the world have entered the Himalayas to make their mark and set new records. All this changes with 14 peaks and climber known as Nimsdai. 14 Peaks: Nothing is impossible is an extraordinary, astonishing, awe-inspiring documentary experience about Nimsday’s remarkable achievement – to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world within 7 months. It’s not about whether he could do this, it’s about the journey as it always is, and how significant this achievement is. Free solo is a cinch in relation to 14 peaks.
Directed by filmmaker Torquil Jones, 14 Peaks: Nothing is impossible is an exciting, invigorating doc film about a Nepalese climber by name Nirmal Purja best known by its 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 and working for them. But then he decided to return home and focus on his own country – Nepal. After spending years honing his mountaineering skills, he decides to accomplish something impossible. Nimsdai puts together a team and plans to climb all 14 mountains over 8,000 m (26,247 feet) and reach each 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 to show that everything people think is impossible, able to be possible with the right mindset and training. This is the epitome of inspiration, a great adventure to encourage and inspire anyone to achieve the “impossible”.
Seeing Nimsai and his friends do this is OMFG amazing. This film establishes an extremely important and iconic heritage for Nepal in the most breathtaking way. What Nims achieves is an absolutely extraordinary achievement in the history of adventure sports, even more amazing that it was all captured on camera with some of the most amazing mountain photography I have ever seen. There are moments in this that are so jaw-dropping that I could not even hold myself, I was up and cheering on him. He is a hero in my eyes, no doubt about it. I will honestly say that this is the second most important achievement in mountaineering in Nepal after Tenzing Norgay’s original summit of Everest, and the film is absolutely right to compare and connect them. In the end, I thought I’m so glad they made this as-perfect-as-it-can movie about what he was doing, and had footage for every single part of it so the world could see with their own. eyes what he achieves. How he did the impossible possible. And he just deserves it all Nepalese, the greatest respect.
This film sets a new high bar in terms of mountain filmmaking, along with the incredible achievement of climbing all 14 of these mountains in less than 7 months. He could die at any time, and he almost did, but kept going. And then turned around and helped other climbers on the brink of death. 14 peaks is an instant all-time favorite doc along with Jennifer Peedom’s movie Sherpa, which changed my life and I am so touched and humbled and inspired by everything I saw. It’s even more exciting that 2021 has not given us one, but two, of the best mountaineering films 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 attracted to the mountains, how to continue and never stop climbing, how to find peace in the clouds. But most of all, this irrevocably establishes the epic legacy of Nimsdai and his climbing colleagues as they show the world that Nepalese climbers, born in the Himalayas, deserve to be as famous and honored as everyone else.
I will never forget how much my heart burned when I saw this movie. How it connected me so deeply 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 true hero. Nepal is a beautiful country with wonderful people and it is gratifying to see them get a chance to share this with us on camera in the most unforgettable ways. Nimsdai forever.
Alex’s rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter – @firstshowing / Or Letterboxd – @firstshowing
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