Ground-breaking mountaineer Nirmal ‘Nims’ Purja MBE has attained an incredible new world-record by summitting K2 without oxygen as part of a collaborative team in the depths of winter. Until now, it was a record that was believed to be impossible to accomplish and was famously known as the ‘last great mountaineering challenge’.

Photo: Red Bull


On January 16, 2021, at 5pm local time the former Gurkha and UK Special Forces operative and his team, along with Team Mingma G and one mountaineer from Team SST, officially became the first mountaineers to ever summit K2 in winter. A huge feat for the Nepalese climbing community.

The whole team waited and then stepped onto the summit together while singing the Nepalese national anthem. The mountaineers climbed the Abruzzi route.

Purja said: “What a journey. I’m humbled to say that, as a team, we have summitted the magnificent K2 in extreme winter conditions. We set out to make the impossible possible and we are honoured to be sharing this moment, not only with the Nepalese climbing community but with communities all across the world. Mother Nature always has bigger things to say and standing on the summit, witness to the sheer force of her extremities, we are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible. Thank you for the support we’ve received from people all around the globe, it gave us fire in our chest to make this goal a reality.”


The full list of those who summitted K2 in winter is: Nirmal Purja (Team Nimsdai), Mingma David Sherpa (Team Nimsdai), Mingma Tenzi Sherpa (Team Nimsdai), Geljen Sherpa (Team Nimsdai), Pem Chiri Sherpa (Team Nimsdai), Dawa Temba Sherpa (Team Nimsdai), Mingma G (Team Mingma G), Dawa Tenzing Sherpa (Team Mingma G), Kilu Pemba Sherpa (Team Mingma G) and Sona Sherpa (Team SST).

Standing 8,611m above sea level, K2 was the only 8,000m peak in the world that had never been climbed during winter. In fact, it was considered by many to be an impossible task due to the inclement weather conditions.

Attempts on the mountain are normally made in July or August, during the warmest periods; only 280 people had reached the summit of K2 in a favourable Spring climbing season, compared to 3,681 who have made it to the top of Everest.


Nirmal himself explained yesterday his decision to summit without oxygen:

Purja before his winter attack on K2 on January 5, 2021 // Nimsdai / Red Bull Content Pool

K2 winter was a beast of a challenge. I firmly believe that a feat of such caliber is never possible if you don’t have a purpose or if it is only aimed for your own self glory. 

I have always known what my mind and body are capable off. To lay it out straight, on my previous evolutions I had been carrying oxygen from 8000m and above, but I was personally satisfied with my work efficiency up to 8000m. It was my choice and I had my own reasons and ethos. 

It was a tough call this time inorder to make that decision whether to climb with or without supplementary oxygen (O2). Due to the weather conditions and time frame, I hadn’t acclimatised adequately. I was only able to sleep as high as Camp 2 (6,600m). Ideally climbers need to sleep OR at least touch Camp 4 before heading for a summit push. Lack of acclimatisation, developed frost bite from the first rotation and slowing down other team members, risking everyone’s safety, were the key uncertainties associated.

The safety of my team is and always have been my top priority above all. I have lead 20 successful expeditions so far and all my team members have returned home the exact way that they had left home i.e. without loosing any fingers or toes. 

I took a calculated risk this time and I pressed on without supplementary O2. My self confidence, knowing my body’s strength, capability and my experience from climbing the 14 x 8000ers enabled me to keep up with the rest of the team members and yet lead.


There are many cases, where climbers have claimed no O2 summits but followed our trail that we blazed and used the ropes and lines that we had fixed. Some of which are widely known within the inner climbing community. What is classified as fair means? 

Personally, it had never been a major deal for me and it still isn’t. Coming from a United Kingdom’s special forces background, you have been and done all sorts but we don’t make a big fuss about everything. It is a personal choice. Nature and the mountains are for everyone. You make your own call ! 


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Post by Héctor Rubio for Trailrunningspain