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BTS: Exposing Nirmal Purja - Harvey Weinstein of Mountaineering

Updated: 6 days ago

  • Conrad Anker betrays fellow mountaineer; sides with Nirmal Purja

  • Reinhold Messner reacts to the brewing scandal

The recent New York Times article that has ensnared Nirmal Purja in a media tidal wave and online shit-storm was long overdue. In fact, it was published almost a year too late. In July of 2023, a journalist working on the New York Times piece indicated to me in a telephone call that the article would be out in "one to two weeks from now."


I passed this information along to a young man who reported in graphic and disturbing detail his experiences with Nirmal Purja when the victim was only nine and ten years old and Nirmal Purja four years his senior.


After I informed the victim that a New York Times article on Nirmal Purja's behavior towards women was imminent, the male victim agreed to speak with journalists and go public with his own story. "You can use my name, everything I told you really happened. I will tell the journalists everything. Nirmal ruined my life," the victim said to me. Having spoken to the victim for hours over several weeks, I felt his account was credible.


Fashion model Merle Heinemann led the Nepal Fire Truck Expedition, a grand adventure initially conceived with James Gandolfini, the late actor. Merle is pictured wearing her Kobold Phantom Chronograph in the Himalaya. (The joke is on Nirmal Purja, who is watchless thanks to his self control issues.)


I provided the victim's contact details to several journalists working for The New York Times and Outside magazine. Anna Callaghan, an inexperienced junior journalist who co-wrote the New York Times article, curtly replied that she will not use the victim's account in her story. Callaghan did not give an explanation for her decision. I had done all of the legwork to support the victim's story, including interviewing friends and relatives who confirmed that he had told them years earlier about the abuse he suffered.


Bewildered, I contacted a colleague of Anna Callaghan who also writes for The New York Times. "I don't understand why Anna won't at least talk to the victim," her colleague told me. "It's not very professional but ultimately, it's her story so I can't second-guess her," the journalist continued. Weeks went by without the article coming out. After two months, the male victim, whom I had interviewed dozens of times and recorded with his written and verbal consent, withdrew his statement.


Sir Ranulph Fiennes and the chief of the Chicago Fire Department. Ran backed out of the expedition after his surprise diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. In 1999, Ran became a Kobold brand ambassador.


"I was contacted by Nirmal and I am afraid. He will sue me and I cannot defend myself. I believed you when you told me that the article in The New York Times would come out, but it hasn't. Maybe I made a mistake to trust you," the victim said. It was clear that his confidence was shaken by the absence of an article in a mainstream publication. "The story has only come out on your Instagram, but that's not enough. Now I wish I hadn't told you anything. It's very embarrasing for me to expose myself like this, you know?"


I understood and was equally frustrated by the delay.

To keep the victim from recanting, I reminded him that historically I have always come through in my various projects. As evidence I provided several examples, including the Nepal Fire Truck Expedition, an adventure I had been planning for years with the actor James Gandolfini. "Contrary to what had been written about me in all those front-page articles in the Kathmandu Post, the expedition ended up being very successful," I said.


The groundbreaking reporting of Nepal's helicopter rescue scandal by Annabel Symington, the Agence France Press Kathmandu bureau chief, was the result of years of legwork I'd done together with an old friend, the legendary mountaineer and expedition outfitter Russell Brice.


Russ had told me about the widespread practice of Nepalese guides colluding with local helicopter companies to effect costly rescues of Western trekkers and climbers. In most cases the rescues weren't warranted, or, as in the case of at least a fistful of rescues, were the result of Nepalese guides mixing rat poison into the food of their clients. These clients and their insurance companies were then billed astronomical sums for the ensuing rescues. This scam was highly profitable and is one reason why today Nepal has the highest number of helicopters per capita anywhere in the world.



Russell Brice was the informant for this piece, which sparked intense global news coverage. Nepal's tourism minister, the individual responsible for investigating this scandal, eventually died in a helicopter crash in Nepal.

Having made several bad experiences with journalists, Russell Brice was highly apprehensive about going public with his story. On the other hand, I had an excellent rapport with more than a few journalists, including Annabel Symington's predecessor. Additionally, my mother was a journalist for Frankfurt's biggest newspaper. It took a lot of convincing to get Russell to sit down with Annabel's predecessor. However, I was insistant because I felt that once the two met and began building a rapport, it would only be a matter of time until the helicopter rescue scam would be made public.


Listening to my protracted explanation, Nirmal Purja's male victim's brief response led me to believe that he wasn't yet convinced that he should trust me, which is why I continued with my monologue.


Years earlier, I told the victim, I had hunted a group of Nazi war criminals with Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the famed British explorer, and to his and veteran Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal's surprise delivered the goods. This was public knowledge thanks to Ran mentioning this fact in the first sentence of his subsequent book titled The Secret Hunters.

Additionally, after years of working on freelance intelligence assignments for the United States, I had stumbled upon first-hand evidence and insider information about the secret CIA assassination plot against the royal family of Nepal.


Nepal's crown prince had been framed in a Mrs. Doubtfire-esque tale as the killer, acting on a whim out of spite for his mother's alleged disapproval of a romance. In fact, the CIA had worked together with the Nepalese Royal Army to remove King Birendra by assassinating him and his entire family.


Nepal's ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arjun Karki, and the author at the send-off ceremony of the largest private airlift in history, which was designed to breach India's secret blockade of Nepal.


I had recently published this and much more information via social media when I was contacted by a follower about Nirmal Purja. The mountaineer was using his considerable good standing among the Nepalese to throw his support behind the Citizenship Bill.


This controversial piece of legislation was conceived by India's intelligence service, the Research And Analysis Wing (RA&W), as a back door for Indian nationals to receive Nepali citizenship in order to manipulate a future referendum about Nepal joining the Indian Union as a state. If India's plan was successful, it would mean the end of Nepal's national sovereignty. The man responsible for pushing the Citizenship Bill was Prime Minister Dahal, a war criminal and close associate of Nirmal Purja. Nepal's two-term former prime minister, K.P. Sharma Oli, had given me detailed insight into this and several other R&AW and CIA plots, including the secret 2015/2016 economic blockade of Nepal. The blockade crippled Nepal in the middle of winter, only five months after the two back-to-back catastrophic earthquakes, which had destroyed over a million buildings, leaving millions of Nepalese without adequate shelter in the cold Himalaya. Prime Minister Oli had given me blanket permission to document, film and help expose the blockade.


Ambassador Arjun Karki, Nepal-born Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala, Hollywod actor Malcolm McDowell (wearing a Dubey & Schaldenbrand), and "the Mayor of Everest," Russell Brice, a Kobold brand ambassador.


To achieve this lofty goal, Prime Minister Oli authorized his most trusted representative in America, Ambassador Arjun Karki, and me to use any means necessary. Among other initiatives, Ambassador Karki and I convinced a prominent American, the Reverend Franklin Graham, to appear on national television programs and make the secret blockade public. By this time, tens of thousands of Nepalese had died as a result of hypothermia and acute lack of medical supplies, all because of India's blockade.


Meanwhile, another member of our secret plot to break the blockade, Charles Mendies, a Canadian-Nepalese businessman, cajoled Franklin Graham to send Boeing 747 cargo planes filled with winterization gear to Nepal. To Arjun and me, Charles and Franklin were the unsung heroes of the blockade.


Our plan worked. Shortly after Franklin Graham began his PR blitz, the blockade was lifted. In the meantime, Franklin had singlehandedly bankrolled the largest private airlift in history.


While our work was secret (Dr. Karki repeatedly reminded me not to divulge the inner machinations of our effort to overcome the blockade), a smear campaign against me in Nepal's biggest newspaper, The Kathmandu Post, led me to publish all of the facts surrounding my work in and related to Nepal in a series of longform articles on this website and in a social media campaign titled "Roast The Post".


As part of this effort, I exposed the Kathmandu Post's owner, Kailash Sirohiya, as an Indian-born mafia boss who used his media empire to extort protection payments from victims. Nepal's laws prohibit foreign nationals from having a stake in Nepali media houses. Sirohiya skirted these regulations by using a doctored Nepali citizenship certificate to conceal his Indian nationality.


It would take another five years until Sirohiya was finally arrested by Nepalese authorities on citizenship fraud charges.


Finally, I exposed Sirohiya' son, Sambhav, for killing four pedestrians in a drug- and alcohol-fueled car crash in Kathmandu. The elder Sirohiya covered up his son's mess by paying off the Nepal Police. Years after I exposed these facts, Nepal's interior minister, Ravi Lamichhane, became the second person to publicly accuse the two Sirohiyas of these crimes.


Nirmal Purja's male victim listened attentively as I rattled off these accomplishments. Surely, all this information must suffice to regain the victim's trust and for him to have confidence in my investigative abilities, I thought.

I was wrong.


The victim was understanding. "I know, I saw all your posts, Michael. But this is different. This is my life and my reputation. My family scolded me for speaking out. I am a man. In Nepali culture it's embarrassing to talk about what he did to me. You have to understand."


Fashion model Merle Heinemann and the rest of the expedition team after arriving in Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Post never covered this feat. Fortunately, for Merle, Nirmal Purja was not in the country at the time.


Follow-ups with my contact at The New York Times only yielded the same response - the legal department was going through rounds of fact-checking and vetting, this process is intense and takes a long time. "You guys have been working on this piece for almost 18 months, how much longer do you need to get your job done," I asked. According to the person at the New York Times, Nirmal Purja's lawyers were putting up roadblocks and this was causing the delay.


Meanwhile, the management and editors at Outside magazine were facing the same problem. According to someone close to Nirmal Purja, the mountaineer had spent over a million british pounds on retaining the services of Schillings, the London law firm best known for representing Prince Andrew in his legal fight against Virginia Giuffre, who claimed that Jeffrey Eppstein had paid her to sleep with the royal when she was underage. David Brown, a journalist at the Times of London, told me "Schillings' strategy is to deny, deny, and deny again. Then the victims are paid for their silence. You can expect the same to happen in this case."


Nepal's Prime Minister KP Oli with the author (wearing two Kobold watches).


According to someone close to Nirmal Purja, Schillings advised their new client to use a detailed timeline for the day on which one of the victims mentioned in the New York Times article alleged an incident occurred - the 30th of March 2023. Following the article's publication, Purja's PR team issued a statement via his Instagram account refuting the allegations by claiming that his legal advisors presented the New York Times with a detailed timeline for that particular day that exhonerates their client.


This is exactly the same strategy Schillings employed with Prince Andrew, who infamously gave an interview to the BBC in which he recounted in minute detail a timeline, including a trip to a Pizza Express outlet, in order to undermine the credibility of his accuser.


In the case of the male victim who was a little boy when he repeatedly experienced Nirmal Purja's domineering aggression, the strategy seemed to work. After he recanted his statement, a number of journalists contacted me to express their frustration. They believed him, they said, but because he recanted and because he claimed he had suffered a mental breakdown which led him to make these allegations, he would no longer be a credible source in their stories. Worse, they said, even if they were to include his account, it would taint the stories of the other victims.


Nirmal Purja retained Schillings, the London law firm that represented Prince Andrew in his strategy to deny the claims made by Virginia Giuffre.

Meanwhile, Anu Thapa, a Nepal-born woman in her early 20s, who contacted me with claims that she was underage when Nirmal Purja committed certain acts in the UK, was reluctantly willing to go on-record with Outside magazine. True to David Brown's prediction, Purja's legal team denied the allegations categorically. In doing so, they made a crucial mistake. In one of the responses filed by Purja's representatives, they describe Anu and her background completely differently than her actual background. "Clearly, he confused me with another victim," Anu wrote via messenger. Still, Outside magazine's confidence in Anu and her account was so undermined that they refused to even publish the news of Nirmal Purja getting detained by the Metropolitan Police for questioniong related to Anu Thapa's allegations. Given how quickly the male victim recanted his statement, I feared Anu would follow suit if an article didn't appear soon in a major outlet.


I contacted the reporters at Outside and pitched a story about my social media campaign to expose Nirmal Purja. "Make me the fall guy. Just run a story about this crazy man who's highly controversial in Nepal and who's on a rampage, making serious allegations against Nirmal Purja. Write something like that Nirmal Purja already got a German court to issue an injunction against me. That way you have a paper trail that you can use in your reporting. I will also provide you with the recordings of the various victims I have spoken with, and I will give you a no holds barred interview," I said.


Despite pleading with them, the team at Outside didn't budge. According to them, they feared having to remove their article and issue an apology to Nirmal Purja. "But if you run a story, more victims will come out with their own accounts," I said. Outside remained steadfast in its position not to go to print.


My misgivings with Anna Callaghan and her shoddy journalism (several of her interview partners had complained in private about her) ruled out contacting her again. However, someone at the New York Times had assigned a more experienced journalist to help Callaghan finish her story.


I contacted the new co-writer, Jennifer Vrentas, a seasoned sports journalist, and offered to make an introduction to Anu. According to Anu, unlike the two women that would eventually be quoted in the New York Times article, Anu's experience occurred when she was underage and included far more than the removal of clothes or masturation. I never received a response from Jenny Vrentas, nor was Anu ever contacted by Anna Callaghhan or Jenny Vrentas.


"I don't know why Anna is being so territorial about this story," my contact at the New York Times wrote. A journalist at Outside wrote "maybe she's worried she won't get a Pulitzer because you keep scooping her."


To me, this wasn't about a turf war. All of my efforts to expose Nirmal Purja would be futile if neither The New York Times or Outside magazine were willing to go to print with stories about the mountaineer's escapades. It was likely that as a result, more women might become victims of the prolific Nirmal Purja.

Reinhold Messner, the greatest mountaineer alive, was more supportive. "Give it time," Reinhold said, "if what you claim is true, then the truth will come out. I have no doubt about this. Just keep going." It was September of 2023, three months since I had embarked on the quest to expose Nirmal Purja.


Reinhold Messner, pictured wearing a Kobold Himalaya Everest timepiece, is the greatest mountaineer alive. Messner was Nirmal Purja's most prominent supporter. "I feel very embarrassed that I supported him," he said.

A few months earlier, another world-famous mountaineer, Conrad Anker, had acted entirely differently than Reinhold Messner. After I contacted Conrad with details about the allegations against Nirmal Purja, he initially feigned shock and disgust. Conrad and my uncle, Thorsten Sperzel, had been close friends during their time at the elite Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. They went on skiing trips together but lost contact after leaving FIS. I reminded Conrad that FIS was our mutual alma mater and that I trusted him because of his friendship with my uncle. So when Conrad Anker told me how disappointed and disgusted he was with Nirmal Purja's behavior, I had no reason to doubt the man's sincerity.


Hence I entrusted Conrad Anker with a secret.


An old friend from my Everest days, Garrett Madison, had told me an account of one his friends who had a shockingly bad and criminally relevant experience with Nirmal Purja in a California hotel room.


"Garrett told me repeatedly not to tell this story to anyone, but I know I can trust you, Conrad," I said naively. "He fears for his life and doesn't trust Nirmal at all. So please, whatever you do, don't pass this information along."


Kobold watch wearer Garrett Madison, one of the all-around good guys of mountaineering. Conrad Anker betrayed Garrett and compromised his safety when he shared one of Garrett's secrets with Nirmal Purja.

The very next day, Garrett Madison messaged me a screenshot. It was from Nirmal Purja, asking Garrett why he had thrown him under the bus with Conrad. I was shocked and confused. Why would Conrad Anker act so recklessly and betray my confidence? When I related this to the journalists at the New York Times and Outside magazine, they, too, were in disbelief. "I can't believe Conrad did that," my friend at The New York Times wrote. "So disappointed in Conrad," wrote another journalist.

Within a week Conrad Anker joined Nirmal Purja and fellow expedition members in Kathmandu. On his social media accounts he posted pictures of himself with the Nepalese mountaineer. "This will come back to haunt Conrad," a journalist wrote to me in a private message.


Nirmal Purja (watchless after Montblanc dropped him as their brand ambassador) and Conrad Anker (wearing Rolex), who threw mountaineer and guide Garrett Madison under the proverbial bus. This picture was taken shortly after Conrad had been cautioned about Purja.


I phoned up Simon Messner, Reinhold's son, to express my frustration. An avid climber himself, Simon had been a sounding board throughout the ordeal. I appreciated his unvarnished take on things and knew he could be trusted.


"These guys all stick together, Mike," Simon said. "They may not necesssarily like each other, but they have each other's backs in public. It will be extremely difficult for you to break their bond. Particularly since Conrad and Jimmy Chin continue to be so public in their support of Nirmal." Reinhold Messner, meanwhile, had stopped associating with the Nepal-born mountaineering star.


The New York Times article on the allegations against Nirmal Purja appeared on Friday, May 31, 2024. Eleven months after it was supposed to run and more than more than two years after its co-author began working on the story.

Undeterred by these setbacks, I continued exposing Nirmal Purja on social media and in a longform article on this blog. One day, my Instagram account, which had meanwhile swelled to 40+ thousand mainly Nepalese followers, was banned for violations of the terms of use. I decided to end my campaign and wait for the first mainstream article to come out.

I reflected on the past few months. They were marked by an intense activity on social media as an increasing number of victims contacted me. And there had been smaller victories along the way. Pen and watchmaker Montblanc quietly severed ties with Nirmal Purja after I contacted the luxury goods purveyor directly.


Months passed without any other results. It was extremely frustrating.


Then, to my complete surprise and delight, The New York Times finally published its first story with detailed allegations against Nirmal Purja on Friday, May 31, 2024 - eleven months after I had begun my campaign. Almost instantly, the mountaineering community reacted. It was clear that many people were eagerly awaiting this development.


Despite the watered-down allegations contained in The New York Times, which stand in sharp contrast to the far more severe accusations against the famous mountaineer made by Anu Thapa and the male victim, as well as by scores of women who have not had the courage to go on-record with their own experiences of abuse, the public outcry was swift.


Everyone, it appeared from scanning social media posts and comments, has either heard rumors of or made experiences with Nirmal Purja that dovetail with the allegations made against him in the New York Times.


The male victim who had recanted his statement last year contacted me. He apologized and said he now believed me. The articles had finally come out, just a lot later than anticipated. Was it too late for him to now speak with a journalist, the victim wanted to know. I asked him if he could provide me with insight into what happened behind the scenes that led him to make the decision to recant his story.


"Nirmal Purja sent me a pre-written statement via a mutual friend and pressured me to send it to him via email. He threatened to sue me. I am not a rich man, please understand. And none of the articles you promised came out. I didn't know what to do. So I just sent the email to Nirmal. I simply copied and pasted exactly what he asked me to send.


Below are screenshots provided by the victim of messages between him an a representative of Nirmal Purja who was instructed by Purja to squash the victim's story:



"What do you think, can we still proceed with an article," the victim asked via WhatsApp. I knew the answer from Outside magazine would be a firm no. But when I informed a journalist in Europe about the back-and-forth, that person was intrigued and began pitching the story to a major publication. "In light of what has transpired, there might be a way to incorporate his account in a wider story about how Nirmal Purja squashed his testimony and intimidated other victims," the journalist said. With the publication of the New York Times article, things that had gone astray as a result of its delayed release were beginning to fall back into place. The Neue Zuericher Zeitung (NZZ), Switzerlands largest newspaper, and 20 Minutos, a mainstream publication in Spain, credited me with being the first to publicize allegations against Nirmal Purja. A small but welcome vindication after several followers on social media expressed doubts that these allegations were fabrications.


For years, NZZ has reported critically about Nirmal Purja. Its archive is a treasure trove for those seeking incriminating information on the controversial mountaineer.


As the controversy surrounding Purja gained even more international media attention, one major publication remained conspicuously silent. For years, the Kathmandu Post has seemingly covered every triumph and new world record of Nepal's most famous person. Yet it has failed to even mention the ongoing controversy and the global media coverage thereof.


In similar fashion, after publishing a series of one-sided front-page articles about how the Nepal Fire Truck Expedition was a scam that would never materialize, the newspaper was the only one in Nepal that didn't cover the expedition's arrival in December of 2022.


Another major Nepali news outlet, Routine of Nepal Bhanda, which typically reports every minor controversy surrounding B-List Nepalese celebrities also chose to stay mum on the ongoing controversy surrounding Nirmal Purja. This despite the fact that a member of Nepal's parliament, Rajendra Bajgain, publicly denounced Nirmal Purja and in an open session in parliament demanded that the mountaineer be banned from Nepal for bringing shame to his country of birth.


I felt that it was now time to get the most prominent mountaineer to weigh in publicly on the brewing controversy.


I phoned Reinhold Messner and thanked him for his moral support and for not betraying my confidence. We again spoke about Conrad Anker and about how his decision to warn Nirmal Purja had jeopardized the safety of Garrett Madison. Then we discussed the New York Times article. Reinhold had read it and sounded disheartened.


"The problem in mountaineering is far bigger than this disgusting Nirmal Purja. I am afraid that there is much more to this story. He is an embarrasment but there are many more men like him. And now I feel very embarrassed that I supported him early on.


Reinhold Messner withdrew his support for Nirmal Purja in 2023, after the first allegations surfaced here.


He pulled the wool over my eyes and he treated people I know and whom I respect in such a poor manner. Sponsors as well. He was so rude to them in front of me that I was deeply embarrassed. I'm the one who introduced him to Montblanc (Reinhold is a Montblanc brand ambassador) and now this! I don't know what else to say. It's all such a big shame. And from what you have told me, it is going to keep getting worse. More and more women are going to come forward. Eine Schande! (A disgrace.)"


In the 12 years I've known Reinhold, I've never heard him sound so down and disillusioned. For someone as accomplished as the Reinhold Messner, a true living legend, it must feel especially bitter when a protege turns out to be a major disappointment. Particularly, when his intentions were so noble. "When he came to me and told me about his project, I thought that this is an opportunity to help someone from Nepal and to help the Nepalis."


In earlier conversations, Reinhold had told me about an internal conflict. While he didn't agree with Purja's style of mountaineering, he still chose to support him because of his Nepali background.


I could relate to Reinhold on a personal level. In 2011, I had invited two Sherpas, Namgel and Thundu, who saved my life and that of my wife on the slopes of Mount Everest to live with us in Pennsylvania and learn the art of watchmaking. This novel concept was the idea of the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who had climbed with us.



The late filmmaker and mountaineer David Breashears with the author. A Kobold brand ambassador, David was a fixture at the Kobold boutique in Kathmandu.


If the two Sherpas could earn a living doing something other than mountaineering, than this might be a model for other Sherpas. The prevailing misconception among foreigners about the Sherpa community is that all Sherpas are eager to climb mountains and become high altitude porters and mountain guides. In actual fact, most Sherpas would much prefer to have a safer occupation.


After ten months of living in the United States, Namgel and Thundu Sherpa returned to Nepal. Ran Fiennes gave the keynote address at the VIP-studded opening ceremony of Kobold Nepal's Kathmandu workshop and stand-alone boutique, situated in a sprawling, bucolic former royal palace stable.

The two Sherpas quickly rose to international prominence thanks to long-running profiles in countless mainstream print and television media outlets. They also made more money than they could have earned as mountain guides thanks in part to the support of several prominent mountaineers regularly visiting their boutique, where they often interacted with customers. It's hard to walk out of a watch shop without having made a purchase if you meet two watchmaking Sherpas (a world novelty!) plus such personalities as Reinhold Messner, David Breashears, Russell Brice and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.


It was a foolproof business model. Within a only few months, Kobold Nepal exceeded even the most optimistic sales projections.


Just as quickly, however, the Sherpas lost their newfound wealth in the billiard halls of Boudha and by way of chasing single, young women despite both men being married.


Within a year Namgel and Thundu stopped going to work on a regular basis and even fired the two attractive young saleswomen I had encouraged them to hire in order to make up for the Sherpa's lack of business acumen and irregular attendance.


It was an embarrassing failure, amplified by the death of one of the Sherpas after getting caught in an avalanche on Mount Amadablam. I blamed myself for not listening to a Nepali friend, the prominent tour operator Shikher Prasai, who had cautioned me to simply send the Sherpas monetary gifts every year.


The author with Thundu and Namgel Sherpa at the Navy SEAL base in Coronado, California. The SEALs were awestruck by how fast the Sherpas climbed up ropes and the ominous cargo-net on the obstacle course.


However, had I not honored the Sherpas' expressed wish to be trained as watchmakers, and had something tragic subsequently happened to one of them, I would have never forgiven myself. As a privileged Westerner, it is difficult to reject a humble request for support from a Nepali, particularly when, as in my case, you owe your life to the individuals making the request.


Reinhold Messner found himself in a similarly dilemma when Nirmal Purja requested that the iconic mountaineer support his 14 Peaks Project. One can imagine Reinhold's thought process while trying to arrive at a decision. On the one hand, by his own account, he didn't at all agree with Purja's proposed way achieving his goal, which runs totally counter to the prominent purist's preferred style of alpinism.


On the other hand, if Reinhold Messner were to criticize or, worse, reject Purja's proposal altogether, keeping in mind that Purja clearly set out to best Reinhold's world record, then he could later be accused of being cold-hearted, elitist and trying to scuttle someone's attempt to beat his record - an attempt by a Nepali man, no less!


Ironically, this is precisely what some have accused Purja of doing to Kristin Harila, the Norwegian female mountaineer who eventually beat Purja's short-lived 14 Peaks world record. "Reinhold was really stuck between a rock and hard place," I told Garrett Madison by phone. The American mountaineer and I had remained on good terms after Garret readily accepted my apology for divulging his close-kept secret to Conrad Anker. Now Garrett called after reading an earlier version of this article because he was intrigued by Reinhold's response to the "Nimsdai scandal."


"If Reinhold hadn't helped Nirmal Purja, imagine what Purja might have said about him after successfully completing his 14 Peaks project." In the eponymous Netflix documentary, Purja's distain for foreigners pierces through the thin veil he uses to conceal his apparent deep-running misgivings. On camera, Purja repeatedly makes pointed remarks about what he perceives as double standards between Westerners and Nepali climbers.


Hypothetically, had Reinhold rejected Purja or critiqued his ambitious but gimmicky plan, it is not inconceivable that Purja, having ultimately succeeded, would have used his new-found fame to attack Reinhold for the slight. Any response by the great Reinhold Messner could have been used by Nirmal to claim that Reinhold was jealous of his success.

In the Netflix film, Purja presents himself as the protagonist who can overcome all hurdles. What none of the viewers of Purja's self-aggrandizing documentary realized, however, was that Reinhold Messner had given the young Nepali man his start by being the first to throw his celebrity name behind Purja's 14 Peaks project and by providing considerable financial backing for the enterprise before anyone else. Now, Reinhold Messner was cutting Nirmal Purja loose.


I asked Reinhold if he would feel comfortable making a public statement via social media in support of the two brave women who came forward with their stories in The New York Times. "I think it's better if I speak to a journalist," Reinhold said. "I know a good one, he writes for Outside magazine. Is it okay if I provide him with your number," I asked. "Yes, of course. Tell him to call me anytime."


A few hours later, the journalist and Reinhold conducted a brief interview. It was evening in Europe, Reinhold was at an event and cut the interview short.


"Got some decent stuff. He was ready to talk more," the journalist wrote via WhatsApp.


In the ensuing call, the journalist confirmed to me what I detected in my conversation with Reinhold earlier today. "I got the sense that Reinhold - I called him Mr. Messner - was deeply pained and embarrassed. And that he supported Nirmal because he wanted to help Nepal," the journalist said. "Unfortunately, I only got to speak with him for five minutes, but I think I have enough information for my piece." Here's to hoping that following this particular interview, the editors at Outside magazine will at very long last have the confidence to publish a story about Nirmal Purja's escapades that has some bite.

Postscript:

The below video clip gives some valuable insight into Nirmal Purja's philosophy about self-discipline.



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