Nirmal Purja, mountaineer

I CLIMBED Everest in 2016 within 21 days. In 2017, I saved the Gurkha expedition from being a failure. Immediately after that I climbed Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu within five days, and I had already broken three speed world records for 8,000 metres.

My name is Nirmal Purja, known as Nims. I was born in the valleys of western Nepal but I grew up in the most flat part of the country: Chitwan. In 2003 I joined the Brigade of Gurkhas and in 2009 I joined the British Special Forces.

When you say you're from Nepal, people kind of believe that Everest is in your backyard. So with the intention of just seeing Everest I started up the trail, but long story short, having no experience at all, I ended up climbing Lobuche East [6119m]. It all started from there.

I did get some of my skills while I was serving in the special forces. You cover most of the general skills, so it did help to some extent for sure, and I left as an operator in charge of extreme cold weather warfare.

When I climbed Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu, at the end of that I was supposed to get a helicopter pick-up, but because of the weather the helicopter never came. So straight after the summit I had to cover six to eight days' worth of trekking, depending on speed, and I did it in 18 hours. At that point I knew that I could enter into the mountaineering world.

For those who didn't really know about mountaineering, when I talk about the sport they say: "OK, he's a Gurkha; he's special forces, so he can probably do it." But those who are from a mountain background – those who know how hard it is to climb one 8,000 metre peak – they never believed. People used to look at me like, "Do you even have a clue what you're saying? What you say is insane. It's impossible."

You know, they have a saying, "If your dream doesn't scare you it's not big enough." I really didn't do this project to break the world record. It was more about showing the world just what can be done and what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it. The power to believe in yourself, only you can have it. If you can do that you can do some amazing stuff.

That's one reason. The second one: Nepal is the home of 8,000 metre peaks. The climbing community over there have always been on the frontier of the 8,000 metre peak but I don't feel that we get the right recognition. So through this project I wanted to highlight everything [they do].

To be honest, I don't really have the time to sit down and think about it. I'm straight up here. I'm guiding on six mountains this year. Any time to think about all this is for when I can't climb anymore. That will probably be when I'm 75.

Nirmal Purja headlines the Fort William Mountain Festival 2020 on February 22. Visit