Former Gurkha from Eastleigh makes history by conquering K2 in winter

Nirmal Purja, bottom row, second from the right, with his victorious team

A team of climbers led by a former Gurkha soldier from Hampshire, has become the first to conquer the world's second highest mountain in winter.

Nirmal 'Nims' Purja, a former British Special Forces Soldier', reached the summit of K2 at midday on Saturday, UK time.

They took the last few steps singing the Nepalese national anthem.

K2 is notorious for its perilous conditions. It is nicknamed Savage Mountain.

Until yesterday, reaching the 28,251 ft peak in winter was believed to be humanly impossible and had never been accomplished. It was famously known as the ‘last great mountaineering challenge’.

Temperatures can plummet to -80F (-62C) and wind speeds can top 120mph.

Only last week an attempt had to be abandoned because one of their camps was destroyed in high winds. Mr Purja and his nine team members had to sleep in a shallow crevasse at one point as it was too windy to put up their tents.

  • Nirmal Purja, Expedition leader:

We set out to make the impossible possible.... 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.

Nirmal Purja, Expedition leader

Having reached the summit, the ten climbers then had to descend in darkness. All made it safely back to camp.

Attempts to summit K2 are normally made in July or August, during the warmest periods – only 280 people have reached the summit of K2 in a favourable Spring climbing season, compared to 3,681 who have made it to the top of Everest. 87 people have died while trying to climb K2.

Mr Purja's achievement comes a year after he smashed the world record for climbing the 14 tallest peaks in the world in the shortest time, completing the challenge in 189 days.

We all worked together. Brothers to brothers, arms in arms. We stuck by each other. It is a testimony to the great teamwork.

Nirmal Purja, Expedition leader