UKC

The New York Times publishes Sexual Harassment and Abuse Accusations against Nirmal Purja

© By Iamthanes - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

An article published in The New York Times details allegations made by two female mountaineers against Nepal-born and naturalised British citizen Nirmal 'Nimsdai' Purja, a prominent mountaineer and protagonist of the Netflix film 14 Peaks. In the article titled 'For Female Climbers, Dangers Go Beyond Avalanches and Storms', the testimonies shared are framed within a wider story of women "increasingly reporting" incidences of sexual abuse and harassment in the world of climbing and mountaineering. 

Nirmal 'Nimsdai' Purja.  © By Iamthanes - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Nirmal 'Nimsdai' Purja.
© By Iamthanes - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The women told the Times that Purja had "kissed them without consent, made aggressive advances or touched them sexually against their wishes."

Finnish mountaineer Lotta Hinsta told reporters that in March 2023, Purja had led her to his bedroom during a business meeting in his hotel suite in Kathmandu, before undressing her against her consent and "masturbating next to her."

American doctor April Leonardo, an expedition client of Purja's Elite Exped company during a K2 expedition in June 2022, alleged that Purja forcibly kissed her and "kept trying to have sex" with her. She told the Times that he had "showed up uninvited" and attempted to initiate sex in her tent at base camp.

Both women reported feeling "powerless and wary of angering Mr. Purja." Since the alleged incidents had occurred abroad, the women said they were unsure of how to report their experiences and neither of them had contacted the police. 

The article states that Purja declined interview requests via his lawyer, who instead provided a written statement that Mr. Purja "unequivocally denies the allegations of wrongdoing. These allegations are false and defamatory."

Purja later shared a statement via Instagram Stories on Friday evening following the article's release.

Nirmal Purja's response to allegations published in The New York Times, posted on Friday 31 May.  © UKC News
Nirmal Purja's response to allegations published in The New York Times, posted on Friday 31 May.

UKClimbing contacted representatives of Purja for comment and a spokeperson provided the same statement.

Purja owns the 'Nimsdai' equipment and clothing brand and is a co-founder of the expedition company Elite Exped. He has held sponsorship deals and collaborated with brands including Red Bull, Nike, Grivel, Scarpa and Osprey.

In 2018, the former British Gurkha and Special Boat Service soldier was awarded an MBE for his high-altitude mountaineering achievements and in December 2023 received an honorary doctorate from Loughborough University.

***

The story also references the conviction of US climber Charles Barrett, who was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse for repeat assaults on a woman in Yosemite National Park in 2016, and the Climbers Against D*ck Pics @chossydms Instagram account (UKC Article), in which female climbers shared screenshots of unsolicited, inappropriate messages and images sent to them by men.

In a 2018 survey as part of the US initiative 'SafeOutside', 47 percent of women and 16 percent of men said they been subjected to unwanted sexual behaviour while climbing.

Hintsa and Leonardo told the Times that they are speaking out in order to raise awareness of these issues and to help make the "male-dominated sport of mountaineering" safer for women.

"It has made me realise that it's not only the rock fall or the avalanches that are dangerous for a female climber," Hintsa told The New York Times.

Update 5 June

Purja has released further statements on Instagram Stories on his personal account, his Elite Exped company account and his Nimsdai Foundation page:

Elite exped  © @eliteexped Instagram
Elite exped
© @eliteexped Instagram


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3 Jun

It will be interesting to see is how his sponsors react.

Reading the article, I was struck by how similar these stories are to so, so, so many others.

Now the whole circus will begin: accusations, counter-accusations, protests about innocent until proven guilty, claims of racial bias, culture wars, and so on.

But in the end...do we really have any doubt?

Dissapointing, frustrating, infuriating.

3 Jun

I clicked through and re-read Natalie's 2019 article after reading this one. I note the chossyDMs instagram feed is no more. I don't think I ever followed it, so don't know when or why it was closed. Does anyone else?

edit: On reading the NYT original article, a link to one of the original members of the chossyDMs reveals that Instagram took down the account without warning or explanation: https://www.instagram.com/p/B7CCNpRAFJc/?img_index=5 presumably they would claim it was contravening some community standard.

3 Jun

Social media firms are a safe haven for most hate speech, I have reported a large amount of stuff on Facebook and Reddit and the main trigger for something to get taken down is the N word.

You can call someone a "retard" or any number of other ableist/ homophobic/ transphobic slurs and the posts will be left to stand unless a human moderator removes them (usually following a user report), but they are never the people employed by the site (I even got a warning for attempting to break Reddit due to the number of reports submitted to address a wave of ban evading accounts that repeatedly post in bad faith, that seemed a bit rich given that the person behind those posts is making an active effort to break the site).

It might be good for UKC (or the BMC) to run an article about being a good ally to different minority groups? We have had a couple at work which were good. You will never entirely prevent bigots and predators from joining communities, but you can show people that harmful behaviour won't be tolerated.

3 Jun

Hi. Can you link the 2019 article you mention? I'm curious. Were there stoires about this in the past? Thanks.

3 Jun

The removed post was pretty egregious, thanks to the mods for being significantly better than the admins on many other sites!

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