Two mountaineers are chasing the same record on the world’s highest mountains.
Gelje Sherpa, 29, of Nepal and Shehroze Kashif, 19, of Pakistan are both trying to become the youngest person to summit all 14 peaks above 8,000-meters (26,246 feet). The current record is held by Mingma Gyabu “David” Sherpa of Nepal, who set the record on October 29, 2019, when he summited 26,335-foot Shisha Pangma at age 30 years and five months.
Both Gelje and Kashif are battling time and forces outside of their control. Although Gelje has already climbed 12 of the mountains, he has only 11 months remaining to summit the final two: Pakistan’s 26,141-foot Broad Peak and 26,864-foot Cho Oyu, which straddles the China-Nepal border.
The traditional route up Cho Oyu starts in China, which has closed its borders to nearly all foreigners due to the pandemic. Later this winter Gelje will try to climb the mountain from the southern Nepalese side, which few mountaineers have successfully completed.
Funding the expedition presents another challenge: Gelje is currently trying to raise $66,000 via a GoFundMe page. His rising status in the global mountaineering community may help him net the funds. Gelje worked on the crew of Nepali climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja, whose speed record on the same peaks—he climbed all 14 in six months and six days—generated international headlines and led to a Netflix documentary. And in January, Gelje was part of a ten-person Nepalese team to complete the first winter ascent of 28,251-foot K2, in Pakistan.
While a decade younger, Kashif has only climbed four of the peaks up to this point: Broad Peak, K2, 29,028-foot Mount Everest, and 26,781-foot Manaslu,in Nepal. His ascent of Broad Peak at age 17—making him the youngest person to ever climb the mountain—earned him the nickname Broad Boy.
Kashif hopes to complete the challenge by 2024, before he turns 23. He is also grappling with the emotional impact of losing friends on the mountains. Earlier this year, while climbing K2, he passed the corpse of his countryman and hero, mountaineer Ali Sadpara, who was declared missing on February 5 during a winter expedition. Then, in May, Kashif lost his friend, Swiss climber Abdul Wariach, who collapsed and died on a separate expedition on the slopes of Mount Everest.
For years mountaineers have chased records on the world’s highest 14 peaks, but Purja’s eye-popping climbs have brought mainstream attention to the peaks and their record books. David Sherpa became the youngest to climb all 14 while working on Purja’s crew.