Mountaineer Nirmal Purja accused of sexual misconduct by two women on expeditions

Mountaineer Nirmal Purja accused of sexual misconduct by two women on expeditions
Image: Aamir Qureshi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In an extensive report by The New York Times, the renowned Nepali-British mountaineer Nirmal "Nims" Purja faces disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct from two women during separate mountaineering expeditions and business dealings.

Lotta Hintsa, a 35-year-old professional Finnish mountaineer and former Miss Finland, says that in March 2023, Purja invited her to his hotel suite in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss potential guiding work. However, she alleges that once there, Purja kissed her without warning, led her to the bedroom, removed most of her clothing, touched her vagina, and masturbated next to her - all while she repeatedly told him no.

Lotta Hintsa
Lotta HintsaImage: Saara Mansikkamaki for The New York Times

"I just need to get out of this and pretend that it never happened," Hintsa, who has documented the incident through texts to a friend, recalled thinking at the time.

Dr. April Leonardo, a 41-year-old family physician from California, also came forward with allegations against Purja stemming from a guided K2 expedition she took with his company Elite Exped in 2022. Leonardo claims that at the remote 17,000-foot base camp, Purja grabbed her, forcibly kissed her on multiple occasions, shoved her hand against his erect penis, and propositioned her for sex repeatedly despite her objections.

Dr. April Leonardo
Dr. April LeonardoRachel Bujalski for The New York Times

"I didn't know what to do," Leonardo said. "I'm on this crazy climb. He's my guide. I don't want to do anything to put myself in jeopardy."

Both women say they felt powerless to resist Purja's unwanted advances, given his influential stature and physical dominance as an elite high-altitude climber. They have raised concerns about a broader culture of sexual harassment and lack of accountability in the male-dominated professional mountaineering world.

In a statement to The Times, Purja's lawyer Philip M. Kelly said the 40-year-old climbing celebrity "unequivocally denies the allegations of wrongdoing. These allegations are false and defamatory." The report notes that some of Purja's employees provided statements contradicting certain details from the accusers.

Purja achieved global fame in 2019 when he documented his quest to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks in record time on the Netflix series "14 Peaks." He has garnered over 2 million Instagram followers and lucrative sponsorship deals with major brands like Nike.

The Times report highlights how an increasing number of women across outdoor adventure sports have begun speaking up about experiences with sexual harassment, assault, and feeling unsafe due to gender imbalances and male-dominated cultures in their fields.

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