To those outside the world of mountaineering, Nims Purja is the subject of the Netflix documentary 14 Peaks, which chronicled his journey to climb all of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in record time. To many of those inside the world of mountaineering, though, Nims Purja is a climber in every sense of the word — as much a showboat and a hustle-minded careerist as a talented alpinist. In this gnarled, complex profile, Grayson Schaffer tries to get the measure of the man from all angles, folding in everything from Purja’s newfound influencer clientele to the fraught history of the Nepali sherpa community. It’s a hell of a read, even to those of us who will never set foot in a base camp.

He says he’s the CEO of nine companies, though he won’t name them all. His book and movie are both autobiographical. The former, a best seller, reads like the kind of memoir written by American politicians who have suddenly taken to vacationing in Iowa. The latter, Nims says, was Netflix’s most popular release of 2021. He gets consistent corporate speaking gigs, and his one-on-one guiding rate up Everest is, he told me, more than a million dollars.

It’s a lot. Nims is a lot. But his hustle and bravado are precisely the things that have allowed him to break into the mainstream from Nepal’s deep bench of climbing talent. I’ve covered mountaineering and Sherpa culture on and off for more than a decade, and while there have always been insanely strong climbers with roots in Nepal, nobody has ever amassed the mind share, as the marketers say, that Nims has. In the process he’s gathered a legion of devotees and plenty of critics, all of them hoping to cement his reputation as either a generational talent among high-altitude mountaineers or else an egotistical self-promoter flying perilously close to the sun.