In a memoir printed in December, the skilled mountaineer and former Miss Finland Lotta Hintsa briefly described an upsetting incident with a “very well-known male climber” whom she didn’t identify.

Throughout a March 2023 enterprise dialogue within the man’s lodge suite in Kathmandu, Nepal, he “kissed Lotta utterly with out warning,” Ms. Hintsa and her co-author wrote within the Finnish-language guide, “The Mountains of My Life 2.” “The scenario was absurd, unreal and unsightly.”

However in interviews with The New York Occasions, Ms. Hintsa mentioned her expertise was extra disturbing than she had described within the guide. And her story highlights a priority that ladies within the climbing world are beginning to speak about extra brazenly.

Ms. Hintsa mentioned the person was Nirmal Purja, whose profitable 2019 quest to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks in file time was chronicled in a preferred Netflix documentary. She mentioned he led her to the bed room, pulled off her shirt, trekking shorts and underwear and tried to take away her bra. She mentioned she repeatedly informed him no and provided excuses to get him to cease with out agitating him. The episode ended with him masturbating subsequent to her, she mentioned.

“I simply must get out of this and fake that it by no means occurred,” Ms. Hintsa, 35, recalled considering on the time.

Via his lawyer, Mr. Purja declined requests for an interview. The lawyer, Philip M. Kelly, mentioned in a written assertion that Mr. Purja “unequivocally denies the allegations of wrongdoing. These allegations are false and defamatory.”

As high-altitude mountaineering has gained recognition, ladies have turn out to be more and more seen and formidable in a sport nonetheless largely dominated by males. Statistics from Mount Everest communicate to the pattern: Final yr, 65 ladies reached the summit — about 10 % of the climbers who summited — up from 45 in 2013 and simply 10 in 2003, based on the Himalayan Database.

However in recent times, members of the broader climbing group have acknowledged that the game comes with unseen dangers, particularly for girls. Increasingly more ladies within the sport, which incorporates every little thing from indoor mountain climbing to ascending snowy peaks, are coming ahead to speak about moments they’ve described as unsettling or worse.

In 2019, a gaggle {of professional} feminine rock climbers began an Instagram account “concerning the ridiculous and inappropriate messages, images, and solicitations we obtain in our DMs,” one of the women said in a social media put up. The account, whose creators mentioned it was later shut down by Instagram, shared screenshots of harassing messages despatched to ladies within the sport.

In February, a 39-year-old climber named Charles Barrett was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse for repeatedly assaulting a lady who was visiting Yosemite Nationwide Park for a weekend mountain climbing journey in 2016. The U.S. lawyer for the Japanese District of California said in a statement that Mr. Barrett had “used his renown and bodily presence as a rock climber to lure and intimidate victims who had been a part of the rock-climbing group.”

And in interviews with The Occasions, Ms. Hintsa and one other girl, a former consumer of Mr. Purja’s high-altitude guiding firm, described experiences in recent times wherein he kissed them with out consent, made aggressive advances or touched them sexually in opposition to their needs. They mentioned they felt powerless and cautious of angering Mr. Purja.

“I didn’t know what to do,” recalled Dr. April Leonardo, a household doctor from Quincy, Calif. She mentioned Mr. Purja repeatedly grabbed, kissed and propositioned her throughout an expedition to K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain. “I’m on this loopy climb. He’s my information. I don’t need to do something to place myself in jeopardy.”

The assertion from Mr. Purja’s lawyer additionally unequivocally denied Dr. Leonardo’s allegations.

Quickly after the encounters the ladies described having with Mr. Purja, they shared their tales with mates and kinfolk and despatched them textual content messages about their experiences. The Occasions reviewed the textual content messages and confirmed the conversations with the opposite folks.

The outside recreation world has began to deal with sexual abuse and harassment, although haltingly. In response to the #MeToo motion, members of the US climbing group created an initiative in 2018 known as #SafeOutside to review the scope of the issue within the sport. The organizers surveyed greater than 5,000 climbers from over 60 international locations and located that 47 percent of women and 16 percent of men mentioned that they had been subjected to undesirable sexual habits whereas climbing. And some months in the past, The Mountaineers, an out of doors recreation group within the Pacific Northwest, created a sexual harassment and assault prevention advisory committee to deal with the chance amongst its 15,000 members.

But it surely’s nothing new for girls to really feel mistreated within the sport.

“It’s probably the most susceptible place I can think about being in,” mentioned Alison Levine, the captain of the primary American ladies’s Everest expedition in 2002, who mentioned she skilled verbal abuse and threatening habits from a information throughout that journey. The climbers turned again in need of the summit as climate circumstances deteriorated.

Ms. Levine continued, “The factor that was most difficult, the scariest, and produced probably the most anxiousness and concern on that mountain got here from a human, not the surroundings.” She didn’t return to the massive mountains for one more 5 years, then went back to Everest in 2010 and reached the summit.

“There may be a lot inherent danger within the surroundings itself,” she mentioned. “Whenever you add in danger from interpersonal relationships, that makes it much more horrifying.”

This month, lots of of climbers scaled Everest and different Himalayan peaks. Above 8,000 meters (about 26,000 ft), they enter what is called the Dying Zone, the place there’s not sufficient oxygen to maintain human life for lengthy and so they expose themselves to hazards like frostbite, icefall, crevasses and high-altitude pulmonary or cerebral edema. Eighteen climbers died on Everest throughout the spring 2023 season, and this yr five have died and three have been reported lacking.

Purchasers pay tens of hundreds of {dollars} to aim these ascents — Everest expeditions begin at round $40,000 and might value six figures for a extra luxurious expertise — and entrust their guides with their lives.

Mr. Purja, 40, is considered one of mountaineering’s most recognizable and influential figures, with greater than two million followers on Instagram. Generally known as Nims, he’s a naturalized citizen of Britain, the place he lives together with his spouse and younger daughter. However in his native Nepal he’s revered because the sort of climbing famous person the nation hasn’t seen since Tenzing Norgay accomplished the primary ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 alongside Sir Edmund Hillary.

Via his guiding firm, Elite Exped, Mr. Purja has helped usher in a brand new period of economic climbing on the world’s tallest peaks and has encouraged women on social media to participate.

He has guided high-profile feminine shoppers like Asma Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal household, and the Russian model Victoria Bonya. “Thanks for uplifting me to push my limits. I’m grateful for every little thing you taught me,” a Swiss climber named Christine Vogondy posted on social media final fall, with a photograph of her and Mr. Purja atop Gasherbrum I in Pakistan.

Ms. Hintsa, who turned knowledgeable climber in 2018, crossed paths with Mr. Purja at base camps in Nepal and Pakistan whereas on the climbing circuit. They corresponded intermittently about expeditions they had been taking, and Mr. Purja invited her to information for his firm.

Mr. Purja was typically flirtatious in these textual content messages and in exchanges with Dr. Leonardo, based on a evaluation of the messages by The Occasions. The ladies generally bantered again, and Ms. Hintsa, a former Sports activities Illustrated swimsuit mannequin, as soon as despatched a photograph of herself from the journal. Usually, although, the ladies modified the topic or didn’t reply.

Ms. Hintsa and Mr. Purja agreed to satisfy in Kathmandu in March 2023 to debate working collectively on an expedition Ms. Hintsa was organizing. Mr. Purja urged having espresso in his lodge suite to keep away from the eye he would get within the foyer, Ms. Hintsa recalled.

Given the tenor of a few of their earlier textual content messages, Ms. Hintsa mentioned, she sought to attract clear boundaries. She mentioned she texted Mr. Purja on WhatsApp that this was “not a booty name,” and that he replied agreeing that it was not. Ms. Hintsa now not has this textual content alternate as a result of Mr. Purja’s app was set to make messages of their chat disappear after seven days.

In Mr. Purja’s suite on the Marriott on March 30, Ms. Hintsa recalled, she was “frozen” and “confused” as he led her to the mattress. She mentioned she felt like she was having an out-of-body expertise as he eliminated her garments at the same time as she continued to say no. She informed him she had her interval, she mentioned, however he didn’t cease. At one level he touched her vagina, she mentioned.

“I can’t get via to him. He’s on this extraordinarily aroused state the place a ‘No’ means nothing,” Ms. Hintsa recalled. She mentioned she was afraid to agitate him due to his energy and the coaching he’d obtained in Britain’s army, together with its particular forces.

She mentioned that Mr. Purja appeared to develop pissed off as she continued to refuse him and that he appeared to lose curiosity after she bodily resisted his eradicating her bra. She described feeling relieved when he started to masturbate, hopeful that the episode would quickly be over.

Mr. Purja then showered, she mentioned, which gave her time to compose herself and dress. They left the room and he confirmed her the shop he operates on the Marriott, then requested a driver to take her to her lodge, she mentioned. Mr. Purja behaved as if nothing had occurred, she mentioned.

That day, Ms. Hintsa texted a buddy describing her expertise. The Occasions reviewed the message. Later, she recounted it in individual to the buddy, Heidi Paananen, who confirmed their dialog.

A driver for Mr. Purja, Krishna Bahadur Tamang, mentioned in a written assertion supplied by Mr. Purja’s lawyer that he took Mr. Purja to the Marriott that morning. He mentioned Mr. Purja returned to the automotive “inside 20 minutes.” Ms. Hintsa recalled being on the lodge with Mr. Purja for near an hour, and she or he supplied time-stamped images she took that day on her solution to meet Mr. Purja and at his retailer. They corroborated her timeline.

Ms. Hintsa didn’t find yourself doing enterprise with Mr. Purja’s firm.

Out of doors sports activities have distinctive danger elements for sexual harassment and misconduct, mentioned Gina McClard, an Oregon lawyer specializing in gender-based violence prevention. In 2019, she co-founded a consultancy known as Respect Exterior that works with outside recreation teams resembling mountaineering golf equipment and information providers on insurance policies, procedures and trainings to stop sexual harassment and discrimination.

These actions can entail weekslong expeditions to distant settings, the place members reside and sleep in shut quarters. The tradition surrounding outside sports activities, which celebrates pushing boundaries and glorifies individuals who pull off uncommon feats, can also create conditions the place inappropriate habits goes unchecked, she mentioned.

“A lot of the outside trade remains to be an ‘previous boys’ community,” Ms. McClard mentioned in an e mail. “If you don’t conform to how issues are finished, it’s possible you’ll end up marginalized and iced out of the membership.”

Mr. Barrett, the climber who was convicted of sexual abuse this yr, is about to be sentenced on Tuesday. He was prosecuted partially due to the 2018 #SafeOutside survey, based on courtroom filings earlier reported by Outside Magazine. The girl he assaulted answered the survey saying she had been raped by a “well-known, skilled California climber” on a visit to Yosemite. One other respondent mentioned she had been sexually assaulted by the houseguest of knowledgeable climber she was visiting. Survey organizers adopted up with the ladies and related them after they each recognized Mr. Barrett as the one that had assaulted them. The Yosemite hiker reported Mr. Barrett to the authorities in 2020.

Mr. Barrett’s was a well-known identify in California mountain climbing. He wrote guidebooks on bouldering in in style areas like Mammoth and Bishop, and he ascended difficult routes with the well-known American rock climber Alex Honnold. A 2016 profile in Climbing Journal, later taken down from the web site, described Mr. Barrett as “a grasp of the California climbing sport.”

He was dwelling and dealing in Yosemite on the time of the assault of the feminine hiker. Mr. Barrett “violently raped” her after inviting her into the woods to look at a meteor bathe, prosecutors mentioned, and in addition assaulted her throughout a hike and within the worker housing space. Three different ladies, together with the opposite survey respondent, testified at his trial that he had sexually assaulted them. These incidents occurred outdoors federal jurisdiction, and state prosecutors didn’t carry costs.

Primarily based on her work with teams all through the outside trade, Ms. McClard mentioned that firm insurance policies hardly ever lengthen past bodily security to incorporate psychological or emotional security of shoppers and staff. Most smaller outside corporations don’t have in-house human sources departments, she mentioned, and greater gamers within the trade haven’t invested the time or cash that she believes this challenge requires.

“There’s no industrywide motion,” she mentioned. “I really feel like we’re alone in what we’re doing on sexual harassment within the outside trade.”

Dr. Leonardo, 41, the California doctor, met Mr. Purja at a teahouse in Nepal in 2021 earlier than she summited Mount Everest with a distinct firm. She later discovered that he was organizing a guided ascent of K2 the next summer season. Drawn partially by the hazard of the climb, she signed up, paying $55,000 for the two-month journey, which started in June 2022.

After arriving at K2 base camp, at about 17,000 ft, the staff held a puja, a ceremony to pay respect to the mountain and ask for protected passage. She recalled that throughout the celebration afterward, she was searching for a trash bag and bumped into Mr. Purja, who took her to a storage tent to get one. As she turned to depart, she mentioned, Mr. Purja grabbed her arm, pulled her shut and kissed her. She recalled Mr. Purja then saying, “I’ll have you ever.” Surprised and uncertain of what to do, she mentioned, she walked out.

“I simply really feel like I must keep away from him and preserve something from taking place, however I’m afraid to do or say something about it,” Dr. Leonardo recalled considering. One other climber on the mountain on the time mentioned Dr. Leonardo informed him throughout her journey that she and Mr. Purja had had this interplay and that she didn’t need to be alone with him. The individual requested to not be named for concern {of professional} or private repercussions.

On one other event, Dr. Leonardo mentioned, Mr. Purja confirmed up uninvited at her tent. She was in her sleeping bag, carrying a shirt and underwear, she recalled, and he crouched subsequent to her and mentioned he wished to test on her knee, which she had injured. Mr. Purja reached inside her sleeping bag, which made her really feel panicked, she mentioned, so she rapidly pulled her leg out. He kissed her, she mentioned, and grabbed her hand and positioned it on his crotch, forcing her to really feel his erect penis via his pants. She mentioned she felt trapped in her sleeping bag, unable to depart as a result of she wasn’t dressed.

In accordance with Dr. Leonardo, Mr. Purja informed her he wished to have intercourse along with her however needed to wait till nobody was round, after which left.

One other time, she mentioned, Mr. Purja grabbed her arm whereas she was strolling alone via camp and requested, “When can I mount you?” He urged they go to her tent, she mentioned, however she made excuses.

Dr. Leonardo despatched her father, Leon Leonardo, a textual content throughout her journey saying that Mr. Purja stored attempting to have intercourse along with her. “Not okay,” she wrote within the message, which was reviewed by The Occasions.

Two staff of Elite Exped on Dr. Leonardo’s K2 expedition, Chandra Bahadur Tamang, the pinnacle chef, and Ramesh Gurung, a senior information, mentioned in statements supplied by Mr. Purja’s lawyer that they supplied safety for the storage tent as a result of it contained useful gadgets and that Mr. Purja by no means went inside it throughout the expedition. Dr. Leonardo mentioned folks had been typically across the tent however nobody was there when she and Mr. Purja briefly went inside.

One other senior information, Pasang Tendi Sherpa, mentioned in an announcement that Mr. Purja “was not in any personal setting” with Dr. Leonardo throughout the journey. Pasang Tendi Sherpa’s assertion didn’t clarify how he knew that and he didn’t reply to interview requests. Mr. Gurung didn’t comply with an interview. The Occasions couldn’t attain Chandra Bahadur Tamang.

For a number of months after the journey, Dr. Leonardo had cordial textual content exchanges with Mr. Purja, partly as a result of she was ready for reimbursement for some misplaced gear, she mentioned. She didn’t see him once more.

The ladies who spoke to The Occasions about Mr. Purja mentioned that they didn’t know what recourse that they had. Elite Exped is a small firm run by Mr. Purja, and since the incidents occurred outdoors their dwelling international locations, the ladies weren’t certain what to do. They didn’t alert regulation enforcement or different authorities.

Ms. Hintsa mentioned she was telling her story in hopes of constructing the male-dominated sport of mountaineering safer for girls. Solely with time has she come to know the results of her expertise.

“I hadn’t realized the scars that it had left,” she mentioned. “It has made me notice that it’s not solely the rock fall or the avalanches which can be harmful for a feminine climber.”

Mr. Purja’s star has continued to rise. As a face of high-altitude climbing, he has labored with main corporations like Purple Bull and Nike, which this previous winter launched a clothes assortment impressed by Mr. Purja, known as 8K Peaks, and featured him in a towering Manhattan billboard. In December he obtained an honorary doctorate from Loughborough University in England. Out of doors manufacturers together with Grivel, Osprey and Scarpa have labored with him on co-branded merchandise.

Dr. Leonardo’s achievement of summiting K2, she mentioned, was tainted by what she skilled. She hopes that sharing her account will assist different ladies keep away from the same situation.

“I can’t let it preserve taking place,” Dr. Leonardo mentioned, including: “I don’t need one other girl to should undergo this.”

Johanna Lemola and Bhadra Sharma contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.

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