I have always been fascinated by the The Himalaya - a land of secret and sacred summits bathed in mistique and religeous devotion. When I first took up mountaineering photography I literally bought any publication that I could find which contained images of these mountains along with information on travel throughout the region. The urge to visit The Himalaya, and Everest in particular, was strong, and as soon as I felt I had the experience and the confidence in my own abilities I took off to see what I could achieve myself.
On reflection, my early expeditions were wasted photographically, but they did build the foundations for the future. When I was persuaded to lead a photographic expedition in Autumn 2000 I resolved to take all my cameras including the powerful, panoramic Fuji GX617, on what turned out to be my most successful Everest expedition of all time.
On the day of our arrival at Gorak Shep, most members of the expedition wanted to take a relatively relaxing afternoon in camp, and as my guiding services were not required I decided to take off up Kala Pattar on my own. The weather was superb - exceptionally clear air and a strong biting cold wind offered perfect conditions for photography. Considering I was carrying so much heavy equipment, I made surprisingly good progress up Kala Pattar and arrived on the summit at 3pm.
To my surprise I had the mountain to myself and could happily indulge in the enjoyment of being 'at one' with these majestic mountains and stunning scenery all around. At over 5500 metres, the wind was so stong it was difficult to keep my tripod steady, but nevertheless I made full use of the conditions by taking a series of images in a variety of formats.
Sherpa Pasang joined me just after 4.30pm and he helped me switch around my equipment as I reached the climax of the afternoon's photography. As I had hoped, the snow on the highest summits turned cream, then gold and finally crimson in a superlative display that defies description. It would leave an indelible impression on my memory which remains to this day. Punctuated between periods of frantic activity during which I took as many images as I could possibly manage, I left myself moments of tranquility to fully appreciate my situation and my surroundings.
As the pink sunlight finally faded from the summit of Everest, Pasang ushered me down. In the faint post-sunset afterglow we hurried on down the mountain and back to camp at Gorak Shep. I was tired and cold but uplifted by the experience which I had encountered. To this day, the hours spent on Kala Pattar that afternoon remain the happiest, most fulfilling and rewarding moments of my entire photographic career.
Time of Year : November
Location Map Reference : Summit of Kala Pattar, Khumbu Himalaya, Nepal : Local Time : 1645
Equipment : Fuji GX 617 Camera, Fujinon SWD 90mm f5.6 Lens, Circular Graduated ND Filter.
Camera Settings : Fuji Velvia 50 film, Shutter 1/30 sec, Aperture f11.