KATHMANDU: Lhakpa Rangdu Sherpa, a mountaineering guide, was busy setting photo frames on Thursday at School of Creative Communications (SCC), Kupondole for his photo exhibition ‘Hillary Step to Sagarmatha: Facts and Photos’. The exhibit kicked off on Friday at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Pradarshani Marga.
Fourty-nine-year-old Lhakpa Rangdu has climbed Mt Everest 11 times since 2005. He said his photo exhibition was an attempt to claim that the 2015 Gorkha earthquake damaged the Hillary Step.
The Hillary Step is a 12 meter-high rocky projection on the south-east ridge of Mt Everest located at 8,790 meters height. It was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, first person to summit the mountain in 1953. There have been claims that the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake crumbled the historic Hillary Step.
Lhakpa Rangdu, through his photographs, is claiming that the Hillary Step is actually missing. About his claim, he expressed, “During my mountaineering journey since 2005, I have been to Mt Everest before and after the earthquake. We all can see through the photographs that the Hillary Step is missing.”
According to Lhakpa Rangdu, Hillary Step is the deciding point for any mountaineer to march uphill or downhill. He explained, “If the weather is unfavorable or some inexperienced climber is taking too much time to come down or go up from the Hillary Step, climbers have no other choice but to return from there.”
Lhakpa Rangdu’s photographs highlight the stark beauty of Mt Everest. He has captured the peak as well as mountaineers in his photos. Moreover, the exhibition also has two life-size photographs that show the Hillary Step before and after 2015.
Lhakpa Rangdu started photography as a hobby in 2006 before he decided to take photography training in 2011. He has been clicking photos of his Mt Everest expedition ever since. Sharing his experience in taking photographs, he expressed, “Carrying a camera or clicking photographs at that altitude is challenging and risky. However, I always carried my camera and clicked pictures of mountains whenever the weather was favorable.”
He said carrying a camera was an extra load for any mountaineer, adding, “And it is not easy to capture the locations around Mt Everest due to highly unpredictable weather.”
The exhibition has around 27 photographs that Lhakpa Rangdu clicked from 2006 to 2016.
Talking about the exhibition, President of Nepal Mountaineering Association Ang Tshering Sherpa, who inaugurated the photo exhibition, said, “Prior coming to the photo exhibition, I believed that the Hillary Step was intact. However, comparing the photographs taken some 100 meters below from the Hillary Step, we can see that some of its upper portion is missing. Nevertheless, we cannot say that the whole Hillary Step is missing.”
Lauding Lhakpa Rangdu’s initiative to bring out the fact of the Hillary Step, Ang Tshering said, “It is the first time that a Nepali mountaineer has come up with his photographs to reveal truth about the Hillary Step. Lhakpa Rangdu has beautifully captured the location although photography at that altitude is deemed extremely risky.”
When asked what life for Lhakpa Rangdu is, he said, “For me, life is a struggle. It is not only about hard work, but also about opportunities. Without opportunities, one cannot become successful no matter how hard they try.”
He expressed confidence that he will continue his mountaineering journey for around 10 more years. He added, “Although I am not educated, I know my job well. So, I believe in working hard in order to be satisfied at the end of the day.”
The ongoing photo exhibition is organized under the monthly photo exhibition series #photoNepal by NTB in association with School of Creative Communications. The exhibit will continue till Sunday.