Turning Point Photo: When Getting The Shot Became More Important Than Reaching The Top


Nanda Devi rises 25,643 feet in the Indian Himalayas. Almost 20 years ago Tom Bol was part of a team that set out to climb it.
© Tom Bol

“It was a two-month expedition, and it had taken weeks just to hike into the area and weeks to get to this point on the mountain,” photographer Tom Bol recalls about the above image.

“This day we were leaving Camp 1 at about 21,000 feet to get to Camp 2 at about 22,000. I looked up and saw one of my fellow climbers looking over at the summit. The ridges up there made corridors for the wind, and snow and clouds were whipping around. I realized that what I was seeing summed up the whole trip: us against the mountain and the distance to the summit we still had to make. It was the story of the expedition, and I just snapped off the shot. As it turned out, we didn’t make the summit—conditions were terrible.

“At that time I was taking and selling pictures, mostly to climbing magazines and catalogs, but I was mainly a climber and a climbing guide. Looking at this photo later, I realized that I’d wanted to shoot pictures of the expedition just as much as I’d wanted to climb. ‘I want to get the shot’ had replaced ‘I want to get to the top.’ After this trip I went full-time into my photography, and this shot was most likely the moment the idea of changing became real to me.”