Born in 1979, Hiraide became a serious mountain climber after joining a mountaineering club at his university. In 2001, Hiraide reached the eastern summit of Mt. Kula Kangri (7,381m) in Tibet. “Pursuing the unknown” in the Himalayas, his list of remarkable accomplishments includes first ascents, reaching summits without oxygen and skiing from mountain peaks. In 2009, he successfully scaled the previously unclimbed southeastern wall of Mt. Kamet (7,756m) in India, and with partner Kei Taniguchi, became the first Japanese to receive the ‘17th Piolet d’Or Award,’ the “Academy Award” of mountaineering. He also received the ‘Japan Sports Award,’ sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, in 2001 and 2009.
A decade has passed since I began climbing in the Himalayas. At first I had no interest in photography; seeing with my own eyes was satisfying enough. Besides, when you are carrying specialised gear for extreme conditions and heavy oxygen cylinders, your thoughts are focused on lightening the load. Any space available for a camera might be better used for extra supplies of food, water or oxygen cylinders. Everything you carry is directly linked to survival.
Then my thinking changed as my experience grew and I became more confident in my climbing. I wanted to share what I was witnessing with people who might never see it for themselves. I felt more and more responsible for doing so. One way to provide support is by carrying someone else’s supplies, and I thought another way might be by taking pictures. But not everyone can use a camera well. I felt that even though taking photos is different from climbing unmarked routes, it would be a worthwhile challenge. From then on, I began taking a camera into the mountains and became increasingly committed to capturing my experiences.
Timing is often a decisive factor in mountain climbing, from the specific mountain, season and weather conditions, to your own physical condition and choice of partner. It was before I departed for Mt. Everest that I learned the X100, Fujifilm’s ultimate digital camera, had been released - just as I was about to climb the world’s ultimate peak! I knew this would be the camera I’d use on Everest. Ultimate meets ultimate, the two shared a sense of greatness and the timing was perfect.
My father also loves the mountains and has owned many quality cameras, which he let me handle on several occasions during my childhood. I used to gaze on them with envy. At first touch, the X100 called to mind the sensation of handling those antique cameras, which I couldn’t previously afford to buy. So discovering the X100 fulfilled years of longing.
For me, it was also important to use a camera made in Japan. Once I had set my goal as the Himalayas, which gathers mountaineers from all over the world, I wanted to carry products with instant global appeal that also expressed the best of Japan. This feeling has grown stronger every year and as the X100 is quintessentially “Made in Japan,” I set off for Everest with my X100, the camera of my destiny.
Mountain climbing requires a variety of tools, and each one must be chosen with the utmost care. The pick, for example, has been called the “soul of the mountaineer.” Your life depends on this tool, and the top criteria for selecting a pick is the level of trust you can place in it. Clearly, you are going to maintain very high standards when making the choice.
Each tool has its own distinct feel that marks it as trustworthy. The magnesium die-cast body of the X100 boasts a heavy-duty texture and just the right weight. I was convinced from the first moment I held the X100, that it would be a trustworthy partner.
I had brought other photographic equipment with me apart from the X100, including a digital SLR camera, a waterproof compact camera and a video camera. However, I couldn’t carry them all to the summit. Even after arriving in the Himalayas, there are several stages of selection. There is equipment you take to the base camp at 5,350m and equipment for the climb from the final camp at 7,906m to Everest’s peak at 8,848m.
When it came to selecting a camera, my top concern was whether I would be able to photograph the magnificent starlit sky over the mountain. You can view millions more stars through the clean air over the mountain than you see in Tokyo, and I really wanted to share this with others. I also needed a bulb shooting mode on my camera to capture the photos. This feature on the X100 is a major advantage, since it also has a descriptive capability within its compact body that rivals SLR cameras. Given all its multiple options, and because it met all my criteria, I didn’t hesitate to choose the X100.
A month and a half had passed since I left Japan. I had been carrying the X100 on my shoulder since arriving at the town at the foot of Everest, taking photographs of children and daily life at camp. I became so attached to the X100 that it almost felt as if it was part of me. While “light” and “fast” are the buzzwords for mountaineering, the X100 offers far more than its light, compact design. The camera has a special something that makes you want to spend more time with it, and it never even crossed my mind to leave the X100 at camp.