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Makalu is the world’s fifth highest mountain—an icy giant 14 miles west of Everest that straddles the border of northeastern Nepal and Tibet. Its four sharp ridges ascend almost vertically toward a 27,765-foot summit that’s formidable to even the most experienced climbers. Since 1955, there have been fewer than 300 recorded attempts to scale it, roughly a third of how many were made at its more famous neighbor last year alone.

Tim Taylor had never climbed anything so big or challenging before he joined an expedition to reach Makalu’s summit five years ago. Actually, Taylor hadn’t even heard of Makalu before an email from his mountaineering club arrived in his inbox, announcing that the British Armed Forces was seeking a photographer to document the trek. But he was ready for an adventure. “It completely captured my imagination,” he says.

Photography and exploration have always gone hand in hand for Taylor, a photographer and former Green Beret based in London. At the age of eight, he snuck his dad’s clunky old Zeiss Ikon camera into his luggage on a monthlong trip to the Falkland Islands, shooting 30 rolls of film as they explored mountains, inlets, and remote beaches crowded with king penguins.

“I think the process of photography is itself a form of exploration—an exploration of light, of place,” Taylor says.

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