A mountain-climbing photographer was honored by his hometown on Monday for scaling Mount Everest with a statue of Matsu, the goddess of the sea, on his back.
Lee Hsiao-shih (李小石), 54, who conquered the world’s highest peak on May 22 with the assistance of two Sherpas, was presented with a plaque by Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文).
Lee, who was born on Matsu but moved to Puzih (朴子), Chiayi County, after marrying, said he arrived at the summit of the 8,848m Everest via Lobuche East, a “trekking peak” with an elevation of 6,119m in the Khumbu Valley Region of Nepal.
Lee said he became stranded on his way down the mountain at the fourth base camp at around 8,000m because of a heavy snowstorm and had used all of his oxygen bottles.
“Without the help of Sherpas, I would not have been able to survive,” he said.
Lee said he remained in good shape for most of the expedition.
“I believe it’s all because of Matsu’s blessing,” he said.
Lee said he inherited his faith in Matsu from his father, a fisherman. In 1980, a fishing boat manned by Lee’s father and six crew capsized in rough waters near the Zhoushan islands off China’s southeastern coast.
Lee’s father, who floated at sea for four days, said that on the third day he was told by Matsu that he would be rescued the following day if he remained confident. On the fourth day, he was rescued by a Chinese fishing boat.
From that time on, Lee said, all of his family members had been devout Matsu followers. He has promised to carry a statue of Matsu with him on climbs of the world’s four highest peaks.
Lee fell in love with mountain climbing and mountain photography after moving to southern Taiwan in 1972. By November 2000, he had scaled every one of Taiwan’s top 100 peaks and hiked many historic mountain trails.
A collection of Lee’s pictures from the Himalayas opened yesterday at the Meiling Fine Arts Museum in Puzih and will run through July 19.