2/23/2009

Dear Family & Friends:

As my trip date rapidly approaches, I thought I should fill you in on some details and important developments.

I will be leaving Los Angeles on March 29 and will arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal on March 31. I will fly to Lukla on April 6 and start the 35-mile trek to Everest Base Camp. The complete schedule can be found in the Itinerary section of my website.

The team this year consists of Bud Allen, David Liano and me. Sadly, my daughters, Lori & Amy, and Bud’s wife, Terri, will not be joining us, so there will be no trekkers. With 9 children between them, and very busy lives, my daughters could not make the logistics work this year. We plan to return in 2010 for a trek to Base Camp and a visit with our friends at the Lhomi Kid’s Care orphanage in Kathmandu.

Bud is my good friend from Columbus, Georgia, who attempted Everest in 2006. He had to end his trip when he contracted a respiratory virus. Bud’s Sherpa this year will be Puchhanga, who accompanied Lori, Amy and me on the trek to Everest Base Camp in 2008 and set up all of our meetings with the orphanage in Kathmandu. Puchhanga is now considered part of our family in California. David Liano is another good friend from Mexico who has summitted Everest twice from the South side, including last season, which was filled with controversy because of the Chinese closure of the North approach and the severe restrictions placed on the South approach. This year, David will be attempting an unprecedented double traverse, moving up the South (Nepal) side and down the North (Tibet) side, and then back up the North side and down the South side. David is a super strong climber with a great attitude and zest for life.

As noted in my previous post, I am planning a single traverse, ascending the South side and descending the North side. If successful, I will be the oldest American (67) to reach the summit of Mt. Everest and the oldest person to complete a traverse. So, stay tuned for an exciting year, and please keep those prayers and good wishes coming.

Photos of Bud, David and me are posted on my website under “Team Everest 2009.” Puchhanga and Mingma (my Sherpa–see below) are in the group photo on the same page.

Speaking of the traverse, the recent news out of China is discouraging. The Chinese have just given official notice that they are closing portions of Tibet to foreigners for the month of March of 2009 because of expected demonstrations and protests related to (i) the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet into exile in India and (ii) the anniversary of last year’s demonstrations ahead of the Olympic games. The China Tibet Mountaineering Association is processing permit applications for the North side of the mountain, but the concern is that the travel ban will be extended beyond March if these protests materialize. So, 2009 is shaping up to be “redux 2008.” If North side permits are not issued, David’s plans for a double traverse and my plans for a single traverse will be dashed since the traverse requires 3 permits–a South side permit from Nepal, a North side permit from China and a traverse permit from Nepal and China. If permits are not issued by the Chinese for the North side, I will ascend and descend from the South side. David is not sure what he will do, as he has “been there, done that” twice.

I have made a few changes to my website. The most significant change is to add a “Trip Reports Blog” feature, which will allow you to comment on my posts and view other reader’s comments. If you choose to post a comment, you can do so for attribution or anonymously. The “anon” feature is neat because you can opine “this guy is nuts!” and I’ll never know it was you. I have also added some interesting websites in my Links section, including Bud and David’s websites and my friend Alan Arnette’s wonderful climbing website. If you visit Alan’s website, be sure to check out his interviews of Bud, David, Dawa Steven (Managing Director of Asian Trekking) and me in the “Everest 2009” section of his website. Alan has also posted a really cool animated route map, which accurately shows the typical climbing/acclimatization schedule for the South side ascent.

My Sherpa this year will be Mingma Sherpa, who was my Sherpa last year. Mingma has summitted Everest multiple times from both sides of the mountain. He is a really nice person, with a beautiful wife and daughter, and I am glad he will be with me on the mountain this year. After our trip, Mingma will return with me to California for a one month visit with my family. Since Mingma has never visited the United States, he is super excited about the trip. While he is here, I’ll be his personal Sherpa and show him some “real” mountains, like Mt. Whitney and Mt. Baldy. For extra excitement and sheer terror, I plan to put him on the back of my Harley Davidson Softail and surf the California freeway system during rush hour traffic.

I have purchased a Thuruya satellite telephone and will be calling in expedition reports regularly. My life and Everest expedition partner, Sharon, will post the reports on my website. If you register on the website, you will receive an e-mail notice that a report has been posted so you can read it, and post a comment, if you choose. I will also be posting audio reports from the mountain. On summit day, I plan to post reports from Camp IV on the South Col (26,000 feet), the Balcony (27,700 feet), the South Summit (28,750 feet), the Hillary Step (28,900 feet) and the Summit (29,035 feet). This, of course, depends on the weather, as I will not risk frostbite by taking off my heavy expedition gloves to make satellite telephone calls. As part of my posts, I plan to keep you advised of Bud and David’s progress on the mountain.

I will be bringing with me the latest and greatest photo and video equipment so I can document in still photo and video format my trip up the mighty Mt. Everest. When I return, I hope to prepare a documentary of the climb for family and friends.

Physically, I feel great. I started back into training shortly after I returned from Nepal last April. Because my training regime was interrupted by a one week vacation in Hawaii in August with my family and a 37-day motorcycle trip in September and October, I have doubled down on my physical training, and I am now working out in a local health club for 2-1/2 hours almost every day. I also bicycle for 40-50 miles on Sunday with my training partner, Ollie, and my son-in-law, Jeff. Mentally, I feel stronger than ever, and I just can’t wait to get back on the mountain.

Many of you have asked about my Training Partner, Ollie. I appreciate the inquiries. He is doing well, and continues to be my inspiration and my hero. My daughter, Lisa, is donating 15% of the proceeds from her sales generated from my website to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, which helps children with Ollie’s disability. Please check out Lisa’s website–Charming Cards–which is on the “Links” page of my website and can also be navigated to from here:  www.charmingcards.com. She has some great products that are reasonably priced, and this is a worthy cause.

If the situation concerning permits on the North side of the mountain changes, I’ll file another report. Otherwise, I will post my next report shortly before I leave for Nepal.

Bill Burke