First Ascent of Burke-Khang-Part 1
Costa Mesa, Ca.
August 20, 2015
Dear Family & Friends:
Please stay with me for this 3-part report. I have some absolutely stunning, never before seen, photos and video of Mt. Everest and Burke-Khang to share with you.
On May 21, 2014, just 4 days before I reached the summit of Mt. Everest from the North side, the Government of Nepal opened for climbing 104 new peaks in the fabled Himalaya Mountain Range. One of them was named after me. Burke-Khang is 22,775 feet high and is located between Mt. Everest and Cho-Oyu. It is unclimbed and, like Everest and Cho Oyu, is a border peak, since it sits on the border of Nepal and Tibet.
I decided to explore the possibility of completing a first ascent of Burke-Khang. In January of 2015, two Nepalese Sherpas traveled to the mountain to look for a safe climbing approach. They returned in mid-January and informed me that the mountain is in a remote location in Nepal, deep in the Gokyo Valley. They described the region as “heaven on earth.” However, they declared the mountain unclimbable, describing it as “incredibly vertical and technically gnarly.” Their photos and video footage confirmed this assessment, since all climbing routes appeared to be blocked by overhanging ice seracs, massive crevasse fields, avalanche prone couloirs, bergschrunds and sheer vertical ice and rock walls.
This Sherpa report pretty much sealed my decision to climb the mountain. Over many months, I viewed the mountain up close on Google Earth, at every possible angle and altitude, searching for a safe climbing route to the summit. I also consulted my close climbing friend, Garrett Madison, one of the most respected and accomplished mountaineering guides in the world. After extensive investigation, we were confident we had found a safe climbing route. But, we needed “eyes on the mountain” to confirm our findings.
In April of 2015, I traveled to Nepal to complete a helicopter reconnaissance of Burke-Khang with Garrett, who was leading an Everest expedition. The helicopter picked us up in the village of Namche Bazaar, which is on the trekking route to Everest Base Camp. Garrett sat in the front seat of the helicopter snapping still photos. His filmmaker, Michael Churton, and I sat in the back seat shooting video. We mounted two Go Pro cameras on the outside of the helicopter and one Go Pro on the inside, filming us. Our 45-minute reconnaissance of Burke-Khang was phenomenal and confirmed our belief that the mountain can be climbed.
Two weeks later, the earthquake struck in Nepal, leading to over 9,500 deaths in Nepal, India and Tibet and 19 deaths on Mt. Everest. Garrett’s beloved medical assistant and Base Camp Manager, Marisa (“Eve”) Girawong was killed at Everest Base Camp. Michael Churton was seriously injured.
Below are (i) a link to a newspaper article describing the mountain, (ii) a 12-minute video of our helicopter reconnaissance, including footage of Everest Base Camp just 2 weeks before it was destroyed by avalanches triggered by the earthquake and (iii) photos of the mountain.
In Part 2, I will give you details of the climbing plan for Burke-Khang.
Here is the reconnaissance video (watch in full screen mode)
Photos of Burke-Khang