First Ascent of Burke-Khang-Part 3
Costa Mesa, Ca.
August 24, 2015
Dear Family & Friends:
Burke-Khang is not Mt. Everest or K-2. But, the allure of the mountain is its mystery, since it has never been climbed. After carefully reviewing the photos and video footage from my April helicopter recon of Burke-Khang, I am convinced this will be a difficult and challenging alpine climb. Perhaps more so than Mt. Everest.
Burke-Khang is 6,742 meters (22,775 feet) in altitude and presents significant challenges, including technical climbing, crevasse fields, overhanging ice seracs, avalanche prone couloirs, bergschrunds, route finding, glacial travel and ridge climbing.
Moving directly up the South Face of the mountain is out of the question since the approach is heavily defended by crevasse fields and the face of the mountain is far too icy and vertical.
Our assault plan is to move up the East Buttress in an effort to gain the southeast ridgeline. The East Buttress is also extremely vertical, and all approaches require moving up avalanche-prone couloirs, made more parlous by overhanging ice seracs. We will fix lines on the Buttress all the way up to the ridgeline where we will establish Camp 1 on the mountain.
The route from Camp 1 to the summit moves up a long snowfield, through a bottleneck and then up another long snowfield to the base of the headwall that leads to the summit ridge. Both snowfields and the bottleneck are home to massive crevasse fields. Many of these crevasses will be hidden from view by deep snow. In order to avoid the crevasses, we will forge a left-to-right loop on the lower snowfield, move back left towards the east ridgeline and then head up the bottleneck to the upper snowfield. Because the crevasses may be hidden from view, we will tie in to a rope line, with each climber 50 feet apart. We will use our ice axes to probe for crevasses. Should any climber break through the snow and fall into a crevasse, the rest of the climbers will drop to their knees and plant their ice axes in the snow and ice to arrest the fall. This will make for a very slow, arduous and exciting ascent.
Once we reach the headwall that leads to the summit ridge, we will set up our second camp on the mountain. Early the following morning, we will make our move to the summit. The headwall is steep and icy, which will require us to fix lines on the mountain for safety. Upon reaching the summit ridge, we will make a sharp left turn and move to the summit. The pitch on the ridgeline is steep, but, thankfully, free from crevasse and serac risk. Upon reaching the summit, we will celebrate and then start the move down, all the way back to Base Camp.
We will spend 1 night at Base Camp and depart the following day. It will take us 4-days to trek back to Lukla and 1 day to fly from Lukla to Kathmandu, where we will enjoy a celebratory dinner and then return home.
As usual, I will file daily expedition reports on my blog, accompanied by photos and video. Other climbers and trekkers will do the same on their blogs, including Garrett. If you have not already recorded your e-mail address on my blog, please consider doing so before the trip so you receive e-mail alerts when reports are filed. I will be documenting the entire trip with photos and video, which I will share with you after I return.
Here is a more detailed Itinerary of the expedition: Burke Khan Climb-7