Dear Family & Friends:

During the darkest days of World War II, King George VI came to the microphone of the BBC to deliver the annual Christmas message to the British Commonwealth. He spoke these eloquent and immortal words:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

As we enter this new year, following a year of unprecedented turmoil, hardship and stress for many Americans, and others abroad, I take comfort in these words, and look forward to the future with great hope, promise and anticipation for the good things to come.

I wish all of you God’s blessings, and I hope you have a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2009.

I will be returning to Nepal this year for my third attempt to climb Mt. Everest. Those of you who have followed my previous adventures know that I reached the South Summit of Mt. Everest in 2007, becoming the oldest American to climb that high and return alive. At 28,750 feet, I was less than 100 meters short of the true summit at 29,035 feet. In 2008, my trip was cut short on the trek to Base Camp when a nasty virus I contracted on the flight to Kathmandu morphed into pulmonary edema. Two of my daughters, Lori and Amy, traveled with me for the trek to Base Camp and were hale and hearty when our trip was cut short at the village of Pheriche (14,600 feet). Had we continued, I have no doubt they would have easily reached Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet). They will be returning with me this year.

Although I did not reach the summit of the mountain of my dreams in 2008, the trip was a complete success, as we visited an orphanage in Kathmandu and distributed much needed goods and supplies to these precious children and their angel caretakers. We will visit them again this year.

I have decided to ratchet up the challenge a bit for my third attempt to climb Mt. Everest by completing a traverse of the mountain, ascending the South side in Nepal and descending the North side in Tibet. As far as I know, this has never been completed by anyone my age (67 in March). And, if I kiss the summit, I will be the oldest American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

Hopefully, this year will be free of the distractions that plagued last year’s climbing season. You will recall that the Chinese closed the North side of the mountain and were successful in persuading Nepal to place severe restrictions on climbing teams moving up the South side until the Chinese carried the Olympic Torch up the North side to the summit. Funny thing, after all that sound and fury, I never saw the Torch on the summit as part of the Olympic ceremonies. Maybe I missed it. One thing I can guarantee: if I make the summit, you will see the American flag with me–the same one I have carried to the top of the other 7 peaks pictured on my website:

In September and October of 2008, I completed a glorious 37-day, 6,279 mile round-trip motorcycle journey to Banff Park, Canada on my Harley Davidson Road King Classic. I visited 3 Canadian provinces, 10 states and 7 national parks. I kept a motorcycle diary, shot lots of still photos and videoed the entire trip with a high definition camcorder. The diary and some of the still photos are posted on my website.

As it gets closer to the departure date in March, I will post another message with more details of the expedition.

Bill Burke