Yak & Yeti Hotel
May 31, 2012
Dear Family & Friends:
Here is the speech I gave at the Mt. Everest Day Celebration.
Fortunately, the Nepal Tourism Board taped the entire program. They are giving me a cd of the program before I head home.
5th Annual Sagaramantha (Mt. Everest) Day Celebration
Remarks of William M. Burke
May 29, 2012
Thank you. I am greatly humbled and honored to be asked to talk
on behalf of the international mountaineering community. My
qualifications are modest and pale in comparison to the qualifications
of many of you in attendance here today. However, I sincerely
appreciate the opportunity you have given me to offer my remarks at this
First, I want to congratulate those of you who summitted Mt. Everest
this year on both the South and North sides. This is a remarkable
achievement and you deserve to be proud.
I also want to congratulate those of you here today who climbed the
mountain but did not summit. You too deserve to be proud of your
efforts and especially happy that you made good decisions on the
mountain and are here today to celebrate life itself. It has been said
that everyone wants to stand on the summit, but all the teaching, all the
learning, all the hard work and all the experience occur on the ascent and
the descent and not on the summit.
Over the last 6 years, I have learned this valuable lesson that I pass along
to those of you who did not summit: the mountain will surely be here
next year if you decide to return.
This is my 6th year in a row on Mt. Everest-3 times on the South side
and 3 times on the North side. This was a special year for me because I
was able to climb from both the South and the North sides of Everest.
People often ask me why I keep coming back. Why do you do it year
after year? What’s the point since you have already summitted the
mountain? To be honest, sometimes I ask myself the same question.
Here’s the answer: I love the Himalaya mountain range. I love Mt.
Everest. When I come here each year and first put my foot on Mt.
Everest, I feel like I am standing on sacred ground. In fact, I am standing
on sacred ground. But, most of all, I come back every year because I
love the people of Nepal and Tibet. They are so friendly and welcoming
and willing to share their beautiful country with the international
climbing community. Thank you so much for your hospitality and your
We often celebrate the accomplishments of the local and international
climbers who come to the Himalayan region to climb these magnificent
mountains. But, we often forget to celebrate and thank those wonderful
people who make this possible and do most of the work and sacrifice the
most on the mountain.
I refer of course to the Sherpas, Sirdars, Base Camp Managers, porters,
cooks, medical doctors, icefall doctors, line fixers, helicopter pilots,
and those unselfish individuals who participate in rescue and recovery
efforts for stricken climbers. I also include, of course, the local and
international expedition companies and their leaders and guides who
work so hard to ensure our safety and our success on the mountain.
And, finally, let’s not forget the Lamas who come up to Base Camp
to conduct the Pujas and seek the blessing of the Almighty for our
I would like to spend just a moment talking about the ecology of Mt.
Everest. Over the last 6 years, I have seen a dramatic improvement
in the cleanliness of Mt. Everest as the government and the local and
international climbing community have mobilized efforts to remove
trash from the mountain. There remains much to be done, but these
efforts are paying huge dividends. In the “cash for trash” program our
team initiated in 2008, we were able to remove 5 tons of trash from Base
Camp South. I sincerely hope more teams will implement these types of
clean-up programs and require the use of wag bags on the mountain. The
cost is small, but the impact is positive and great.
Finally, a brief word about global warming. I know this is a
controversial topic. But, we saw the impact of this early in the season on
the South side with the lack of snow on the mountain causing deaths and
injuries from rock falls. The people of Nepal see this from a much larger
and more long-term perspective as climate change and global warming
threaten their economy, social structure, culture and way of life. As we
return to our countries, let’s keep this global concern in the public eye
and the public discourse with the hope that the international community
of nations can strike a proper balance between industrial development
and the need to protect our precious environment. Let’s also do what
we can as individuals in the short run to help the poorest of the poor in
Nepal who are the most negatively impacted by climate change through
the loss of jobs. We can help them by coming back to Nepal as tourists,
trekkers and climbers, which will put people to work and support the
economy. That’s what I plan to do.
Thank you, God Bless You, and see you next year.