(Q&A) Bill Burke, Back to His Mountain

Never say Never

Four months ago Bill Burke sent out a brief message from the peak he was attempting.

“Dear Family- The trip is over […] I am choppering out of here tomorrow. I’ll never cross those glaciers again…

Many mountaineers know the feeling.

Many mountaineers also know the feeling after a few months of recovery back home. And so the other day a new message from Bill arrived. He’s back.

We caught up with the climber for details.

Pythom/Exweb: How high did you go last time and what went wrong?

Bill Burke: This blog post explains how high I went and what went wrong. Bottom line, we ran into an impassable icefall at around 21,000 feet.

Pythom/Exweb: What made you want to throw in the towel for good?

Bill Burke: This was an emotional reaction born out of exhaustion and the terrible conditions we found on the mountain, just like the 2015 expedition. On reflection at sea level, I changed my thinking. It’s happened before, and will probably happen again.

Pythom/Exweb: What made you change your mind?

Bill Burke: I would like to be the first to climb my eponymous peak. I also love the challenge of climbing a mountain that is much more difficult, technical and wily than Mt. Everest.

Pythom/Exweb: What do you plan to do differently this time?

Bill Burke: Conduct a helicopter reconnaissance pre-climb to look for a safe route. Bring more rope and ladders. Have the Sherpa team fix the route before I get there. Spend more time acclimatizing at Gokyo.

Pythom/Exweb: Climbing is dangerous, something a mountaineer – like a fighter – must come to terms with. What makes it worth it?

Bill Burke: I love the mountains. I love living on the edge. I love discovering how far I can push my body at age 74 and what my limits are, if any.

Pythom/Exweb: What’s the tentative schedule ahead?

Bill Burke: I depart for KTM, Nepal on March 1. I fly to Lukla on March 5 and start the 50+ mile trek to Base Camp at the foot of the mountain. I will arrive at BC on March 14 and begin the climb. At that point, anything goes, but I hope to summit on March 16.

Bill is about to attempt Burke-Khang (6,742 meters/22,775 feet) named after him and never climbed before.

Previous: Bill Burke – Time to come home

Related: Interview: Oldest Everest Climber Goes for Virgin Peak Named For Him

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