Tuesday, October 27, 2015

3,000 Feet Higher & Outside Magazine

Since our last post we have made good progress toward Burke Khang Base Camp stopping in three villages over the last three days and gaining over 3,000 vertical feet along the way. Our first stop was Khumjung where the majority of buildings sustained damage during the earthquake six months ago. We were pleased to see repair and rebuilding of structures was well underway but there is still quite a bit of work to be done before winter arrives.
We also visited the school and hospital that Sir Edmund Hillary built and during our guided tour with Bill's friend, Dr. Mingma, we had the good fortune of saying Namaste to a baby boy who had just been delivered that morning.
The following day we continued upwards and into the Gokyo Valley, stopping overnight in the tiny village of Dole at 13,300 feet. This morning our trek took us up to Machhermo where we are now. At an elevation over 14,500 feet we are currently higher than Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states.
The other noteworthy point since our last post was the publication of an Outside Magazine article about our First Ascent of Burke Khang.  Here is the link:

How to Claim a First Ascent in Nepal

We are doing well and hope you are too!  Until our next post...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Spectacular Sights of the Solu Khumbu

Greetings from the "Gateway to the Himalayas" the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar, the hub of trading activity in the Solu Khumbu Valley. This is our second day at the Panorama Lodge and here's the picturesque view from our room to show that the place has been appropriately named:

We spent about six hours hiking up here from the village of Phakding yesterday going from approximately 8,700' to 11,300' with colorful scenery every step of the way:

Not only has Daniel brought smiles to countless Sherpa children along the trail thanks to his non-traditional hiking garb, he has kept our entire team laughing hysterically at every meal.  We continue to be impressed and entertained by the TV theme songs he sings with improvised lyrics Daniel has created incorporating the members of our Burke Khang team.  We are all happy and healthy and adjusting fine to the altitude so far.  This morning we took a short hike gaining approx. 1,300 vertical feet above Namche to further acclimate and also get our first views of Mt. Everest.  For the seven members of our group who have stood on her summit, as well as the four who were seeing the majesty of this mountain in person for the first time, the sight is equally spectacular.  

Tomorrow we will continue our upward march to the village of Khumjung, and will keep you posted sometime over the next few days as the Burke Khang First Ascent Expedition continues.  Thanks for following along!  
Paul & Denise

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Burke Khang Expedition is Underway!

Namaste from Nepal where the Burke Khang Expedition is officially underway!  We've travelled many miles since finishing the CAF San Diego Triathlon Challenge on Sunday, flying out from LAX on Monday, stopping in Tokyo, then Singapore and finally arriving 32 hours later in Kathmandu yesterday.  It was a treat to walk into the familiar Yak & Yeti Hotel and see the smiling faces of Bill Burke and the rest of our team as they enthusiastically greeted our arrival.  

We were the last two to arrive and fortunately without any glitches with our checked luggage, we were all set to fly out to Lukla early this morning (Thurs. 10/22).  Our crew piled into the twin engine Dornier 228 and the sheer energy of our collective excitement felt more powerful than the horsepower and roar of the engines as we lifted off at 6:40 AM.  Flying into Lukla (rated as THE most extreme airport in the entire world) is always an adventure even though this was our fourth time here.  And the adrenaline-filled experience did not disappoint.  

Because of the heavy cloud cover on the approach, our pilot had to circle around several times while carefully avoiding mountain tops, until he finally found a hole in the clouds.  With the short 1,500 foot long airstrip in his sights, he expertly navigated us through the clouds into clear skies and a safe, albeit "edge of your seat" landing.
Not long after our feet were securely back on the ground we were thrilled to be reunited with DaOngchhu Sherpa.  It has been five years since we have seen DaOngchhu and had the great pleasure of spending two months with him climbing Everest, punctuated by the highlight of standing on top of the world together.  Early in the planning stages of this expedition, we made a special request with Garrett Madison to have DaOngchhu as part of our team and we are grateful to have his vast high-altitude mountaineering experience with us on Burke Khang.  
Before hitting the trail to Phakding (elevation 8,700 feet) where we are spending the night tonight at the Sunrise Lodge by the river, we assembled our entire team for a group photo.  We have a total of seven climbers and four trekkers (who will accompany us to Base Camp) plus our top notch guides Garrett Madison and Sid Pattison along with two of our Sherpas pictured here Ang Phurba (on left) and DaOngchhu.  For detailed bios and photos of our entire team please visit Bill's blog post: http://eightsummits.com/bill-burke-blog/mountaineering/burke-khang-climbing-team/

Monday, October 12, 2015

Burke Khang - Climbing Route

The anticipation continues to build as we do a final gear check and pack our bags for our once-in-a-lifetime First Ascent adventure departing one week from today!  In many ways climbing Burke Khang will be even more exciting than climbing Everest, primarily due to the fact that this has never been done before.  This is true pioneering in uncharted territory.  We do however have the advantage of Bill and Garrett's helicopter reconnaissance in April which has enabled us to map out a proposed route from their photos and video footage.

We are convinced this will be a challenging alpine climb, with a greater degree of technical difficulty than nearby Everest. In our last post we described our 10-day trek that will hopefully get us to Base Camp by Nov. 1st.  Here are Bill's thoughts on our best guess of the safest climbing route from Base Camp to the top (once again thank you Bill for the use of the following photos and text from your blog):

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:
South Face of Burke Khang

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 perilous 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:

Base Camp to C1

East Buttress
Camp 1 through Bottleneck

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 towards the summit. The pitch on the ridgeline is steep, but, thankfully, free from crevasse and serac risk.
Bottleneck to the Summit

If we are fortunate enough to have the cooperation of the weather, our health, and favorably safe snow conditions, we hope to reach the summit sometime between Nov. 9th - 11th.  Of course lots can and likely will change, but that's our current plan! 

If you haven't already watched the YouTube video of Bill's helicopter reconnaissance of the mountain in our Sept. 14th blog post, I highly recommend you check it out here:
First Ascent of Unclimbed Himalayan Peak!

In addition to video footage of the climbing route described above, it also contains some pretty incredible footage of Everest Base Camp and the infamous Khumbu Icefall shot just two weeks before the big earthquake that devastated Nepal in April.   

We look forward to updating our blog subscribers as this exciting adventure gets underway on Oct. 19th, so thank you for following along on our First Ascent of Burke Khang!
Paul & Denise