73-year-old Bill Burke will be first to summit namesake peak

Bill Burke
Photo courtesy of Bill Burke/Outside Magazine

Last year, Nepal opened 104 new peaks in an attempt to boost tourism, naming many after notable climbers. Unsurprisingly, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the first people to summit Everest, were honoured by having 23,608-foot and 25,200-foot peaks named after them. Bill Burke, who holds the record for being the oldest American to summit Everest, also had a mountain named after him, although that was a surprise.

“I was floored,” Burke told Outside Magazine. “It was a total shock to me and a huge honour. I had no idea they were thinking of doing it.”

Burke didn’t find out that a 22,775-foot mountain was named after him until he had dinner with a climbing buddy months after the announcement. The naming is well earned though, Burke not only summited Everest at 67, he also did it again last year, at the age of 72, making him the oldest non-Asian to do so. Most amazingly, Burke didn’t start mountaineering until he retired from a prominent law firm at the age of 60.

Burke with flag

Photo courtesy of Bill Burke/Outside Magazine

Now, he’s determined to be the first person to summit his namesake peak, although that looks like it’ll be quite the challenge.

Burke-Khang sits between Everest and Cho Oyu, and according to Outside Magazine, the initial team of Sherpas Burke commissioned to scout the mountain told him that while the peak was situated in one of the most beautiful places in Nepal, it was pretty much unclimbable.

“They said it was technically gnarly, had steep vertical, was covered in crevasses, and ultimately recommended against attempting it.”

This assessment didn’t deter Burke, however, who went looking for a second opinion. He reached out to Garret Madison, of Madison Mountaineering, and the two took a helicopter ride between climbs to check out the potential route. While they still determined it to be challenging, they decided to try it and arrived with a group of climbers at basecamp on October 30.

It should be no surprise that Burke didn’t give up on the peak, after all he says his peers have a nickname for him because of his resilience:

“They call me the Energizer Bunny: moves slow but never stops.”

If you want to keep track of Burke’s progress, check out his blog, which will be regularly updated during his ascent.