News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.


by Joe Castillo

Climbing Challenge  ….   Bill Burke retired as a lawyer at the age of 60 and immediately moved on to the next phase of his life. It wasn’t what most retired people do but it was what Bill Burke wanted to do. Burke wanted to climb the highest peaks on each continent and for someone who had never climbed before, it would surely be a challenge. But at the age of 60, Burke embarked on a physically challenging and emotional journey to do what no one else had ever done. He trained, trained and trained some more and then tackled each continents’ highest peaks. His conquests included Mt. McKinley, Aconcagua, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Elbrus, Vinson Massif, Mt. Kosciuszko, the Carstensz Pyramids and Mt. Everest. These were the highest peaks on each of their respect continents and when Burke summited 29,000 foot Mt. Everest in 2009, he became the oldest American to accomplish the feat. At a recent meeting of the San Gabriel Valley historical organizations, Burke presented his documentary on his trek up Mt. Everest. He brought along his own mountain climbing equipment to show the audience the necessary tools for mountain climbing. His collection included a harness, helmet, goggles, hand gloves, hiking shoes with crimp-ons, Carabiners and Jumar devices to protect you from sliding down your rope. In addition, Burke brought empty oxygen tanks which are used for elevations above 23,000 feet and a supplement oxygen system which allows you to breath in the high altitude. Each oxygen tank will last 6-7 hours and one can use 8 tanks in each climb. Burke also showed his down coat which can keep someone warm in weather up to -30 degrees which is well worth its $1,000 cost. Burke has tried to climb Mt. Everest five times and has been successful only once which was on 5/23/2009. He was 67 years old at the time, and his body was completely challenged to accomplish the feat. In 2012, Burke attempted to summit Mt. Everest from both the north and south sides in the same season, which is only 3 months long between April and June. The climb was difficult with high winds reaching 100 MPH, avalanches, rock slides and traffic jams of climbers also intent on reaching the Mt. Everest summit.  But there were other dangers along the way including loss of oxygen, hypothermia, frozen extremities which are always the first to feel the effects of the bitter cold and just standing around while trying to avoid freezing. In preparation for his climbs, Burke trained 6 days a week for one year. He lost 30 pounds from training but also prepared spiritually and emotionally for the climb. It was a complete effort to prepare for the 2012 Mt. Everest climb but Burke’s journey ended when he failed by just 1,000 feet away from reaching the summit. However Burke was not disappointed and stated that ‘you don’t have to summit any mountain in order to be successful’. Many climbers do not survive Mt. Everest and their bodies remain on the mountain in a frozen state. Bill Burke has accomplished what no other older American has done and has proven that retirement is not the end of life but the beginning of new goals….

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