Himalaya Fall 2016: Burke-Khang Remains Unclimbed for Another Year

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The major commercial operations have wrapped up for the year in the Himalaya, but there have been a few ongoing independent climbs of interest even late into the season. One of those, was the attempt by Bill Burke and David Liaño to make the first ascent of Burke-Khang a 6942 meter (22,775 ft) mountain that was named after Bill. Unfortunately, the expedition was called off not long after the team reached Base Camp, and as a result the peak will remain unclimbed for at least another year.

When last we checked in with Bill and David they were still trekking to BC to begin their ascent. They had spotted their objective from afar, but hadn’t yet gotten into position to start the climb as of yet. at that point, they were still a few days from getting settled in camp, but anticipation was high that they would get the chance to become the first men to stand on the summit.

Last year, Bill was part of a team that traveled to Nepal to make an attempt at the first attempt, but those climbers were turned back just below the summit. They found a narrow approach ridge that was difficult to fix ropes on and a bit too dangerous for them to press on to the top. Armed with the intel collected during that expedition, Bill returned this year with David in the hopes of finally finishing the job.

Unfortunately, they never really got a chance to give it a full effort. As they climbed up to Camp 2 along the same route the had established last year they discovered that heavy snow had created a cornice along the flanks of the mountain. That cornice made the entire approach unstable and incredibly unsafe. The cornice covered a large portion of where C2 was to be established, making it impossible to know where the mountain began and ended. Not wanting to risk falling through the cornice, the team wisely made the decision to pull the plug and go home.

As of now, Bill and David are back in Kathmandu and preparing to head home. Burke says that his mountain isn’t unclimbable, and that he feels under the right conditions someone will reach the top. That won’t be him however, as he says he currently has no plans to return to give it a third attempt. There are other adventures he’d like to pursue and this one has been elusive so far.

With this expedition heading home, there are only a few ongoing climbs at the moment. Traditionally, the fall climbing season wraps up completely by the end of November or early December as the weather begins to take a turn towards winter. There could still be a few successful climbs that sneak in under the wire, but for the most part things will go quiet until spring, when they will get very busy again indeed.

Kraig Becker