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New Zealand’s Christine Burke achieves ‘The Double’

New Zealand’s Christine Burke achieves ‘The Double’

New Zealander Christine Burke has completed her Sport New Zealand Hillary Expedition by climbing the eleventh and thirteenth highest mountains in the world in rapid succession, joining a small club of climbers who have conquered ‘The Double’ of Mt Gasherbrum 1 (G1) and Mt Gasherbrum 2 (G2).

Christine says generally people do not try to climb ‘The Double’ due to the small chance of getting two periods of good weather to summit and having the strength to do both. She also said G2 was more of an endurance test than G1, which was more of a technical challenge.

“On G2, although it had been a tough climb, the day was as perfect as I have ever had and I felt I had climbed well. As soon as I reached the summit I really took the time to take it all in. I could not believe the view and that I was seeing India, China and Pakistan all at once.”

Christine said the climbs were marked with sadness though, given a number of tragic climbing-related events that happened in the region while she was there, including a number of climbing fatalities that season on K2 and G1. There was also the terrible event in Nanga Parbat where 11 climbers were attacked and killed days before Christine’s departure from Skardu.

“We were so terribly sad for the families and friends of the climbers and for the good people in Pakistan who deplore such violence. We also had to do some thinking as a team, so we sat down and went through the pros and cons, and did our own risk assessment, with the assistance of information we were receiving from people within Pakistan.

“Nearly a week after the tragedy, the Government issued our climbing permit. So, then the decision became ours and as a team we decided unanimously to proceed. We knew there were no guarantees of safety and none of us expected any guarantee. We knew there were risks but we were all used to dealing with risk and we decided to go.

“We were treated so well by the Pakistani people we met. They were so lovely and grateful to us for coming to visit their country. They know the perception of their country in the world media and because of that they were extra grateful to us for coming in the first place and then for continuing despite the tragedy at Nanga Parbat base camp.”

Once Christine started climbing, things generally went well. She said they did experience high winds above camp 3 on G1. Some other teams’ tents were blown off the mountain. Other climbers set off for their summit push only to be forced to turn back to safety due to the same winds. At one point it seemed likely that there would be no chance to ascend. But patience paid-off as the weather improved and Chris and Lakpa were able to reach the summit.

Christine says she hopes her expedition will be especially inspiring to women, as mountaineering continues to be dominated by men with just 10 percent of climbers being female.

“I want to propel New Zealand women onto the world mountaineering map for high altitude climbing. New Zealand women have wonderful attributes that make them prime candidates for taking it on. However, despite New Zealand having some of the best climbing terrain in the world, our women are not proportionately represented on the world climbing stage. I believe I can contribute to the numbers and climb successfully at high altitude, and can create the necessary noise inside and outside New Zealand to put the world on notice.

“It’s amazing and exhilarating. It’s not without some discomforts, but with a significant amount of self-satisfaction from pushing through,” she says.

Christine is now travelling back to Kathmandu and hoping to get a permit in Nepal for one more 8000 metre mountain for this year. That would be four in one season, which very few people in the world have done this according to available statistics

This expedition was one of seven Sport New Zealand Hillary Expeditions that has been awarded funding this year. Sport New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin says Christine and Sherpa Lakpa have done a brilliant job on a successful expedition, and Christine is proof that New Zealanders are showing they can match it with the best on the world stage.

“One of the reasons the Sport NZ Hillary Expeditions exist is because we want these adventures to inspire Kiwis to get out there. Christine is an inspiring figure who is testing herself on some incredible mountains, she’s already climbed three 8000 metre peaks in one season, and there are only 14 of those in the world. To do two of those in one expedition, within days, is a brilliant achievement,” said Miskimmin.

Profile Christine Burke
Christine is originally from Timaru, but has lived in Sydney for the last 20 years. Since 1998, she has climbed mountains all over the world, including those in Nepal, China, Africa, Malaysia, South and North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. She is one of the few New Zealand women to reach the summit of Mt Everest and is also the first New Zealand woman to complete the Seven Summits, climbing to the highest point on each of the seven continents. Christine has also worked as a lawyer and a business trainer.

For more information on the Sport New Zealand Hillary Expeditions, go to www.hillaryexpeditions.org.nz

Climbing stats www.8000ers.com

ENDS

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