Kiwi rations fuel climber for attempt on K2

Former Dunedin resident Chris Jensen Burke scales Ama Dablam, which she says is a favourite of many climbers going to Nepal. Photo supplied.
Former Dunedin resident Chris Jensen Burke scales Ama Dablam, which she says is a favourite of many climbers going to Nepal. Photo supplied.

Former Dunedin mountaineer Chris Jensen Burke carries a taste of home when scaling the world's highest peaks.

Ms Jensen Burke is preparing for her first attempt at the summit of K2, the second-highest mountain after Everest, and has a healthy supply of ''Kiwi treats'' to sustain her.

She has already eaten her ration of malt biscuits so cannot make lolly cake, but she has stashed away a few cans of reduced cream and packets of onion soup for the ultimate New Zealand dip.

Based in Sydney, the 45-year-old lawyer gets her supplies from a specialist Kiwi store in the city.

''I always stock up before I leave for climbing trips, although I usually eat most of it before I start.''

The University of Otago graduate conquered Everest in May 2011, the fifth New Zealand woman to do so.

She recently became the first New Zealand woman to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents in a feat known as the Seven Summits, and plans to add a few more peaks in the 8000m class to her record before the year's end.

But K2 will be her biggest challenge to date.

At 8611m, K2 has the second-highest fatality rate of the 14 independent mountains on Earth that measure more than 8000m above sea level - the ''eight thousanders''.

For every four people who have reached K2's summit, one has died trying.

Speaking from Kathmandu, Ms Jensen Burke said she would leave for Pakistan about June 10 and the expedition would take about two months.

She expected to spend five or six weeks acclimatising on a mountain next to K2 and about two weeks at altitude on K2 itself.

''I think it's fair to say it will be the most challenging climb I've embarked on. It's a very big challenge and not to be underestimated.

"Mountains I've climbed have been getting more technical and more challenging and you can't look past K2 for physical difficulty,'' she said.

''It throws everything at you - weather, terrain and technicality.''

Beforehand, Ms Jensen Burke will attempt Makalu, the world's fifth-highest mountain and part of the Himalayas on the Nepal-China border.

She plans to start the climb in two weeks.

If she feels healthy and strong after K2, Ms Jensen Burke will then travel to China to tackle two more ''eight thousanders'' - her last climbs for the year.

''If I'm extremely tired or I've lost too much weight, I'll rest for a few months and probably spend that time in Australia and New Zealand.''

Her family supports her mountaineering, despite the dangers involved.

Ms Jensen Burke said her parents, who were from Dunedin, died years ago but her siblings were ''very supportive''.

''They've seen me climb mountains over the years and know I make good decisions and prepare well. They also know it's really important for everyone to be positive when preparing for a climb because mental strength is such a big part of it.''

In 2009, Ms Jensen Burke had a ''close call'' on the world's sixth-highest mountain, Cho Oyu in Tibet, which shaped how she has climbed since.

''That was enough for me to really learn to listen to myself more and trust my intuition and judgement. What I do is risky but I try very, very hard to manage that risk and I tell my family I'll come down from each mountain.''

She said it was crucial to know when to turn around and abandon a climb.

''I've done that a few times because of conditions or because things just haven't felt right.''

One mountain she has yet to conquer is Mt Cook.

She attempted the Aoraki summit in December 2012 but was ''almost blown off'' and plans to try again some day.

In the immediate future, Ms Jensen Burke wants to complete as many high-altitude climbs as she can.

''High altitude is so tough on the body and I'm trying to do it all now while I'm a bit younger.''

Warrington couple Paul and Shelley Hersey will embark next week on an attempt to climb a never-before-scaled peak in Nepal.

The seven-week expedition, including 45 days of walking to and climbing the 6800m Anidesha Chuli, also known as The White Wave, will begin on April 4.

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