Shaler grad Burgunder beats odds, summits Mt. Whitney
Shaler graduate Richard Burgunder III knew 30 percent of climbers summit Mount Whitney in California under perfect conditions. An intense snowpack forced Burgunder to take a more arduous route.
Making the climb with two strangers — one from Australia and another from Indiana — he navigated through intense weather to the peak. Burgunder reached the 14,508-foot peak at Mt. Whitney on June 27. He then conquered Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California, which is 8,842 feet above sea level, on July 6.
Over his trip, Burgunder climbed/hiked about 100 miles with 26,000 feet in elevation between Mt Whitney, Half Dome and two climbs to Lone Pine Lake. He has summitted eight of the highest peaks in the contiguous United States.
He also has summitted Mt. Fuiji and Mt. Shirane in Japan, Long Peak and Pike's Peak in Colorado and Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Burgunder is trying to set his sights on adding more to his resume.
“I am now trying to obtain a permit to solo climb Mt. Rainier as part of my quest to summit the highest 10 peaks in the contiguous United States,” Burgunder said.
Burgunder, 37 and a 1999 Shaler graduate, ran cross country and track for the Titans. He developed a passion for climbing in his 20s, starting with mountaineering after 10 years competing nationally on the XTERRA trail running global tour.
During Burgunder's 22-mile climb up Mt. Whitney, there were several stumbling blocks. He pushed his climb date back twice from June 21 because he was hospitalized for heat exhaustion. One of the days, the temperature was 124 degrees in Death Valley, which led to the illness.
Once he started up Mt. Whitney, Burgunder had to utilize an ice axe and crampons, which is a metal plate with spikes fixed to a boot for walking on ice or rock climbing.
“The climb up the chute was tedious as we had to traverse a long snowfield for a couple of miles before starting the chute,” Burgunder said. “The snowfield was a gradual climb that quickly increased in steepness the closer we got to the base of the chute. Furthermore, the reflective sun of the snow made the climb up the chute even more challenging as it was extremely hot and caused increased levels of exertion along with dehydration.”
Despite the challenges and odds, Burgunder plans to keep climbing. Following his first experience, there was no turning back.
Once he moved to Colorado in 2013, he began in earnest.
“I made a spontaneous decision to climb Mt. Fuji less than a day following the completion of the 2010 XTERRA Japan Championship, which was an extremely challenging 30k trail run deep in the mountains,” Burgunder said. “My climb on Mt. Fuji was an incredible experience, and I was immediately drawn to the mountains. ... Mountaineering has since replaced trail running as my favorite sport.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.