Timaru-born mountaineer Christine Burke is hoping to become the first woman to climb the Gasherbrum mountains on the Pakistan-China border next year, having been named in a Hillary Expedition team that is provided partial funding through Sport New Zealand.
At 8000m high, they are two of the 14 highest mountains in the world.
The former Timaru Girls' High School student, who is now a Sydney-based lawyer, will embark on the expedition in June. It is expected to take her until August.
To add to the challenge, Ms Burke will climb without using oxygen.
She will be joined by climbing partner Lakpa Sherpa, who she has climbed with many times in the past five years.
"He has climbed in Pakistan previously so knows the region into which we are going," Ms Burke said.
"In Pakistan it will be exciting for us both to be out of our more natural surroundings, with different peoples and language challenges, on top of the usual climbing challenges."
She said she had a "slight physiological advantage" climbing at altitude because she had a blood condition that caused her to carry more iron and haemoglobin.
"My aim is not to use oxygen bottles for any summit push or at any other time on the mountain. However, for safety reasons, supplemental oxygen will be available if I get into difficulties."
She hoped her climb would "propel New Zealand women onto the mountaineering map" for high altitude.
"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."
Since 1998, Ms Burke has climbed around the world.
She is one of few New Zealand women to reach the summit of Mt Everest and this year became the first New Zealand woman to climb the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. A month later she was one of a climbing party taken hostage in Indonesia when she visited the country to climb Carstensz Pyramid in August.
- The Timaru Herald