Christine achieves Seven Summits
Five months after being held hostage in West Papua, Timaru-born mountaineer Christine Burke has returned to successfully summit Carstensz Pyramid.
Reaching the top of the 4884-metre mountain realises her goal of becoming first New Zealand woman to summit the highest mountain on each of the world's seven continents - both the original and revised list. The mountaineering endeavour is known as the Seven Summits.
Also of Australian nationality, Ms Burke can also claim to be the fourth Australian woman to complete both. About 350 people have completed both lists, 35 of whom are women.
She was "excited and relieved" to have succeeded.
On August 11 last year Ms Burke was a member of an international climbing team attempting to climb Carstensz Pyramid when they were held hostage for 20 hours by a group claiming to be an anti-government militia. The militia members were armed with guns, bows and arrows and machetes, and demanded US$100,000.
Not receiving the money, they demanded the team leave the mountain and West Papua immediately. The group were evacuated by air the following morning.
"It took a while to recover from the ordeal and I didn't want to make any foolhardy or hasty decisions," Ms Burke said. But she was determined to climb the "famously beautiful peak".
"I made a lot of inquiries, researched, considered options, and in the end felt satisfied that returning via a different route would be a calculated and considered risk worth taking.
"I also bumped into a few climbers who had managed to summit and grilled them about their experiences."
Her second attempt at the mountain was also not without incident and the team again faced hostilities from some locals.
"(There were) human blockades, our gear was held pending payment of fees with threats to prevent us from boarding our plane, but we navigated our way through those issues.
"Most importantly, we took a different route to the one we took in August and that made all the difference."
But most local people were "incredibly kind", she said.
It was a beautiful part of the world - "rugged, wild, and the climb was truly magical".
"The trek into the mountain was hard, with rain every day and deep mud under foot, but you can't have everything."
Ms Burke's next mission is to Nepal in a bid to reach the summit of Mt Lhotse, the world's fourth highest peak.
She was awarded a 2013 Sport NZ Hillary Expedition Grant, which will help fund her scheduled climbs of Gasherbrums 1 and 2 in Pakistan, the world's 11th and 13th highest mountains, in June. Both are over 8000m.
The Timaru Herald