Second Canadian woman to scale Mt. Everest visits West Island

Second Canadian woman to scale Mt. Everest visits West Island

Shaunna Burke spoke to LPHS students about importance of science

By Kevin Woodhouse

Last Wednesday, Shaunna Burke, who is based out of Ottawa, was in the West Island last week to speak to students at Lindsay Place High School about the value of science.

Burke, who is the second Canadian woman in the world to have scaled Mt. Everest in 2005, has proven that using science in your work can help you follow your true path. Burke’s interest in the world’s tallest peak began years ago and in 2004, along with a team from the channel Discovery, studied the psychological effects on climbers attempting to ascent the treacherous and dangerous mountain.

“We made it to the ‘Death Zone’ in 2004 and a year later, I was able, along with my team, to get to the top,” Burke told The Suburban.

Everest’s Death Zone is above 7,000 metres where it is impossible for the body to acclimatize, making sleeping and eating all but impossible. When Burke made the climb in May, she had not slept in three days and had only drank some water and some broth as “eating is difficult as you have no appetite at that height but you have to stay hydrated.

And while being in top physical and mental shape is a must for the climb that can cost anywhere between US$30,000-70,000, Burke knew the risks that “for some climbers, no matter how fit they are, cannot acclimatize at all and cannot continue.”

Because the climb is so perilous, it is not uncommon for climbers to have camp below the Death Zone so “some will climb but sleep at a lower altitude.”

During the two-month excursion to get to the top, Burke knew the inherent risks. “If someone is hurt or dies on the mountain, rescue can be too difficult as it can put the rescuers lives in danger as well,” Burke said.

The 2005 climb was used as part of Burke’s Ph.D. thesis for her Sports and Exercise Science program.

Part of her studies involved “cognitive dissidence where climbers will make choices during a climb they would not normally make in real life. For instance, walking past someone who needs help to get to the top is inconsistent with our regular way of thinking.”

Burke used her experiences on the mountain to tell students “we all need the courage to follow our dreams and taking a first step can be difficult because of our fear of the unknown. But once you get the right academic foundation, you can do whatever you want in life.”

Ottawa based Shaunna Burke, who became the second Canadian woman ever to scale Mt. Everest when she ascended the peak in 2005, made a recent trip to the West Island to talk to students about the value of science and having the courage to pursue your dreams.

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