William "Bill" M. Burke graduated from Burbank High School and received his juris doctor (J.D.) from Stanford Law School in 1967, a member of the school's law review.

By 1972, he was married with children, practising law in Costa Mesa, California, eventually becoming a partner with the law firm Sheppard Mullin.

In 1986, he joined the international law firm Shearman & Sterling, until his retirement in 2003.

He sat on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Law and served 19 years as California commissioner on the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws as well as counsel of record of two cases heard by the United Supreme Court, both successful (see citations below); dizzying achievement on any resume. He also wrote three books and managed groundbreaking public securitization of non-performing Japanese real estate loans.

Bill BurkeBut our story begins ten years ago.

Bill Burke was in Japan on business contemplating his future and likely wrestling the demons of complex security law. To clear his thoughts, he decided he'd try to climb Mount Fiji, Japan (3,776m; 12,388 ft.). He found that next to Japanese security law, Mount Fiji was a walk in the park!

Bill Burke also discovered that he loved mountain climbing.

And besides, now that his children were adults, he needed something wild to keep him busy as he approached semi-retirement from his career as a corporate attorney. In any event his practice had been rewarding; in 2009 he was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers.

But Bill Burke was not going out as your typical lawn-bowler retiree. If nothing else, he had socked some money away to spend criss-crossing the world.

By 2002, he had Mount McKinley under his belt (20,320ft; 6194m). Mount Aconcagua in Argentina followed in 2003 (22,841 ft.; 6962m) and then Mount Kilimanjaro in 2004 (5,882m; 19,298 ft.) and the Antarctic peak, Vinson Massif (4,892m; 16,050 ft.).

In 2007, already a grand-father, he teased his way to within 300 feet from the 29,030 feet (8,848m) summit of Mount Everest but was not able to summit.

Another attempt in 2008 failed but on each occasion, Burke gained invaluable knowledge of the deadly environment.

Finally, on his third attempt, in 2009, Bill Burke managed the summit of Mount Everest at 9 a.m. Nepal time, on May 23, part of a  team which included a 19-year old Indian girl, Krushnaa Patil. This also put Bill in the exclusive Seven Summits group, having climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents.

By the time Burke submitted, the storm he climbed through was still raging and with the weather so intense, he decided not to take off his oxygen mask or facial covering (see image).

Over 4,000 hardy souls have ascended the Earth's highest peak except that Bill Burke was 67 when he did it, becoming the oldest American - attorney or otherwise - to accomplish the feat.

He tried it again in 2012, at 70, up the more dangerous North side but the weather made him turn around at 26,000 feet, in sight of the summit.


Thanks to Mr. Bill Burke for use of the pictures as well as some editorial amendments.