An Interview with Richard Burgunder
Editor: Great to speak with you, Richard. Thank you for giving our magazine some of your time! You’ve done some spectacular climbs in your amazing career, and it seems that climbing is something you excel at.
Let’s check out the list of mountains you’ve climbed:
Richard has summitted:
Mount Elbert: 14,440’ (Highest peak in the Rocky Mountains) (Colorado)
Mount Massive: 14, 428’ (Colorado)
Mount Harvard: 14, 423’ (Colorado)
Blanca Peak: 14,351’ (Colorado)
La Plata Peak: 14,336’ (Colorado)
Longs Peak: 14,259’ (A very famous and challenging mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park) (Colorado)
Pikes Peak: 14,114’ (One of the most famous mountains in the USA) (Colorado)
Mount Princeton: 14,197’ (Colorado)
James Peak: 13,301’ (Colorado)
Mount Audubon: 13,221’ (Colorado)
Mount Fuji: 12,389’ (One of the most famous mountains in the World (Japan))
Bear Peak: 8,461’ (Colorado)
Mount Washington: 6,288’ (Known for the most extreme weather in the world) (New Hampshire)
Manitou Incline: 2,000 feet of elevation gain over less than 1 mile (Colorado)
Richard has climbed six of the top ten highest peaks in the contiguous United States, Mt. Fuji, and several other prominent peaks throughout North America.
Editor: You are described as a consummate professional in marketing, representing and promoting services for global professional and Olympic athletes, and are the CEO of Extremus. Tell us a little bit about your company. When and why did you start it?
Richard Burgunder: My company Extremus, LLC encompasses three core brands – Extremus, There Are No Limits Foundation, and Richard Burgunder.
Extremus is a global lifestyle company that provides professional marketing and management services to an array of world-class clients who embrace the motto, “There are no limits.” By building and managing brand equity with effective marketing solutions, Extremus helps today’s premier global lifestyle leaders engage their target audience through sports and entertainment opportunities. As a lifestyle company specializing in strategic marketing management, Extremus has consulted for corporations, sports organizations, sports and entertainment
venues, universities, and individual athletes across five continents. The
firm’s core services revolve around three areas: brand representation,
marketing & management, and brand development.
There Are No Limits Foundation is a sports organization, which is invested in philanthropic and humanitarian efforts that aid in the development of elite athletes and sport throughout the USA.Richard Burgunder is a lifestyle entrepreneur, extreme athlete, and adventure.
I founded Extremus in 2012 as a means to pursue my passions in creative and engaging ways to amplify my interests in the lifestyle industry. I also wanted to make a positive and lasting impact in the lifestyle sports industry.
Editor: How old were you when you developed an interest in climbing?
Richard Burgunder: I have always had a passion for outdoor adventure and developed an interest in climbing in my 20’s. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was constantly exposed to the mountains and wilderness. As I grew older, I became more intrigued by extreme athletes and adventurers – through both my peers and readings. I was enamored by many of their stories of adventure and lusted for the real thing, myself. In 2010, I decided to pursue mountaineering as a subsidiary to adventure running.
However, I didn’t become very involved in climbing until I moved to Colorado in early 2013. Mountaineering is arguably now my favorite sport to pursue.
Editor: We’d love to know about your first ever climbing trip. Where was it and who taught you to climb? What impression did that experience leave on you?
Richard Burgunder: My first realclimbing trip was a solo expedition on Mount Fuji in Japan. I made a spontaneous decision to climb 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 at the Marunuma Kogen ski resort in Katashina Village, Gunma, Japan. This stunningly and mystically beautiful region is known as “Samurai country". I was exhausted and physically beat up, but decided to make a fast-pitched summit approach early the following morning. While I have climbed many of mountains leading up to this point, this would be my first summit over 10,000 feet. My climb started off well – but way too fast.
I was extremely excited about this experience and eager to summit. However, my body was also weakened from the extreme racing experience less than a day earlier. Between being rushed to do so much in such little time, I mistakenly looked over proper nutrition techniques and rest. The lack of attention to these details would later greatly impact me in a very negative way. My climbing experience on Mount Fuji was an eventful one. Upon ascending the mountain, I met many of intriguing climbers from all around the world – from Europe to Japan. There were even a handful of Americans that I crossed paths with on the way up, including a young couple from Chicago. I was enthusiastic about ascending the mountain and stopped at all of the huts to enjoy the views and talk with other climbers.
However, none of my rest stops were adequate enough. I continued to blaze up the mountain – both malnourished and exhausted. Shortly before the summit, I started to feel incredibly ill. I continued on, but my sickness became worse. I hit the summit, but then became disorientated. Thinking that it was most likely either dehydration or altitude sickness, I started to descend the mountain. However, my situation became much worse with an intense shacking, numbness, tingling, body temperature drop, and more severe symptoms. At this point, I started to become sacred and fearful for my life. I made my way down to the 8th Station, where I desperately sought portable oxygen from a young Japanese woman who was aiding the hut.
She gave me one, which I immediately used. It did nothing for me. I then pleaded for a second, but she refused. With the language barrier and being disorientated, I wasn’t sure why at first, until it became clear that I didn’t have enough money for a second one. I continued to plead with her and offered my camera and other valuables for more oxygen. She gave me another one after taking my bag full of gear. As with the first, this canister did absolutely nothing. I was now on laying on the floor freezing and white as a ghost. I was struggling to keep my eyes open, too. For some reason, I felt that if I gave in to my eyes closing, that I would die on that cold floor at the 8th Station.
Then out of nowhere, an older Japanese man walks out of a back room with a full cylinder of medical oxygen and insist that I lay down on my back. He tucks me into a sleeping bag and packs blankets on top of me. Once made comfortable, he hooks me up to the oxygen and tells me to relax and that I will be OK. An hour later, I regained full consciousness and slowly made my way down the mountain. What just transpired was almost like a dream – I couldn’t believe that I was still alive and was nearly in tears of joy. I was very grateful as I realized that if not for the old man, I would most likely have gone into shock and died on the mountain.
While I might have survived the actual incident on the mountain, I was far from home free. The next several of weeks after being back in the USA would include horrific panic attacks and sickness. I went to the ER and my pulse dropped to 11. Later on, I was diagnosed with suffering from HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema). Between the initial medical effects of HAPE and the traumatic experience on Mount Fuji, it took several of years to fully overcome this ordeal.
What happened in Japan taught me a about myself and mountaineering. I learned how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. However, the incredible experience that I had also opened up the doors to many of new
adventures. I became fascinated with mountains and their power. While the
mountains are very majestic, I also learned that they must be respected. I have
developed a love for the mountains and the people of them.
Editor: That’s a truly incredible story. Each mountain has a specific feel or energy to it. What were the names of the toughest route/s you ever did?
Richard Burgunder: The most challenging routes that I have done would include the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak and Mt. Massive in the late spring. I have climbed Longs Peak in both the summer and winter – and it provides many of extreme risks. The Keyhole Route is a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an un-roped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs. During the summer, late afternoon lighting and hail storms are common on Longs Peak. In the winter time, hurricane force winds, ice, and snow create many of additional risks associated with climbing Longs Peak. This mountain is very majestic and powerful – and climbing it provides a surreal experience for any mountaineer.
Mount Massive is the second highest peak in Colorado and is appropriately named, with seven summits over 14,000 feet. While Mount Massive isn’t a technical mountain to climb, it does present several of other obstacles that can create a dangerous climbing environment. The main route is a 6.4 mile, moderate to strenuous hike, with an elevation gain of 4,300 feet. In the late spring, much of the trail is covered in waist-deep snow, which will test the climbers’ route finding skills. It will also test the climbers’ endurance and mental aptitude due to the immense intensity of navigating through endless snowfields. Mount Massive lives up to its name as an enormous mountain that’s both vastly beautiful and powerful. It dominates the skyline west of Leadville in Lake County, Colorado.
Lastly, Blanca Peak, which is the fifth highest summit of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the U.S. state of Colorado, provides a very surreal climbing experience. The 14,351 foot ultra-prominent peak is the highest summit of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Sangre de Cristo Range, and the Sierra Blanca Massif. What makes climbing Blanca Peak such a surreal experience isn’t just the sheer size and isolation of the mountain, but how the mountain is one of the four sacred peaks of the Navajo Indians, the largest Native American Tribe federally recognized in the United States. Blanca Peak or Tsisnaasjini' - Dawn or White Shell Mountain, is the Sacred Mountain of the East for the Navajo. A climber can feel their presence while deep in the backcountry of this range – and the sense of someone watching over them.
Editor: What are some of your all-time favorite areas to climb in the US?
Richard Burgunder: I greatly enjoying spending time in the Mount Massive Wilderness, which is a federally designated wilderness area in the Sawatch Range, located in the U.S. state of Colorado. Also, I love the San Isabel National Forest which is located in central Colorado. The forest contains 19 of the state's 54 fourteeners, peaks over 14,000 feet (4,300 m) high, including Mount Elbert, the highest point in Colorado. Additionally, I have always enjoyed adventure in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Lastly, the Appalachian Mountains have also provided many of enjoyable experiences throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Editor: You’re also a trail runner. How did you get into that sport?
Richard Burgunder: I have been a trail runner for over nearly 20 years. I
first started out by running cross country in high school. I continued with
sports throughout college, but didn’t become heavily involved with trail
running until about 2007. During this timeframe, I slowly started to get away
from road running and multisport racing. I desired more adventure and tried out
several trail and mountain ultramarathon events. I instantly fell in love with
the adventure aspect of these races and couldn’t wait to pursue more of them.
In 2008, I was introduced to XTERRA, which is the largest off road and trail
running series in the world. I continued racing XTERA for many of years and
experienced immense success. I also competed in numerous of other trail running and adventure races throughout the USA. I love how trail running provides real adventure and the opportunity to be in either the wilderness and/or other exotic places.
Editor: Who are your sports icons that taught you or inspired you in your career?
Richard Burgunder: I have always been inspired by sports icons that have
displayed strong convictions for what they believe in and/or are
nonconformists, such as Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens. However, I have been
following Kílian Jornet of Spain who was named the 2014 People's Choice
Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic. I find what Jornet has done to
be both incredibly fascinating and inspiring.
Editor: Climbing has a very pronounced effect on a person, and it brings you an awareness of yourself and of nature. There is a sense of clarity that mountaineers and runners feel in the midst of nature that is totally missing from life in the city. Nature also sharpens your intuitive power and ability to understand yourself and others better. Would you agree?
Richard Burgunder: Yes, I fully agree with this statement. Being alone deep in the wilderness or on top of a mountain, both represent the profound symbolism between man and nature. However, nature does not provide the pleasure that comes of perceiving this relationship. Such satisfaction is a product of a particular harmony between man's inner processes and the outer world. How we react to nature depends greatly upon our state of mind in approaching it.
Editor: Are there countries where you’d love to climb or run?
Richard Burgunder: Yes, there are several of countries that I would love to adventure run and climb in. Some of the countries that are high on my list include Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Tanzania. I am currently looking into a couple of expeditions in Ecuador that would include climbing three 18,000 foot summits.
Editor: Which mountains are on your to-climb list? Everest or K2, perhaps?
Richard Burgunder: Some of the mountains that are on my current climb list include Mt. Whitney, Mt. Rainer, and several of the top peaks in the Cordillera Oriental Range of Ecuador.
Editor: How can your company help an athlete be the best they can be?
Richard Burgunder: My company Extremus helps athletes be the best that they
can be by offering a diverse portfolio of brand development, marketing and
management, and brand representation professional services. The consulting
services that Extremus offers are backed by a wealth of first-hand experiences.
Extremus has secured visas for athletes from Africa to compete as invited
international elite athletes in the USA for the first time, brand
ambassadorships, sponsorships, strategic partnerships, and humanitarian
Extremus has collaborated with many of world-class brands and
over 50 elite and professional athletes in the lifestyle sports space from
eight countries including Kenya, South Africa, United Kingdom, Israel, Zambia,
Canada, Puerto Rico, and the USA.
Editor: What is your web address?
Editor: Thanks for chatting with us, good luck with your company and we hope to do a follow up interview with you in the future, Richard.
Richard Burgunder: Thank you very much for having me. I wish you the best of luck with your efforts on educating and inspiring people about the surreal experiences that mountaineering offers.
Richard Burgunder on Mt. Fuji. Photo Credit Richard Burgunder.
On the Cover: Richard Burgunder
Cover Date: November 21st, 2014
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