Majka Burhardt Osprey Sponsored Athlete and Climber
As an author, professional climber, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, Majka has spent two decades exploring the globe - her stories of challenge, humanity, and the fine line between extreme and acceptable risk inspire and challenge audiences around the world.
It was the 1981 Toughen Up Majka Campaign that transitioned Majka away from her tiara and toward a life outside. What her Polish father started, climbing finished, and Majka was climbing and guiding with every spare moment when she was 19 and full time at 21. From African rock ascents to mixed lines in New England, Majka’s passion lies in the moment when adventures goes beyond exploration and toward understanding. She’s the author of two books, a filmmaker, and a poodle owner. She took her first leader fall on a pink tri-cam and her second on a brown one, and now seems oddly more comfortable above a micro-nut than a bolt. One day she vows to go back and send The Gunks’ 5.6 Baby- the site of that first whipper.
It’s always best to start with the name. Technically, it’s “My-ka,” sometimes it’s Maj, and if you want to traumatize her, it’s Mike. But watch out, because when Majka was growing up, she recorded each time her sister caller her Mike in a pink-sequined notebook and turned it into their parents for a weekly older-sister trauma report. Add to this being a five-year-old who hyperventilated over papercuts, cried over indigestion, and refused to go to bed without a tiara, sprinkle in the “1981 Toughen-Up-Majka-Campaign” (a little bit of ingenuity on her Polish father’s part) and the result is a woman who became a mountain guide at age nineteen and hasn’t looked back since.
These days Majka is a writer, climber, and AMGA-Certified Rock Guide who lives, depending on the season, in Boulder, Colorado or North Conway, New Hampshire. Lately she’s also been spending a lot of time searching for stone in Africa. In 2007, she established first ascents on sandstone towers in Ethiopia, and came home and wrote a book about it: Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Toward Possibility in the Horn of Africa (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/vertical-ethiopia-primary/) . A return trip landed her in Namibia, where she, Peter Doucette, and Kate Rutherford climbed a new route up the granite walls of Namibia’s highest peak, The Brandenburg. Waypoint Namibia, (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/waypoint-namibia/) the film, followed. Majka’s recently reported an obsession with bringing scientists up onto vertical faces and is hip-deep in a project in Mozambique doing just that and making a film about the isolated granite peaks of northern Mozambique and Malawi and a motley crew of rock climbers, scientists, and conservationists who explore this unknown terrain in a shared pursuit of a more integrated world (see the status at www.thelostmountainfilm.com). In addition to her focus on Africa’s rock walls, Majka spent from 2006-2011 exploring its cultural coffee roots, resulting in her second book: Coffee Story: Ethiopia (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/coffee-story-ethiopia/).
Talk to Majka for five minutes and you will likely know two things: she is intense, and she loves poodles—mountain poodles, not the foofy weird hair-do ones (so get that picture out of your mind). What you might never learn is that she always goes to bed at 9:30, when she’s not out dancing until 2am. She’s built a strawbale house, made three-tier wedding cakes, installed a septic system, worked as an EMT in Trenton, NJ, and has never run but only jogged. In fifth grade she got the award for the most checking penalties in the Minnesota floor hockey league — the boys one. She took her first leader fall on a pink tri-cam and her second on a brown one, and now seems oddly more comfortable above a micro-nut than a bolt. She may or may not have recently experienced a rollerblading renaissance.
Majka’s a self-proclaimed mental tooth-wiggler—that place where there is comfort in the uncomfortable—and explores that tendency in her writing, climbing and in her speaking about her travels and projects. When not in Africa, she’s swinging ice tools or balancing them on the subtle makeup of the rock at hand, climbing long alpine rock routes, guiding, and plotting road trips to take in her ’97 Eurovan. She’s climbed rock, ice, and mountains from Corsica to Alaska, Poland to Nepal, and South Africa to Argentina. She’s constantly debating if her next trip should be a return trip to a favorite place or to a new destination.
Majka has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and received her BA in Anthropology from Princeton University. She champions what she calls “Additive Adventure”—when adventure goes beyond exploration to cultural and environmental connections that create a larger conversation of singular and collective human meaning. She speaks often about the merger of adventure, ambition, culture, and perception and brings a lifetime of inquisitive travel to her projects.
Majka’s an alumnus of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and Outward Bound, and credits the two organizations with convincing her to pursue a life outside. She’s a widely published magazine writer with articles in publications including: Afar, Skiing Magazine, Alpinist, The Explorers Journal, and Climbing, where her column “Whipped," ran for six years. She is an athlete for Patagonia, Osprey Packs, Petzl, Scarpa, and Julbo and serves on the Board of directors of the American Mountain Guides Association. She was a ski racer as a child and hopes to be one again. When she’s eighty she’d like to finally have the guts to ride her bike without holding onto the handlebars, in Italy, between villas with great wine.
The Liminal Line Blog (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/liminal-line-blog/ )
Waypoint Namibia Movie (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/waypoint-namibia/)
Coffee Story Ethiopia (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/coffee-story-ethiopia/ )
Vertical Ethiopia (http://www.majkaburhardt.com/vertical-ethiopia-primary/)
Watch Majka give a TEDx talk: