Dennis Knight Burge

Dennis Knight BurgeDennis Knight Burge passed away on Thursday, January 6 at the age of 86. He was born on December 8, 1935 to William and Gladys Burge in Ogden, Utah. He grew up in Sparks, Nevada, and received bachelors and master’s degrees in Physics from the University of Nevada, Reno. He worked as a physicist at China Lake for 40 years.

Dennis started his career for the Navy at China Lake in infrared research but soon moved to the Physics Division under Dr. Hal Bennett and finished his 40 year career in optical physics supporting Sidewinder missile optics development and other Navy optical programs.

He took up hiking in the Boy Scouts, and then mountaineering in college. He continued this interest with great enthusiasm after he came to China Lake, and over the years gradually expanded his range from weekend climbs of Sierra peaks to challenging ascents in Mexico, South America, Asia and Africa. These climbs included 20,000 ft peaks in the Andes and Himalayas as well as Mt. McKinley (Denali) and Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Dennis was one of 4 China Lake climbers on a 1965 expedition to the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan. The Expedition, with 125 porters, was only the second ever to approach the high peaks of Nuristan. The climbers made 7 first ascents in the range, 2 over 19000 ft.

As associate leader of the 1967 China Lake McKinley Expedition, Dennis joined 8 other strong climbers, making 3 ropes of 3, to achieve the largest successful climb of Denali to that date.

Traveling abroad over the years, Dennis joined an expedition visiting Mexico in 1975, climbing the Mexican Volcanos Popocatepitl, Ixtaccihuatl, and Orizaba. In the Andes, Dennis climbed Nevada Chinchey in 1973, Nevada Ausangate in 1978, and the great Huscaran in 1981.

Back in Nevada his father William commented, “Dennis is off on another of his dangerous and useless expeditions.” But these trips were a great source of pleasure for Dennis, and he loved detailing them in slide presentations for his friends and family. He was an avid bicyclist, marathoner, and ultramarathon runner. He completed the Boston Marathon twice during the 1990s (Wendy do you know these dates?). He extended his ultramarathoning to include team competitions that circled Lake Tahoe. Dennis was a dedicated member of the China Lake Mountain Rescue group for many years, and was Chair of the Owens Peak Group of the Sierra Club for many years.

Dennis joined the China Lake Mountain Rescue Group in 1962 and completed the summer Mountaineering Course. After that, he taught the Course for decades, instructing hundreds of hikers and climbers safe and effective mountaineering skills. He was a leader and a technical and winter qualified team member for years. He also served as a Chairman of the CLMRG. He participated in many operations, rescues, and recoveries with the CLMRG over the years.

He joined the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Sierra Peaks Section in 1964 attaining Emblem Member status, having climbed 10 of the most difficult, isolated, and dominating mountains in the Sierra Nevada. (The Emblem can be seen in the photo of Dennis and Carol).

As an Outings Leader in the Owens Peak Group, he co-led over 160 large monthly group hikes into the High Sierra in the summer months and in the Mojave Desert in the winter. No hike was repeated for the first 80 hikes attesting to Dennis’ ingenuity and great knowledge of the Sierra and Mojave terrain.

He is survived by his children, Bob Burge and his wife Angela of Modesto, California and Wendy Burge and her husband Scott Pelletier of Salem, Massachusetts as well as grandchildren Anderson Knight Burge and Genevieve Pelletier, brother Boyce Burge and sisters Betty Nelson and Diane Hunt, and many more dear family and friends.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 16 at 10:00AM. A short hike on the Pacific Crest trail heading north from the highway at Walker Pass will be followed by lunch at the Inyokern Bernardino’s 6601 W Inyokern Rd) restaurant at 12:30. If you knew Dennis please join us.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ridgecrest Chamber Music Society, PO Box 264, Ridgecrest, CA 93556-0264. Donations made in memory of Dennis will be matched by the estate.

Story First Published: 2022-03-25