Billi Bierling on Cho Oyu: 3 questions, 3 answers
Anyone who has been on expedtion in Nepal more than once should have met her. Billi Bierling has been working as an assistent to Elizabeth Hawley, the legendary chronicler of mountaineering in the Himalayas, for many years. The meanwhile 92-year-old American is regarding Billi as her successor as leader of the Himalayan Database. What many people don’t know: the 49-year-old German does not only visit arriving and departing expedition members in the hotels of Kathmandu to interview them for the chronicle but is an ambitious high altitude mountaineer herself. She has climbed four eight-thousanders so far: in 2009 Mount Everest, in 2011 Lhotse and Manaslu (she reached this summit without bottled oxygen) and in 2014 Makalu. This fall she is tackling the 8188-meter-high Cho Oyu in Tibet. “I have chosen Cho Oyu for this year because I was here eleven years ago and reached just Camp 2 (at 7,200 meters). It was my first eight-thousander, and at that time I was convinced that I am not strong enough for such high mountains“, Billi writes to me. “Now I’m here again, and I really hope that the sixth highest mountain on earth will accept me this time. And like on Manaslu, I would like to reach the summit without supplemental oxygen.”
Billi, Cho Oyu might be your fifth eight-thousander. In preparation for expedition you did hundreds of kilometers mountain running. How high do you estimate your chance of success?
I believe that I benefit especially from my participation in the “Zugspitz Ultratrail” (the race around the Zugspitze, Germanys highest mountain covers a distance of about 100 kilometres and a total of more then 5,000 meters difference in altitude; last summer Billi finished the Ultratrail in 23:36.57 hours). During the training for this event I ran hundreds of kilometers in the mountains and I’m benefiting from that now. I feel very well acclimatized, and even after four days on the mountain, I still feel strong.
How are the conditions on Cho Oyu?
There is quite a lot of snow on the mountain, but it is very will consolidated. Until now I have been only at about 6,800 meters, above the ice wall, and until there the conditions were good. In the next days an Austrian colleague and I want to climb to Camp 2 and spend two nights up there. After that our acclimatization would be complete.
Besides Manaslu, Cho Oyu is the most requested eight-thousander this fall. Has the Base Camp the dimension of Everest BC?
It’s interesting, because in the last ten years Manaslu and Cho Oyu have got very commercialized. Both mountains are offered by commercial operators in preparation for Everest. Until ten years ago, most aspirants climbed Cho Oyu without breathing mask, now the majority is using supplemental oxygen. I estimate the number of climbers here at 250 to 300. A large Tibetan-Chinese expedition alone consists of about 150 people. For this reason it is good that I am here, because usually these expeditions slip through our fingers for the Himalayan Database.
Date21. September 2016 | 10:21