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Sherpa dies in avalanche on Dhaulagiri

R.I.P.

Tragic incident on the eight-thousander Dhaulagiri in western Nepal: Yesterday an avalanche hit a seven-man Sherpa team of the operator “Seven Summit Treks”, who were fixing ropes between Camp 2 (6,400 m) and Camp 3 (7,400 m). “Six (Sherpas) survived the avalanche unharmed, but the only 24-year-old Dawa Gyaljen, born near (the eight-thousander) Makalu, is missed,” Spaniard Luis Miguel Lopez Soriano wrote on Facebook. Luis accompanies his 79-year-old friend Carlos Soria, who this fall is trying for the tenth and, in his own words, probably last time to scale Dhaulagiri. The 8,167-meter-high mountain and Shishapangma (8,027 m) are the last two eight-thousanders still missing from Carlos’s collection.

Date

20. September 2018 | 18:38

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Death on Cho Oyu

Upper slopes on Cho Oyu

The good news first: The finished spring season in the Himalayas has shown that coordinated rescue operations for climbers in serious trouble are also possible in Tibet. For example, the Chinese authorities even allowed the use of Nepalese rescue helicopters in the case of the Bulgarian Boyan Petrov, missing on the eight-thousander Shishapangma. At the same time, a team consisting of three Sherpas and three Chinese climbers, was searching for Boyan directly on the mountain’s slopes. Unfortunately in vain. But the cooperation between Nepalese and Tibetan rescuers could have set standards for the future. Also on the 8,188-meter high Cho Oyu, a three-person Chinese-Tibetan rescue team was deployed immediately after an emergency call. Now for the bad news: As with Petrov, there was no happy ending in this case too. And the world hasn’t heard about it either –till today.

Date

7. June 2018 | 15:55

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No Everest ascents without bottled oxygen after all

Everest (l.) in the first daylight

Actually, it’s quite simple. An Everest summit success without bottled oxygen means that the climber did not use a breathing mask. And that’s exactly why the only two alleged climbs without bottled oxygen reported this spring season from the highest mountain on earth were indeed only summit successes, but nothing more! The German mountaineer and journalist Billi Bierling, head of the chronicle “Himalayan Database”, informed me today that on 24 May Tenjing Sherpa (often also called “Tenji”) had used bottled oxygen from the South Summit at 8,750 meters, 100 meters below the main summit. It had been windy, the 26-year-old had not wanted to risk frostbite, Billi said after the debriefing with Tenji and his British climbing partner Jon Griffith. The chronicler informed me that Lakpa Dendi Sherpa had used a breathing mask even above the South Col, at nearly 8,000 meters.

Date

1. June 2018 | 14:24

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Elizabeth Hawley is dead

Miss Hawley in her home in Kathmandu (in 2016)

The legendary chronicler of Himalayan moutaineering has passed away. I am very saddened to announce that after a short battle in hospital, Elizabeth Hawley has left us”, the German journalist and climber Billi Bierling informed. Personally, I cannot put it into words how much this amazing woman has meant to me, how much she has taught me and how much I will miss her in my life.” Elizabeth Hawley was 94 years old when she died. Two years ago, she had handed over the work on her chronicle “Himalayan Database” to Billi.

Date

26. January 2018 | 11:55

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Himalayan Database: Treasure chest open to all

Santa Claus has brought an early Christmas gift for mountain lovers from all over the world. Since today, the new version of the Himalayan Database, the electronic “Bible of Expedition Mountaineering in Nepal”, can be downloaded for free. Till now a CD ROM had to be bought to use the archive. Initially, the possibility to free download this extensive data collection should have been available already in November. However, there was a slight delay because the American Richard Salisbury, who added the data of the 2017 spring season, still had to wait for information on the Sherpas’ summit successes.

Date

5. December 2017 | 13:34

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Himalayan Database soon for free

Tobias Pantel, Billi Bierling, Jeevan Shrestha und Rodolphe Popier (from l. to r.)

The Himalayan Database is something like the electronic Bible of Expedition Mountaineering in Nepal. For those who are dealing with the highest mountains in the world, there is simply no way around this extensive collection of data. Countless times I’ve asked for Billi Bierling when I wanted to check important details of ascents. The 50-year-old German journalist and climber has been working for the Himalayan Database since 2004. In 2016 she replaced the legendary chronicler Elizabeth Hawley, who is now 93 years old, as the head of the database. In the 1960s Miss Hawley had begun to file the expeditions in Nepal. Her archive was the base of the Himalayan Database, which has been available electronically since 2004. Till now a CD ROM had to be bought. This will change soon. Then the database will be available to everyone for free.

Date

12. October 2017 | 10:32

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High or highest point of Broad Peak?

Broad Peak

Chroniclers of mountaineering in the Himalayas and Karakoram like the Germans Billi Bierling and Eberhard Jurgalski are in an unenviable position.  On the one hand, in the age of commercial climbing, they are facing a real flood of success reports which can hardly be overcome. On the other hand, summit successes are reported, which in fact are none because the climbers did not reach the highest point. “It’s getting harder and harder,” Billi Bierling told me some time ago. Following the retreat of the legendary chronicler Elizabeth Hawley (now 93 years old), Billi is now in charge of leading the Himalayan Database. “Actually, I’m inquiring closely. But sometimes I just want to have more time,” said Bierling. She assumed that most climbers were still honest, but sometimes the truth was “a bit distorted”, she complained.

It is disputed now whether the Nepalese expedition leader Mingma Gyalje Sherpa really led his group to the highest point of Broad Peak on 4 August, at the end of the summer season in Karakorum. Eberhard Jurgalski has compared Mingmas video, which was recorded in snow drifting, with other summit videos and photos from Broad Peak and concludes that the group has not reached the highest point of the eight-thousander but a different elevation on the summit ridge, at least 45 minutes away from the summit and about 25 meters lower than this.

Date

29. August 2017 | 16:44

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Himalayan chronicle 2.0

Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu (from l. to r.)

It is the old road, but due to the increased traffic the (digital) emergency lane is used too. From now on,  expedition teams heading for Nepal can register with the Himalayan Database, the high mountaineering chronicle founded by the legendary Elizabeth Hawley,  also online before setting off, for example via Facebook. “We will continue to meet as many teams in Kathmandu as we can. However, it has become almost impossible in the last few years to interview everyone personally,” Billi Bierling explains the new procedure.

Date

2. March 2017 | 9:09

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Thundu Sherpa dies on Ama Dablam

Lhakpa Thundu Sherpa (1970-2016)

Lhakpa Thundu Sherpa (1970-2016)

Once again the earth trembled on Monday in the Khumbu region around Mount Everest. The tremors with an intensity of 5.4, with the epicenter 19 kilometers west of Namche Bazaar, normally would not have caused panic, because small to medium scale aftershocks are almost everyday routine in Nepal after the devastating earthquake on 25 April 2015: 475 tremors with an intensity of 4 or more have been registered since then. Major damage was not reported after Monday’s quake. But there was also sad news: Due to the tremors Lhakpa Thundu Sherpa lost his life while climbing the 6814-meter-high Ama Dablam.

Date

29. November 2016 | 17:22

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Billi Bierling: “More strenuous as expected”

Billi Bierling (l.) and Susanne Mueller Zantop (r.)

Billi Bierling (l.) and Susanne Mueller Zantop (r.)

Anyone who has ever returned from of a summit attempt on a very high mountain – whether successful or not – , knows how German climber Billi Bierling is feeling now. All energy is used up, the adrenaline too – and the exertions of recent days are taking their toll. It takes a while before you revive. Of course, a summit success helps. Not only Billi – as reported – can be pleased about having been on top of Cho Oyu. Her team mate Susanne Mueller Zantop also reached the 8,188-meter-high summit, unlike Billi with bottled oxygen. The 60-year-old thus became the oldest German woman so far who has been on top of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world. For Billi Bierling it was already her fifth summit success on an eight-thousander. Despite of her tiredness, the 49-year-old has answered my questions.

Billi, you have climbed Cho Oyu without bottled oxygen. How did you feel on your ascent?

Date

4. October 2016 | 8:54

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Billi’s fifth 8000er

Billi Bierling on top of Cho Oyu

Billi Bierling on top of Cho Oyu

Done! „Summited Cho Oyu at 1 p.m. today without supplemented O2”, Billi Bierling tweeted. “It was a long and exhausting day. Thanks to all of you for keeping fingers crossed.” For the 49-year old German journalist and mountaineer it was her fifth successful eight-thousander ascent and after Manaslu in 2011 the second without breathing mask. In her first attempt on Cho Oyu eleven years ago she had not been able to climb further than 7,200 meters. “It was my first eight-thousander”, she wrote to me one and a half weeks ago. “At that time I was convinced that I am not strong enough for such high mountains.”

Date

1. October 2016 | 17:21

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Billi Bierling on Cho Oyu: 3 questions, 3 answers

Billi in Tibet

Billi in Tibet

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?

Date

21. September 2016 | 10:21

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Billi Bierling about Everest fraud: “It is sad”

Mount Everest

Mount Everest

The truth will out. According to the Kathmandu-based newspaper “The Himalayan Times”, the Nepalese Tourism Ministry has initiated sanctions on the Indian couple that – as reported before – has obviously submitted faked summit pictures to get their Everest certificates. Most likely these certificates will be canceled and the cheat climbers might be banned from mountaineering in Nepal for up to ten years. “Department of Tourism will also take necessary action against the Liaison Officer, Climbing Sherpas and expedition organizing company,” DoT director Sudarshan Prasad Dhakal told the “Himalayan Times”. The two Sherpas who had supported Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod on Everest were still “out of reach”, said the operator Makalu Adventure blaming the Sherpas for the goof-up.

The staff of Himalayan Database, the mountaineering chronicle of legendary Elizabeth Hawley, is also checking the case. I’ve contacted Billi Bierling. The 49-year-old German journalist and climber is the designated successor of Miss Hawley, aged 92.

Billi, you and your colleagues from the Himalayan Database have also obviously been deceived by the Indian couple when you interviewed them. What’s about the much-trumpeted climbers’ honor?

Date

5. July 2016 | 13:55

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Miss Hawley: “I’m just a chronicler”

Miss Hawley in her home in Kathmandu

Miss Hawley in her home in Kathmandu

When I saw the Beetle, I knew I was right. I knew the street, but had no house number, only a rough description of where Miss Hawley is living in Kathmandu. But there it stood in the courtyard: the light blue VW Beetle, built in 1963. “The car is right, of course. Those Beetles are just incredible durable,” says the legendary chronicler of Himalayan mountaineering. For decades, the US-American has driven with the light blue car in front of the hotels in Kathmandu to interview climbers about their expeditions in the Himalayas. However, the 92-year-old is no longer driving her Beetle by herself, she has a driver. “I can’t drive a car with a walker”, says Elizabeth Hawley and grins. Since she broke her hip, she is not quite as mobile as before.

Date

5. April 2016 | 9:46

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The other dead man from Annapurna

Annapurna I

Annapurna I

Dead and gone. Why only are single deaths of Sherpa climbers in the Himalayas swept under the carpet so quickly? Almost as if it was just a work accident. According to the motto: It’s sad, but unfortunately it sometimes happens. The most recent example was the accident on the eight-thousander Annapurna four weeks ago. In the days that followed, many obits of the 36-year-old Finn Samuli Mansikka were published. For sure, he had deserved each of them. Samuli was not only an excellent climber – Annapurna was his tenth eight-thousander, eight of which he climbed without bottled oxygen – but, according to all reports of his mates, a cool guy, always up for fun or ready for party. However, we learned next to nothing about the other climber who died. It was 35-year-old Pemba Sherpa, was said in a few reports. Allegedly he was born near the eight-thousander Makalu and was called “Technical Pemba” due to his technical climbing skills. About what Pemba had previously done as a mountaineer, the information diverged widely. I was not content with this confusion.

Date

23. April 2015 | 9:56

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