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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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Focus on: Shishapangma

Carlos Soria

Carlos Soria

Other people at this age feel they do sport when they play Bridge. Carlos Soria is climbing eight-thousanders. The Spaniard is 75 years old, last May, he stood (with bottled oxygen) on top of the 8,586-meter-high Kangchenjunga. Thus Carlos is holding the age record on that mountain like he already does on K 2 (65 years), Broad Peak (68), Makalu (69), Gasherbrum I (70) and Manaslu (71). He has now summited eleven of the 14 eight-thousanders. Now he is trying again to climb the 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma in Tibet. “It’s just my year, and it would be a shame to let end my run of luck”, says the fit senior. In 2005 Soria reached the lower Central Summit (8008 meters). Last year, he had to turn back in Camp 3 at 7400 meters due to bad weather. Besides Shishapangma the eight-thousanders Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters) and Annapurna (8,091 meters) are still missing in Carlos’ collection.

Date

10. September 2014 | 16:26

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German women power on Makalu

Heidi Sand (2012 on Everest)

Heidi Sand (2012 on Everest)

Super Sunday on Makalu. Two German female climbers reached the 8485-meter-high summit of the fifth highest mountain in the world on 25 May: Heidi Sand and Billi Bierling. Both were members of the team of Himalayan Experience. Therefore I am tempted to say that both are the first German women on Makalu.Heidi Sand was motivated to do high altitude mountaineering by a serious illness. When she was 43 years old, the sculptor from the town of Stuttgart she got the devastating diagnosis: colon cancer. She swore: If I survive, I will scale Mount Everest. Both happened. Heidi fought the cancer and reached the top of the world in 2012. In 2013, she scaled Cho Oyu – and now at the age of 47 years her third eight-thousander Makalu.

Date

27. May 2014 | 22:57

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First ascent for Ines Papert

Ines Papert

And it was a first ascent at all! On 13 November Ines Papert was the first person who set foot on the 6718-meter-high Pig Pherado Shar in Nepal, also known as Likhu Chuli I. Billi Bierling, staff member of the legendary Himalayan chronicler Elizabeth Hawley, writes me that the Frenchwoman Cecile Barbezat and Nawang Dorje Sherpa on 21 October 1960 were at the top of Likhu Chuli II, “which conversely means that Ines made the first ascent of Likhu Chuli I.” This was the result of a research that her French colleague Rodolphe Popier made in the library of the French Alpine Club (Club Alpin Français).

Date

22. November 2013 | 13:16

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Was Ines the first after all?

Ines Papert

It’s getting even more exciting: Maybe German climber Ines Papert has climbed the 6718-meter-high Pig Pherado Shar in Nepal firstly after all. Billi Bierling, staff member of Himalayan chronicler Elizabeth Hawley, has drawn my attention to this option. The mountain is also known as Likhu Chuli I. I had referred to a note in Hawley’s database that a French team led by Robert Sandoz had already climbed the 6000er near Namche Bazaar on 21 October 1960. Billi writes that the French climbers maybe instead reached the summit of the 6659-meter-high Likhu Chuli II (Pig Pherago Nup). So the question is: Likhu Chuli I or II? “The database says ‘I’, but we believe that it is a mistake!”, writes Billi. The research is going on. If there is any news from Kathmandu, I will of course inform you. By the way: first ascent or not, the performance of Ines Papert deserves our applause anyway.

Date

21. November 2013 | 13:55

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Brice: Everest is the ‚hidden giant’ of Nepal

Russell Brice

Just now Russell Brice has a lot on his plate. The 60-year-old climber from New Zealand, owner of Himalayan Experience, is leading his 18th commercial expedition to Mount Everest. The most prominent of his ten clients who want to climb the highest mountain of the world is Evelyne Binsack. In 2001 she was the first woman of Switzerland who scaled Everest coming from the Tibetan north side of the mountain. This time Evelyne, aged 45, will try it from the south, for a documentary she also wants to carry her camera to the summit. Russell will stay at the bottom as basecamp manager, also looking after six climbers for Lhotse and four women who want to scale the 7861-metre high Nuptse. German journalist and mountaineer Billi Bierling is a member of this last mentioned team. Although Russell is „quite busy”, as he wrote me, he has taken time to send me his thoughts on occasion of the 60-year-jubilee of the first ascent of Mount Everest.

Date

5. April 2013 | 15:13

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