More DW Blogs DW.COM

Adventure Sports

with Stefan Nestler

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?

I hadn’t any problem without supplemental oxygen, I felt good, but of course you are much slower and more sensitive to the cold during the ascent. Now, two days later, I feel the aftereffects. I have little energy, burning lips and my sense of taste is gone. But I hope that it will come back until I’m back in Kathmandu, where some very delicious Bavarian pretzels are waiting for me.

Upper slopes on Cho Oyu

Upper slopes on Cho Oyu

Could you enjoy the summit experience? What did go through your mind up there at 8,188 meters?

Cho Oyu was much more strenuous and steeper than I had expected. On the summit plateau I was very tired. I knew that it would certainly take an hour to the top. At that moment I actually only wanted to arrive. Since it started snowing at the time and Tundu (the Sherpa who accompanied Billi) and I knew that a lot of snow was coming, we quickly took some pictures and then returned. The descent was very hard for me. Since I had already spent four nights above 7,100 meters, my body was already very weak, and I had no more reserves. It took me six hours back to Camp 2, all in all 17 hours since my departure, so not quite as long as I was on the way running the Zugspitz Ultra Trail (Billi had startet at this more than 100 km long mountain run last summer and finished it in about 23.5 hours). For me personally, the summit was very important because in 2005 Cho Oyu had been my first eight-thousander – and the only one where I had failed to reach the summit due to lack of my own abilities. At that time I had also been climbing without bottled oxygen.

Nepalese south side of Cho Oyu

Nepalese south side of Cho Oyu

There was really much traffic on Cho Oyu last weekend. How did you experience that?

I mean, 1 October was the best day for an ascent without supplemental oxygen, because only about 15 people were on the way to the summit. The advantage was that I had to let pass only a few people and all of those who did I knew from my work for Miss Hawley. Actually it would be a good opportunity now to interview some expeditions that are still here, but I just lack in energy.

P.S.: To reassure Billi: After my (first) ascent on the 7129-meter-high Kokodak Dome in China in July 2014, I also could not taste sweet for a time. After a while it eased off. Today chocolate tastes to me as good as always. 😉


4. October 2016 | 8:54