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  • Jeannette McGill

Mountaineering Moments #14 . . . Billi Bierling

Billi parked her bicycle outside my Kathmandu hotel and we crammed into a waiting taxi and headed off into the bumpy frenetic streets of suburban Kathmandu. We had previously met briefly previously in a KTM hotel lobby; but it wasn’t until this cab ride 3 months later, guests to a home cooked dinner, that we had a proper chance to compare notes. Billi is energetic and loves a good conversation. You would have to, to take over the baton from Elizabeth Hawley and be “the keeper of the records”! Being an avid runner and mountaineer herself brings a unique and new angle to this role.

Billi now manages an extensive “Himalayan Database” team that covers the many 7000m plus expeditions during climbing season. Billi has summited 6 of the 14x 8000m mountains (3 without bottled oxygen). Billi also works for Swiss Humanitarian Aid as a communications expert, and writes mountaineering articles for German and English-speaking magazines.

Favourite mountain expedition: That’s a tough one as all my expeditions have been amazing and I enjoyed them all. However, for me Cho Oyu and Broad Peak – both without bottled oxygen - were very special.

Cho Oyu was the first 8,000m peak I tried (2005) but I was with an accomplished climber who thought that I was crap at high altitude. I reached C2 and that was it. I went back to Cho Oyu in 2016 and summited and that was very special for me.

Similarly, Broad Peak, which I had tried in 2015 (the year of the Nepal earthquake) and we had to turn back due to avalanche conditions. I went back in 2019 and summited despite the fact that I never thought that I would reach the summit as the summit day was soooooo long.

Top 2 gear must haves: My new TROLL down jacket. It is so light and warm you think you are flying. Electric heated socks.

Hardest Lesson: To sit still, be patient and not run around.

Music or audiobooks: “The pillar of the earth” by Ken Follet

Shewee or Squat: Pee bottle without Shewee (it took years for me to master)

Sunrise or Sunset: Sunset

First post-Covid project: If Covid allows – Gasherbrum 2

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