I like people who can’t be pigeonholed even if you try to put them in a box. Billi Bierling is such a person. Let’s start with nationality. The 55-year-old has a German and a Swiss passport. It’s rare to find her in Germany, and really only when she makes a flying visit to her family in the small Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. During the spring and fall mountaineering seasons, she lives in Kathmandu to collect data for the Himalayan Database, the chronicle of Himalayan mountaineering in Nepal, which she manages. Or she climbs the world’s highest mountains herself.
Billi usually spends the winter in Bern, where she works as a communications expert for the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit. But when the aid organization sends her to one of the world’s trouble spots, Billi quickly packs her bags. This raises the next question: Is she now a journalist, a chronicler or a humanitarian ambassador? A little of each – sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the situation. Billi also stands for versatility in her sporting passions: she is a passionate mountaineer, mountain runner and cyclist. The main thing is to be on the move.
Nice success for Jost Kobusch. According to his team, the 30-year-old German climber reached the summit of Denali at 1.03 pm CET on Sunday – after a solo ascent via the Messner Couloir. No one had ever succeeded before to climb this route in winter, and then also solo. With an altitude of 6,190 meters, Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the highest mountain in North America and thus one of the Seven Summits. Because of its location in Alaska, high in the north, it is considered one of the coldest mountains in the world.
35 hours after setting out from high camp at 4,330 meters, Jost had returned there from his summit push, his team let it be known: “Jost has reported that he is doing well, other than minor frostbite on his toes.” Temporarily, there had been irritation because Kobusch’s GPS tracker had indicated that he had turned back below the highest point. The reason given later was that Jost had only stayed at the summit for a very short time because of the adverse weather. From the summit, however, he had sent a message the coordinates of which showed that he had been at the top.
For the fourth spring in a row, the three eight-thousanders in Tibet – Mount Everest, Shishapangma and Cho Oyu – will probably remain closed to foreign climbers. Kari Kobler, founder of the Swiss expedition operator Kobler&Partner, writes to me that a “100 percent reliable” source in Tibet has informed him that there will be no permits for non-Chinese this spring either. An official announcement, however, is still pending. In the coming fall season, however, the eight-thousanders would be open, and agencies could plan accordingly, Kari learned from Tibet.
Sino-Tibetan authorities are stalling the expedition operators. After signals from Tibet last fall that there might be permits for foreign climbers to climb Mount Everest, Cho Oyu and Shishapangma for the first time since 2019, there has been no official confirmation until now.
“It is likely that they will open (the eight-thousanders on the Tibetan side), but not sure in spring,” Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, head of Nepalese expedition operator Imagine Nepal, wrote to me. “They will open in autumn.” Following the positive signals, Imagine Nepal had advertised an expedition to the 8,027-meter-high Shishapangma, which Mingma himself wanted to lead. “We will be going to Shishapangma in autumn instead of spring,” the 36-year-old wrote. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s high mountains have been closed to foreigners, with only locals given a chance to obtain climbing permits.