billi bierling female mountaineer and journalist from Germany

Back in Bavaria

The Alpspitze towering over Garmisch-Partenkirchen

The Alpspitze towering over Garmisch-Partenkirchen

After having suffered in the sweltering heat of Kathmandu for three weeks, I am now trying to cope with wintery temperatures of around 10 degrees in my Bavarian hometown Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I have finally arrived in Europe after not having set foot on the continent for more than one year and it is great to be back. My family, which is quite small and only consists of my mum, aunt, sister and brother-in-law, combined eastern and western cultures and welcomed me at Munich airport waiving a Bavarian flag and Buddhist prayer flags!

The journey back to Garmisch was incredible as it was the last (and probably also the first) sunny day for a while, and the Alps were glowing in the evening sunshine. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I live in Kathmandu when I could have all this, however, I think life here in the Bavarian Alps would be too slow and sleepy for me.

Since I got back I have been quite busy hanging out with my family, seeing friends, and giving television and radio interviews. I am still stunned by the fascination Everest triggers  and by the reactions I am receiving. People I have not spoken or written to in years contact my mother or me out of the blue saying that ‘they are proud of me’. Of course it is nice and flattering, however, I think there are a lot of people out there who have done more impressive things, which are often not recognised. I am not trying to play Everest down and sometimes I am even proud of myself for actually making it and managing not to give up on the summit push but I did not expect such reactions.

From left: My sister Christiane, I, my mum and my aunt

From left: my sister Christiane, me, my mum and my aunt

When Alex and I had the idea to compile the “Everest Changes People” book we did not think about the fact that Everest also changes the way other people perceive you. All of a sudden you become a hero or a heroine, all of a sudden everyone wants to be your friend and all of a sudden the media is interested in you. Why?

Well, I guess part of the reason is the fact that Everest gets quite a lot of bad press and the general public still thinks that you have a 10 per cent chance of dying up there. However, according to latest figures the death rate on Everest is about 1.5 per cent and the fact that this year around 350 people reached the summit and five people died shows that climbing the world’s highest peak has become much safer in recent years. However, a lot of people ask me whether I have seen dead bodies or they say that they were pleased that I came back alive as ‘so many people died up there’. This perception is not that surprising though as books about Everest normally have gloomy titles such as ‘Dark Summit’, ‘High Crimes’ or ‘Left for Dead’. I have to say that I saw a lot of camaraderie and help on Everest and I did not really see the dark side of the mountain. I have actually written an article about it for the Nepali Times this week, so if you are interested, click here.

Anyway, I will now stay in Bavaria for a couple of months and hopefully do some climbing as well. One very important thing on my ‘to-do-list’ is to climb the Zugspitze, which at 2,962 metres is the highest mountain in Germany and is right at my doorstep. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I have never scaled the Zugspitze by foot as I used to make my way up using the cable car to get to the ski slopes. However, in order to make up for my laziness during all those years I (and hopefully Richard, who looks after my website and updated it during my summit push) might even run to the top on 19th July, when the Zugspitz marathon takes place.

4 Responses

  1. Anja König said on June 23, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Hi Billi,

    I heard a radio interview with your Mum shortly before your summit push to Everest and therefore got to your website. Don’t know if you remember me from the Fachakademie. Enjoy your stay at Garmisch! Take care and warm greetings from Rosenheim,
    Anja

    Reply
  2. Ellen Miller said on June 23, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Yahoo! You are home. That brings me joy. I am happy for your Mom. That is the nicest photo of your family welcoming you home! Enjoy, Billi! Be proud of that beautiful place which is your home-town! Cheers!

    Reply
  3. Claudia said on June 23, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Great to hear that your are “home’ again…though you probably have more than one place that you call home. Enjoy this time and hugs to your family
    HAppy belated Birthday.
    PS Emma is sighteeing in Munich ’til Friday

    Reply
  4. Rosemary in Ireland said on June 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Billi, great to see a recent photo of you, and to see that you are looking well. Chrisriane looks just as thin as you and she hasn’t been up Everest. Would love to have been there for your homecoming. Give my love to Irene and Christl. See you soon and won’t forget to pack a jar of Branston Pickle for you. Ps Glad to see that you appreciate Beautiful Garmisch Partenkirchen a bit more now.

    Reply

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