billi bierling female mountaineer and journalist from Germany

Back from Camp III

Apologies for the silence over the past week but I have been away from
modern technology and have been unable to send any updates to my
website. I have just come down from four days at Camp II and Camp III
and enjoyed the dizzying heights of 6,400m and 7,300m. 

The Lhotse team left base camp on 14 May at 3am to get through the
icefall as safely as possible as at this time of day the huge ice
towers and seracs are less likely to collapse as they are still nicely
frozen. Compared to 2009, the icefall seemed a lot easier and flatter
with less ladders going over the deep crevasses. It took our team
about five hours to get to Camp I and most of us continued through the
Western Cwm to Camp II. Even though the Western Cwm, which was first
entered by a Swiss man in 1952, is one of the most stunning places I
have ever seen, it can get excruciatingly hot once the sun hits this
bowl of snow and ice. I left Camp I at 8.30am, which was definitely a
little too late and by the time I started heading towards Camp II the
sun was already beating down, making every step a real effort.

Camp II is nestled on the left hand side of the Cwm and it offers a
magnificent view of Lhotse, which at 8,511m does in no way seem lesser
or smaller than its big sister, Mount Everest. Once I arrived tired
and exhausted, Ang Nuru and Chakra, our amazing kitchen team there,
were welcoming me with a huge smile and a steaming cup of tea, which
was very much appreciated, however, I would have loved to get my hands
on a cold drink – something I really miss during high altitude
climbing. “Billi, the guys here were very excited to hear that the
tall ‘Didi’ was coming up,” Mike, one of the guys on my team said when
I arrived.
.
The following day was spent resting and when I say resting, I really
mean it. There is not much to do up there and my tent mate Sissel from
Norway and I were lying in our temporary home, trying to get the
temperature right. When the sun is out, the heat in the tent comes
close to sauna temperatures, however, as soon as the sun gets covered
by a cloud, we quickly had to put on our downsuits to protect us from
the biting cold.

Tagging Camp III

On Monday, the two Chinese members of our expedition and Narly, one of
our guides, ‘tagged’ Camp III, while Sissel and I stayed at the camp
to wait for one extra day to make the most of the high altitude and
the acclimatisation. The decision to stay meant that we had yet
another day of just sitting around, talking (I have been accused of
yapping all day long, which could be heard through the thin tent
walls!!) and resting. I kept on looking at the Lhotse face dreading
the climb up to Camp III within in the long trail of people the
following day. “It will hurt,” Brian, our guide approved my worries.

The next morning, Sissel and I woke to our alarm at 2am and started to
get ready for the slog up the Lhotse Face. We squeezed our already
thin bodies that were wrapped in our big downsuits into our harnesses,
stuffed water bottles, radios, cameras, sunglasses (I am still using
the 80ies glacier goggles my mum gave me about 30 years ago!!),
chocolate bars and other items that had to be easily accessible into
the front of our suits, zipped up our high altitude boots, put on our
helmets and fixed our crampons to our boots. By the time we crawled
out of our tent we seriously looked like two Michelin (wo)men
struggling to walk to the dining tent..

After having imbibed some coffee and tried to force down some
porridge, which was miraculously provided by Ang Nuru at this time of
night, Brian, Sissel, Nima Sherpa and I stomped out of our camp
towards the ‘Bergschrund’ from where we would start clipping into the
fixed ropes and climbing up the face.

The night was still and the moon illuminated the beautiful
surroundings with Lhotse and Nuptse dominating the scenery and even
though I did question myself why I was doing this high altitude
mountaineering when I had to crawl out of my sleeping bag at this
ridiculous hour, I was once again reminded of why I was doing this.

Unfortunately Sissel decided half way down to the beginning of the
fixed ropes that this was too hard for her and turned back, so it was
only Nima, Brian and I to go up. We got to the Bergschrund just in
time for the sun to rise and started the long climb up the Lhotse
Face. It was a reasonably busy morning with many Sherpas carrying
supplies up to the upper camps, however, the fact that this year the
Sherpas had fixed an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ rope made the climb a lot less
complicated.

I reached Camp III, which lies at an altitude of 7,300m, in five
hours, which was very good time and it made me very happy as I
remembered how much I was struggling on Manaslu last year. The day was
sunny but very windy and on the last stretch I was stuck in a large
group of Nepali ministers, who were making their way to the South Col
on Everest using oxygen. “Billi, I can see you and I can tell that the
Nepali ministers using gas are slowing you down,” Brian radioed down
from our camp, which had been set up by our Sherpa team. It still
amazes me how the Sherpas manage to flatten the ground on the steep
face to put up tents.

We only stayed at Camp III for about five minutes before we made our
way back down again, which would have been rather quick if I did not
have to stop every once in a while to say ‘hi’ to a friend or an
acquaintance I met during an interview for Miss Hawley. We were back
down at Camp II at around 10.30am and I thought to myself that it was
amazing what you can achieve and still have the rest of the day to
hang and relax. We had climbed almost 1,000m at a very high altitude
and we were feeling great.

Out Everest team, who is on their summit attempt, was at Camp II when
we arrived and it was nice to chat and hang out with them.

The next morning, we had another early start and left Camp II at 5am
to get through the icefall as early as possible. We made good time and
even though I, once again, had to stop quite often to wish friends
‘good luck’ and give them a quick kiss or a hug, we were back down at
base camp in time for breakfast. The rest of the day was spent with
showering, (which was seriously necessary), washing clothes and
eating, and of course, getting mentally ready for our summit attempt.
However, while I am writing this, I am lying in my sleeping bag
listening to the snow falling outside and thinking about my Everest
teammates, who are currently on their way to the South Col in order to
reach the summit on 20 May. As far as the Lhotse team is concerned, we
will probably stay here for a couple of days before we make our way to
the summit on or around 25 May.

11 Responses

  1. Serena said on May 26, 2011 at 4:19 am

    hey billi bear!! Thinking of you and wishing you all the best for the summit climb, which I imagine is happening right now…? Wish I was with you! (I think…)
    Serena x

    Reply
  2. Aaron said on May 25, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Good luck going for the summit tomorrow Billi!! I’ll be thinking of you as you go for the top!

    Reply
  3. mama said on May 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    viel glück mei bärbele und iss gscheit denk ganz fest an dich

    Reply
  4. Kate said on May 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Awesome journey Billi! Thinking of you, all the best!

    Reply
  5. Nonna said on May 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Take care my dear, thinking of you!

    Reply
  6. Clare said on May 21, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Hey Billi! you superstar!!! so great to hear your updates and be able to send huge bear hugs to you with huge love, chocolates and plenty of warmth. Take care and can’t wait to see you!

    Reply
  7. Rosemary said on May 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    God Bless your energy Billi, I am tired just reading about your adventure. Take care and take your time. You know,when God made time he made lots of it.

    Reply
  8. Roz said on May 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Closely watching progress as the ‘real thing’ gets nearer, Lots of love, Roz

    Reply
  9. Beth said on May 20, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Best of luck! I’m following your blog and the Himex web site. Thank you again for “taking us along with you.” Stay safe.
    Hugs!

    Reply
  10. Ellen you Everest sister! said on May 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Great work Billi! I miss you already but having a good time in the Khumbu! Love to you and all the team! Ellen

    Reply
  11. Lizzy Hawker said on May 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    thinking of you Billi and with you every step of the way!
    love, hugs and smiles, Lizzy

    Reply

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