Questions from the readers of EverestNews.com...
Question: How difficult would you rate the
Abruzzi route, particularly houses chimney and the bottleneck ?
Billy Pierson: I really don't know how to
rate the difficulty. House's chimney is low class five rock, but at 6600
meters and with a pack, it is pretty strenuous (but fun). Most of the climbing
is 45-50 degree snow, with a number of short, steep rock steps that go at
class 3-low5, especially in the pyramid. Some sections are trickier than
others, as they can be iced up. The bottleneck was 55-60 degrees, I'd say, but
at its extreme height, seemed pretty steep.
Question: Do you feel there are safer routes
on k2 than the Abruzzi? Congratulations on an excellent film...
Billy Pierson: Thanks for the comment on the
film. I haven't been on any other routes, so I can't say for sure. It looks to
me like the SSE Ridge is easier, but can be prone to avalanches between 6500
and 7800 meters because there are long open slopes there that build up during
storms and see a lot of wind.
Question: Why do you think so many climbers
leave K2 in July and early August?
Billy Pierson: I think people leave early for
the same reasons as anywhere else: they either over-estimate their luck with
the weather, or just can't afford to be away that long. I figure, if you're
going to spend the money and the time, you might as well stay' til the permit
is up (or 'til you summit). I've also heard from some of the local people that
the weather can come good sometimes in the Karakorum in late August, but I'm
Question: What do you think of the increased
use of Sherpas on K2?
Billy Pierson: I'm totally against the use of
Sherpas on K2, and not keen on using porters at all. I think that one should
accumulate, through experience, the skills necessary to climb a mountain like
K2, or any big mountain, and do it through one's own merits and efforts. I
think one should climb for the experience of climbing, not just the trophy of
a possible summit. Aside from the real satisfaction I personally get from
meeting a challenge like that without relying on others to do all the work
(which is what the Sherpas are there for). I enjoy the climbing and working on
the route to the point that no trip can be a failure, whether the top is
reached or not. I could go on about this for a long time, but I would probably
piss a lot of people off.
Question: Why do you think there are so many
teams that seem to bitch while on K2?
Billy Pierson: I think a lot of teams bitch
about everything, including each other, because it is a hard mountain to
climb. Its intimidating, when you look at it. People get killed there. This
causes a bit of stress between people on the team. There isn't a lot of room
for many teams on a route there, so there is competition for space at the
camps. 20 people climbing on the Abruzzi can be a lot, and get in each other's
way. Everyone has a lot riding on the trip, money and time-wise, and getting
to the top can be too important for many people. On any climb, team dynamics
play a key role in success, and that is amplified on a peak like K2.
Question: Sounds like you have a great team,
can you tell us more about them?
Billy Pierson: We had a really good bunch of
guys, from 6 countries. Every one had 8000 meter experience, and I knew Gary,
Hamish and Tony from a Makalu trip in '99. I had met Ivan and Fabrizio in
Kathmandu that year, and we became friends, and Fabrizio and I got to know
Andy Evans and his fiance Janice while climbing in Canada in the winter of
'99-'00. Chris and Gary knew each other from Kangchenjunga. Fabrizio and Nasuh
knew each other from previous trips also. These sort of previous relationships
helped our team to work our way through the few bumps we encountered as we got
to know each other better. There wasn't anybody on the team who considered
himself a star, just a group of solid, strong, experienced climbers.
Question: What do you think of the big
commercial companies role in climbing?
Billy Pierson: I'm kind of ambivalent about
the role of large commercial companies in mountaineering. On the one hand, it
is a great way for people to get a start in Himalayan climbing who otherwise
might not know how to go about it, or have friends with whom to go. I've met
almost all of my regular partners through commercial trips, and think it is a
good way for nonprofessionals, with little free time for organizing trips, to
be able to experience a big expedition. It also allows climbers a way to make
a living doing what they love, taking other people to the mountains. On the
other hand, there is a lot of competition, and the client base is not
necessarily all that large.
To stay in business, these folks have to
attract people who can afford to pay them, and often times, these people are
not very strong, or don't take the time to build up an adequate base of
experience before going to a big mountain. Since the company requires success
to improve its chances of attracting more business, this puts pressure on the
operators to get their clients to the top. I don't think I need to say where
this can lead. I'm not sure what can be done differently here. Its not
realistic for these operators to insist that clients build up a proper level
of experience with them, as it would cost them their business. And its hard to
turn down someone who is willing to spend big bucks to have you take them to
someplace like Everest when you have bills to pay. I guess I just wish that
here were more people out there who were willing and able to go climb
interesting, technical 7000 meter peaks rather than just go to Everest and
Denali like everybody else. They would probably enjoy the experience much
more, and I know all my buddies who are guides would love it.
Question: What was your favorite climb to
Billy Pierson: It is hard to say what has
been my favorite climb to date. They all have their great aspects, though some
have had really bad moments, too. I tend to think more of great days in the
mountains, and at or near the top of that list is the summit day on Makalu in
'99. I was really well acclimatized, so I went from the Makalu La (Camp 3,
7400 m) in an 18-hour round trip that started at 1 am. I hadn't expected to
get good weather, so I had to borrow gear from Hamish Robertson, who was
headed down in the morning. The weather turned perfect, there were a bizillion
stars, the sunrise, and sunset, for that matter, were gorgeous. I was all by
myself, since everybody else went down with Hamish. It was frightening and
liberating at the same time. That was probably the best day I can remember.
Question: What do you think about climbers
using bottled oxygen on k2?
Billy Pierson: I'm against the use of oxygen
on K2. There were some folks on it on our summit day, and I know that at least
one of them could have climbed it without the O's. I think that, by now, there
is enough scientific background on the effects of altitude on humans, and
enough anecdotal evidence around, that climbers should be able to properly
acclimatize themselves to reach the top without resorting to artificial means
of support. How can you say you know what its like to be at 8600 meters when
you go on oxygen at 8000 meters? All the gear is already so much better and
lighter than it was 20 or more years ago, tents, clothes, etc.
And it was climbed without O's then.
||In a departure from the
typical expedition documentary, this video chronicles the attempt of the
International K2000 Expedition to climb K2's Abbruzzi Ridge. Narrated by a
six-inch Gorilla named Murph, who attempts to be the first of his species
to ascend the mountain, this often humorous look at an otherwise serious
undertaking offers stunning views of the route and surroundings, as well
as introducing the viewer to the colorful Pakistanis who essential to the
success of the trip.
Voted " Best Mountaineering Film" at the
Vancouver Int'l Mountain Film Festival 2002. This film is produced By American
Billy Pierson who reached the Summit of K2 on 7/30/00 as part of Gary
Pfisterer's expedition. The film is about 56 minutes...
Readers of EverestNews.com: This is by FAR
the best K2 movie we have ever seen. As you know most were not even made near
K2 and well are real bad (most people use not PG rated words to describe K2
films). This movie shows you K2 up close by the climber who made the Summit
and has the film to prove it. Several climbers purchased copies before going
to K2 this year...
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