Billy Pierson, K2 Summiter Q&A
from the readers of
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
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 not sure.
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
Question: Why do you
think there are so many teams that seem to bitch while
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
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
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 date?
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.
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...
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...