Billi Bierling was born in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Neither as a child nor as a teenager was she much interested in the mountains and always resisted vehemently when she had to go hiking with her parents at the weekend. However, when she moved to England as an assistant teacher at the age of 24, she started rock climbing in Scotland and northern England. In 1998, she travelled to Nepal for the first time, climbed some 6000m peaks and was immediately hooked by the country, the people and the high altitude mountaineering.
From then on, Billi spent at least one mountaineering season a year in Nepal, and when she wasn’t in the Himalayas, she travelled to South America or New Zealand to explore the mountains there. But because she had grown particularly fond of Nepal, she gave up her journalism career in Switzerland in 2004 and moved to Kathmandu. Once there, she knocked on the door of Himalayan archivist Miss Elizabeth Hawley and asked if she could help collect data. Miss Hawley, who had been collecting the information of all climbers on so-called ‘expedition peaks’ since the early 1960s, could well use her help and since then Bierling has been dashing through the streets of Kathmandu on her bicycle, interviewing male and female climbers before and after their expeditions. In 2016, Miss Hawley unofficially handed over the sceptre of the database to Billi. Together with Richard Salisbury, Jeevan Shrestra, Rodolphe Popier and Tobias Pantel, she tries to live up to the expectations of Miss Hawley, who passed away in January 2018 at the age of 94.
After years of interviewing Mount Everest climbers, she wanted to know for herself in 2009 and set out to reach the highest point on earth. She managed to do so, and Bierling was able to add her own name to the Everest climbers in Miss Hawley’s database. Since then, she has climbed five more 8000-metre peaks (Lhotse, Makalu, Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Broad Peak), three of them without bottled oxygen (Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Broad Peak).
When Bierling is not in the mountains, she works as a freelance journalist in Kathmandu or as a press officer for the United Nations, for which she worked in Jerusalem in 2008 and in Islamabad, Pakistan from 2009 to 2011. During the winter months, she works at the headquarters of Swiss Humanitarian Aid, for which she mostly does media work. Billi has also translated three books from German into English: Mountains in my heart by Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, The Fall of Heaven by Reinhold Messner and Ueli Steck – my Life in Climbing.