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May 062012
 
Himex White Pod

Himex White Pod

Himex – update 2

Himex posted on May 7, 2012, the official announcement of their climbs cancellation today, Monday May 7.  Many other teams and climbers are talking about their pullout and report that the Himex Camp 2 is being taken down. The update mentions they are offering Camp 2 supplies to other teams to minimize Sherpa travel through the Icefall.  Climbers note that while they respect Brice’s decision and acknowledge the difficulty, they remain fully committed to a safe and hopefully successful summit attempt. Of note, Himex  stated they will return to the Himalaya in the Fall of 2013 (Manaslu?) and Everest in spring 2013.

On May 9, Himex posted an update on their website citing the reasons Brice felt it was too dangerous for Himex to continue and addresses their future on Everest. Read it here.

—————

Russell Brice’s Himalayan Experience (Himex) 2012 expedition is officially over. He announced on Saturday to all of his client climbers including Everest, Lhotse and Nutpse. At the root of the cancellation was the danger in the Khumbu Icefall.

Some of his western clients had posted the news starting with a short note from Joe Martinet’s home team saying the expedition was over. Today further details were posted on Greg Paul blog with these details. I encourage you to read his entire post.

Russell laid out all the reasons for his decision….many of which we were already aware of from past discussions. However, we thought time would cure the problems on the mountain. The summit window usually does not open until May 20th so we had time on our side. Knowing this we were all wondering why Russell pulled the plug so soon. He explained that never in his life as an Everest operator had he seen worse conditions than this year. It was not just the dry windy upper mountain but especially the Khumba Icefall.

The clincher for Russ was the fact that his experienced Sherpas were scared to death of the Icefall. In fact, in a rare display from folks that don’t talk much and usually just follow instructions, three head Sherpas spoke up and expressed the concern about the mountain and how dangerous it is this year. They were truly concerned about exposing their Sherpa team to further danger that taking more loads up the mountain would do. One of the most experienced Sherpas on Everest broke down in tears apologizing to us but at the same time not backing off one iota from his concerns. Russell expects an accident of catastrophic proportions to possible hit the icefall. Even if it is a remote possibility our safety not our summiting is his primary concern. It is still very hard to hear this and swallow it.

This year’s Himex clients included the well publicized Walking with the Wounded, a team of disabled UK war veterans.

In addition to the cancellation, one of Himex’s Sherpas, Dawa Tensing Sherpa, suffered a stroke and is not expected to live.

Now the team is retrieving gear, breaking down tents and preparing to return home. A few might try to tag one of the trekking peaks.

As for the impact on the other teams, reports today, Sunday, came in that climbers safely climbed the Lhotse Face and slept at Camp 3. No other team has announced plans to cancel as of now. I will post more details tomorrow.

As you can imagine, this is the most difficult decision an expedition operator has to make. He has the expectations of his clients – their investments in time, money, training, support from family; for many this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, it is what you agree to when you sign up – you abide by the decisions made.

I hope no one second guesses Russell. I know this man personally and can only imagine that he has not slept for days. Spending his free time pouring over weather maps, reviewing logistics, talking to his Sherpas and other team’s leaders; calling trusted advisors. But in the end, he is responsible for almost 100 lives on Everest- a responsibility he takes personally.

Is his decision correct? This is not for anyone other than Russell and his team to answer regardless of the outcome of Everest 2012. For now, I wish them all safe travels home.

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are everything

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  32 Responses to “Everest 2012: Confirmed – Himex Cancels all Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse Climbs Fearing Dangerous Conditions – Update 2”

  1. Well, in retrospect, it looked like a very bad decision given the large number of summiters and very limited deaths–none apparantly in the icefall. Bummer for his clients.

    • I disagree with Jan. Just because an accident does not happen, that doesn’t mean the risk of the accident happening is smaller. This is a common misconception that’s often reinforced in safety training. “My behavior has not gotten me hurt so far, therefore it must be safe.” That’s poor logic and is why workplace and mountaineering accidents are more frequent among the experienced than among the rookies. If Russ and his expert guides thought it was an unacceptable risk, they probably made the right choice. I don’t feel bad for anyone that blows $40-50K trying to summit Everest and fails, but lives. They’ve got more money than sense, and they’ve still got their life.

  2. I have known Russell since 2003, and what I most respected about him then was his clear esteem and respect for his Sherpas. He trusts them and their intuition completely. What I respect most about him now is that has again trusted their judgement. The Sherpa teams would face greater exposure to the icefall, given they would be crossing it many more times than the climbers in order to do their job. I can only imagine the gut wrenching disappointment for all involved, but in time I’m sure everyone will know that the right decision was made.

  3. global warming strikes again. The Icefall seems to be worse every year.

  4. Alan, is there a precedent for Russell’s decision? Is there another case where an expedition leader has cancelled all climbs on Everest, Lhotse and Nutpse? I cannot recall one in recent years. I’m just trying to get a sense of the magnitude of his decision. Thanks.

    • Bob, it is a big decision to cancel an entire season. Private expeditions do this often on remote climbs around the world or on K2 for example when the mountain refuses to let them climb. But almost never does a commercial operator cancel the entire season half way through. Again, no second guessing by me, but this is a big one in th world of commercial climbing.

  5. Much respect for Russel. If he says no there is no second guessing.

  6. I wonder if other expedition leaders will follow … time will tell. I agree that it is hard to guess what process leaders use to make decisions when we’re so far away. I wish them all well and safe travels.

  7. Hi Alan,

    From what I have read it seems like a smart decision. I’m sure that Russell was looking at every opportunity to continue the Expedition. I haven’t read much about the conditions in the icefall. It takes a lot for those Sherpas to be freaked

    Zachary Zaitzeff

  8. Sherpas have to take 80% of the risking making the clients happy in Everest expedition while they getting paid less than 10% of service charge that client paid to climb Everest. Therefore, Everest claimed more Sherpa lives than other nationalatis. Their hard work has never been credited.

  9. Thanks for the update Alan! Your friend has made the right decision! I only wish others would do the same! Something’s not quite right this year! I fear his intuition may be correct! They should all get off the mountain! All the best from Canada!

  10. I climbed with Russ in 2009, and can vouch for him, his ability to make tough decisions is what makes him such a great operator and leader. Better safe than sorry

  11. Sherpas know the environment well and so does Russell. Money is replacable and life is not. The trekking peaks are very nice , infact the entire Khumbu is amazing. Instead of disappointment celebrate life!

  12. Decision was a very difficult one , made by a man who truly respects his work environment and mostly , the people that work for him and people who pay to summit , and decent safely . Congrats Russell on you courage and tenacity , thanks Alan for a great post – Nik ! Sydney

  13. Sad news but I don’t doubt for a minute that Russell is right. One lost life is one two many. I have lost two friends who were climbing when conditions were good so the chances are magnified when the experienced climber and his Sherpas say no. You must remember there is always another day be it at home or Everest but if you take unreasonable risks that day may be lost. So sorry Kate (UK)

  14. Russel is THE EVESTEER.. After having spent many many yrs with te mountain, he obviously can sense that smth might happen… It is foolish to contradict him! Hwever te teams should wait at BC till month end since te whthr is changing cont… Best wishes!!

  15. What are the conditions in the icefall Alan ?

    I went through it this year in mid April with henry Todd’s team and it was described as one of the easiest ever.

    What has changed ?

    Thanks
    Richard

  16. I was on 2009 Himex Expedition.

    I truly understand Russell’s decision because I took the same one after my round trip to camp III due to the Ice Fall dangers. The day I left, one avalanche killed one sherpa.

    One difficult decision but all members and staff safe at home. I wish Dawa will recover.

  17. While I am sure that everyone understands the logical part of the decision I am sure the emotions will take time to to mesh with reasoning. I hope there will be no ill feelings harbored towards Russell for having done this as it really does sound like he has everyone’s safety in mind and with so much tragedy and heartache already having occurred there is no need to bring anymore upon anyone else.

  18. Great post Alan. This must have been so difficult for Russel; despite the experience, it is a very difficult decision to make especially when it is going to heartbreaking for the people in his team. It is great to see someone who is brave enough to make this decision and put the safety of the team first. Thanks for the post again…

  19. Russell Brice must have mulled over a lot before taking that decision which might affect his business adveresely. But , then , this is the quality of a great leader– he kept the interests of Sherpas & Clients over Business– hats off to him.

    All in all , great post.

  20. I was on a different climbing team and descended early due to AMS… I am very concerned for the rest of my team who r all hoping to summit.

  21. Sherpas have been noticing the change of Khumbu icefall 10 years ago. Therefore, some Sherpas decided to climbe only from Tibet side. Making decision is tough,but saving lives is more important than making mony in commercial expedition.

  22. I am sorry to hear this—it must be heartbreaking for the climbers but I applaud the courage and intellect that was required to make this decision.

  23. Alan hit the nail on the head…. even if a group of Cub Scouts climbs successfully, Brice still made the call ….

  24. Wow… However this plays out, we must all remember that only those on the mountain can make the call, and those people must call them as they see them. I wish safety for everyone.

  25. If the sherpa’s told me they were not comfortable going thru the icefall, how could I feel safe? I wouldn’t and would expect the leader to stop movement through it. The right decision I believe was made.

  26. Too bad but being there and returning is part of the journey.

  27. Thats what they pay him for…the tough decisions. Like the man himself says…’getting to the summit is only halfway’ and its not considered a success until you’re down safely. I would wager that he has saved a lot of grief with his decisions, and I hope its all for naught.

  28. Wow indeed. Great post, Alan. Your respect for Russell is obvious, and from what I’ve read about him over the years, it is well deserved. If anything bad happens this season in the icefall, everyone will think Russell was a genius and “read the mountain” correctly. If nothing happens, and I do hope that is the case, he is likely to be criticized for being too cautious. But – if I were there, I certainly would wish for an expedition leader who has the courage to make tough decisions like that one.