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Jul 282017
 

UPDATE:

It appears that Russell Brice’s comments last update from K2 left us with an incorrect impression. He now clarifies his intent that he is not leaving guiding altogether but rather spending less time at base camp. He now says (emphasis is mine):

And of course I need to discuss my flippant comment that I would hang up my boots. Thanks for all of you who have sent supporting messages, they are all appreciated. It is nice to know that people appreciate my work, but you do not have to live in a tent, wake up early every morning, make life dependent decisions, then work a full day, and be on call 24/7 for half a year at a time, living on basic food, in a different culture which is often rather vague with objectives but full of bureaucracy. So far this year I have been at home for less than 16 days, I have spent over 100 nights in a tent, have done more than 25 international flights and effectively have had no days off from work. I used to be 25 once, and enjoyed this life, but now I am 65 and as much as one may want, the body just does not perform the same, and trying to keep up with those who are half my age is challenging and fun, but it takes its toll.

I did not intend to imply that I was leaving the industry – it is my way of life, maybe I intended to suggest that I might be spending less time at BC than I have in the past. There is plenty of exciting news to come with further development of Himex and our operations, and I need to spend more time in a real office rather than a tent office on the side of a mountain. Maybe the view will not be so great, but at least the air conditioning and temperature control might work a bit more reliably.
Thanks again for all the support.

Next week I will be back in Kathmandu to start our Manaslu trip with Richie Hunter as guide.


Original post:

This was part of the exciting news that K2 was summited on 28 July 2017 but I believe it deserves a separate post

In a heartbreaking newsletter long time high altitude guide Russell Bruce announced he is ending his guiding career. I hope this is a moment of regret and will not hold.

A Leader

Brice’s first commercial expedition to Everest was on the north side in 1994. He personally has 14 summits of 8,000m mountains, including two Everest summits under his belt. He summited Aconcagua at age 64. One climb few remember was in 1988 attempt via the never before climbed Three Pinnacles on Everest’s northeast ridge. He knows what he is talking about.

Russ’ Himex team was on K2 in 2015, the Česen route, without a summit. Last year he subcontracted his K2 team to another operator who also didn’t summit.  In 2012, he made a gutsy and controversial decision to end his Everest expedition one month early when the hanging serac above the Khumbu Icefall threatened to collapse. It didn’t that year and hundreds went on to summit but two years later later it did taking 18 Sherpa lives in the collapse.

Russ was never afraid to make a hard decision if he thought lives were at risk

Russ is a logistic expert and an leader in advocating safety for members and moreover, his staff. He was instrumental in getting the Nepal government’s approval to use helicopters to ferry loads to the Western Cwm on Everest this eliminating hundreds of Sherpa trips thru the Icefall.

He is always willing to use his resources to help a climber in trouble, even if that climber was independent or on another team. He tried in vain to save David Sharp who died on the north side of Everest in 2006. Ironically he was widely, and unfairly in my opinion, criticized.

You can read my complete interview with him at this link

Himex Base Camp

Russ was known for having the absolute best camp at Everest, or on any of his trip. I profiled his Everest Base Camp in 2012. I opened it this way:

I’ve been in many base camps but I knew I was somewhere special when I was told “… and this is our garbage tent.” Welcome to Everest Base Camp, Russell Brice style. In 2011 while climbing Everest, I spent the afternoon with Brice getting to know this man and how he runs his expedition base camps. Let’s just say, it’s different.

Most expeditions will promote their excellent base camp facilities and talk of gourmet food, individual tents, and clean kitchens. Today, this is the ante to play the game and let me say from the start that many operators take great pride in their base camps, and rightfully so. With guided expeditions becoming more competitive along with soaring prices, climbers are starting to expect more, sometimes unrealistically so.

You read the complete post here.

Inside the Himex Dome


 K2 2017

Russ prides himself in reading weather forecast and giving his member the best, safest opportunity to summit and get back safely. It was this study of the facts that lead him to cancel this year’s K2 attempt. He posted:

After studying the weather very closely, and some intensive discussion between members, guides and Sherpa’s we decided to call the expedition off. We cannot see any clear weather to follow up even if we did work hard and got the route to C4 on 26 and 27 as there is another front of bad weather expected on 28 and 29. This brought differences of opinion, should we postpone our departure arrangements and wait for better weather or should we pull our departure date forward and leave as soon as we can clear the mountain. Most were in favor of pulling departure date forward. It is always interesting to see that those with the most money are always impatient to leave, but are also able to finance the entire expedition to stay, so can never make up their mind. So one minute they want to stay, the next minute they want to leave immediately.

In his newsletter, he describes in solid detail the process he went through this season concluding the conditions were too dangerous to summit complicated by their exit logistics.

He sums up his newsletter with these startling statements:

So once again it would appear that I have made a bad judgment call, and should really be still on the hill. I came here at the request of my members because they put their trust in me. I took this on as an honor but also as a great challenge to deal with this mountain. I have failed, it is time for me to give up this game. I have enjoyed the experiences along the way, it has not made me rich or have a stable home life, but I have managed to see many parts of the world and meet many interesting people along the way. It’s time to hang up the guiding boots and put my own personal boots on.

Russ

I have known Russ for over 10 years. He is the best of the best. I want to thank him for his tremendous contributions to defining a commercial guiding culture of safety and integrity. I wish him success in his future, including, hopefully, guiding on Everest in 2018!

Congratulations to all those who summit this season and best wishes on a safe descent

Best of luck to all

Climb On!
Alan
Memories are Everything

  6 Responses to “Russell Brice Announces End of Guiding Career – Update”

  1.  

    I have been a follower of Russell for the past 5 years.
    A great spokes person for all climbers, new and old.
    He will greatly be missed.
    I thank him for all he has contributed to climbing.
    George Brown
    Conn. USA

  2.  

    I disagree with his saying that he made a “bad judgement call”, “bad judgement calls” are those that result in deaths. Nobody on his team died, I call that a good judgment call. He shouldn’t 2nd guess his decision based on the fact that another team made it. Every team is different, and he made the best call he could with the information he had at hand.

  3.  

    Russell is such a class act and I hope he is easier on himself. Just because his team pulled out doesn’t mean that the risks were not reasonable.
    He has been an inspiration to so many people. I especially loved watching him on the Everest expeditions channel!

  4.  

    Allen, you had posted in a previous blog, ” Russell Brice is candid, no spin and is honest with his thoughts. I can attest that I have seen him lose money in return for the safety of his members. He is the real deal.” Boy if you didn’t hit the nail on the head. In dealing with him, you had no doubt in your mind where he stood; he was somebody who knew how to truly manage, where doing it right is never the easy way. Watching him try and tap down summit fever was always extremely tough. Or telling you that there was no way in hell you would be able to safely make it to the top. I also knew he lost money in baselining ‘safety first’ in his management style. Note that dead climbers never get to vent on the Internet.

  5.  

    Great Service done , Russell ,for the Community….yes.. good decision to move on…his Man Friday Phurba Tashi too is not climbing these days.

  6.  

    Russell is a class act and a legend. I had the pleasure of climbing/summiting Everest this year 2017 under his watch. He is a true leader and inspiration on the mountain.

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