Last week, I made a post about Russell Brice’s public statement that he will “hang up the guiding boots.” In that post I also hoped this was an emotional reaction to cancelling his second expedition on K2 in three years.
Well we now have the answer.
Brice to “Stay”
Russell Brice, stung by his decision to stop his K2 expedition this season when another team went on to summit, wrote a heartfelt description of exactly why he made the decision to end the summit push on K2 and summed 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.
He now clarifies his intent. He said he is not leaving guiding altogether but rather planning to spend less time at base camp. He posted in his recent newsletter (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.
As you read, Russ teases that there are other changes afoot for Himex. It is well known within the close climbing community that he has wanted to sell Himex for quite a while, including to one of his guides at one point but they had a falling out and the deal evaporated.
So, I will not be surprised to see Russ bring on a financial partner and Russ take more of a back office role similar to how Eric Simonson runs his Everest expeditions from the US while Greg Vernovage and Ang Jangbu Sherpa are at base camp or Todd Burleson’s Alpine Ascents who lives in Alaska and rarely goes to base camp.
Russ has cultivated excellent guides with Richie Hunter, Mark Woodward, Shinji Tamura, and Hiro Kuraoka plus his long time Sherpa Sirdar, Phurba Tashi who is tied with Apa Sherpa for most Everest summits at 21, who is now content to lead the climbing team from base camp as well.
No matter, change is always a constant in the climbing community. It is rare to see companies last more than a few years as guides tire, the competition is tough, the pay and working conditions are difficult and the risk is real when you take on daily decisions of life and death.
As always, I wish Russ the best, no matter his role.
Memories are Everything