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.
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 Cesen 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 clients 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.
Russ prides himself in reading weather forecast and giving his client 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.
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