Ed Vieturns makes a point in almost all his books (though I read it HERE first) that in order to make it down alive, a climber needs to remember that getting to the summit is only 50% of the game. You still have to get back down. It’s so simplistic, and yet brilliant. I’m not yet an experienced climber, but in the few climbs I’ve made, I at least kind of know that thought process. You’re struggling to get up, and the summit feels like the goal, the end of the game. It’s very hard to remember that there is the whole other return trip to make as well.
It was the above thought process that ran through my mind when mountaineer and Everest “reporter” Alan Arnette reported here on his website that Himalayan Experience (HIMEX) has pulled their Everest team off the mountain and cancelled their summit attempt (on Everest and other local peaks). You might know HIMEX- they’re led by Russel Brice, whose Everest expedition was the star of the Discovery Channel Show ‘Everest- Beyond the Limit.’ After watching the show it was clear that Russel not only knows his stuff but is also a no nonsense sort of guy. If he tells you not to do something, there is a damn good reason for it.
Climbing Everest is a serious commitment: the time to train, the many thousands of dollars it takes to buy gear, the tens of thousands it takes to get on or buy a permit, and the months of your life dedicated to the effort. Imagine spending all that money, getting in country, getting to Everest Base Camp, starting to climb, but then to be told that it’s simply to dangerous, and that it’s all called off.
It’s also important to look at it from Russel’s point of view. Other teams are on the mountain, and they didn’t cancel. Others are moving forward with their climbs on Everest. But Russel talked to his sherpas, looked at the weather and the conditions on the mountain, and decided that the safety factor required him to call it off (all according to Alan’s post). But he is running a business, and this sort of press isn’t necessarily ideal. So as the business operator, there is a drive to run a successful business. But Russel Brice put the safety of his climbers and his sherpas before his profit and his business. Canceling doesn’t necessarily hurt him, but it doesn’t do him any favors either.
Ultimately, I think this speaks incredibly well for Russel Brice. Teams will probably summit this year, and those that signed on and paid Russel Brice will lose out. But they placed their safety and welfare (and decisions on such) in the hands of Russel Brice, and he made the call. If the day comes that I have the drive to make any Himalayan climb, HIMEX would be my first stop.