Everest Dreams Shattered

diaries barny2a russell
Everest Dreams: For many climbers Everest is a lifelong dream. One that most people never get to realize, and those that do generally only get one shot at it. But what happens when your one shot comes, and your dream is taken away not because you’re sick, or not strong enough, but because your lead guide decides, arbitrarily, that you can’t make the summit?

That’s just what happened to Betsy Huelskamp who joined the HiMex expedition this past Spring. As you probably know, HiMex is owned and operated by the (in)famous Russell Brice, who just so happens to be the lead guide who told Betsy she couldn’t go up, despite the fact that she suffered no symptoms of altitude sickness and was able to make her acclimatization climbs, even if she was slower than the rest of the pack.

Betsy contacted Brice in January to inquire about joining his team in the Spring. The two exchanged letters and actually met in person as well, and while Brice recommended that Betsy have experience on another 8000m peak, he did tell her that it wasn’t a prerequisite and that she could still join the team if she came up with the $42k for the fees.

As the deadline approached, and Betsy struggled to come up with the cash, Brice reduced his rate to a mere $22k, and Betsy was on the expedition.

With the dream of an Everest Summit in her head and a sense of adventure in her heart, she set off to Kathmandu, where she would come face to face with reality. She found that the other male members of the team ignored her for the most part, or were down right hostile to her for some reason.

She also inexplicably had Brice tell her that she couldn’t go for the summit and that she should return to ABC to wait out the end of the expedition. When a Sherpa Guide that Betsy had befriended offered to help her down to ABC from Camp 3, Brice through a tantrum, even tossing one of her bags across the ice.

I would highly recommend you read Betsy’s tale in it’s entirety. It can be found by clicking here. You can also read Alan Arnette’s thoughts here. Alan was the one who brought this story to my attention, but due to the fact that I was out of town this week, I didn’t have a chance to post it until now. The Adventurist also weighs in with his thoughts as well.

This is becoming an increasingly common tale on Everest. Big expedition companies bullying around clients on the mountain after they have payed them exorbitant fees to be there in the first place. The guides have a responsibility to insure that their clients are safe and not trying to go up when they should be going down.

But these expedition leaders don’t have the right to bullying and intimidate clients, nor should they be basing their decisions on who gets to make a summit bid based on some personality conflict, prejudice, or other factor beyond the health and strength of the climber.

In this case, you have to wonder if Brice took Betsy’s $22k and allowed her to come on the expedition with no intention of ever letting her go to the top. In his mind, he may have seen it as that she didn’t pay the extra 20 grand, and there for wasn’t entitled to go up, nor use “his” Sherpas or “his” ropes, and so on.

Brice certainly is a controversial figure and there have been other stories about him in the past. There have been rumors about the way he lords over the North Face and he seems to be a love him or hate him kind of guy.

The other side of this story is that the expedition was being filmed for a new season up Everest: Beyond The Limit on the Discovery Channel. How this all plays out on air and is edited into the show will be interesting to see.

Betsy even remarks that there were three cameras in her face as she was told that she wouldn’t go up, and last year’s version of the show also had rumors of heavy editing. The show received some criticism for glossing over the David Sharp incident, and the role that Brice may have played in it.

In the end, what we have is another example of a big shot expedition leader bullying around someone on the mountain. And that’s not a good thing for climbers, other guides, or mountaineering in general. It’s another sign of the times on the increasingly crowded Everest, but it shouldn’t happen on any mountain, let alone the tallest on the planet.

Kraig Becker

17 thoughts on “Everest Dreams Shattered”

  1. I just had to comment, in my limited knowledge, that I feel your thoughts on the situation are spot on. I think Brice never intended Betsy to make the top. So why not take her $22K for what he saw as a partial trip anyway. Possibly also saw the potential to add some “drama” for Discovery too.

  2. I hadn’t even considered the additional drama of catching it all on film, but you’re right about that too. It certainly will be interesting to see how they play it out on film once it’s edited together.

    Perhaps Brice thought she wouldn’t make it anyway, and he could just get the $22k out of her and when she failed, he could send her down. But when she didn’t fail, he was looking at having to take someone up who, in his mind, didn’t pay for it.

    So frustrating, and it didn’t even happen to me. I can only imagine how Betsy feels.

  3. “despite the fact that she suffered no symptoms of altitude sickness and was able to make her acclimatization climbs”

    this is incorrect. half way to camp 2, she lay down in the snow, unable to move due to exhaustion. true, brice might be a sketchy guy, but there’s no way on earth betsy could summit everest. if brice let her go and she died up there, he’d be getting flamed for killing her. give the guy a break.

  4. I have had run ins with Brice. Living in Chamonix and running a chalet buisness I have had some dealings with his outfit here in the alps. I normally wouldnt bother to write anything about someone on the internet but he is a complete tool, “bully” doesnt do him justice.

  5. Your story seems to be a common one. The guy has a history of being a jerk to clients and others as well.

  6. I am absolutely no fan of Brice, on the contrary, I question some of his practices, but at what point do you take responsibility for yourself? When you summit Everest, you do so alone. Some of the best climbers have died on that mountain, and all serious climbers would readily admit that expedition leader or no expedition leader, you are responsible for what happens to you on the mountain.

    What in the heck made her think she was qualified to summit? I did two months research before I bought my first pair of hiking boots, and she couldn’t be bothered to do a Google search and learn how to put on crampons???? She made no attempt to learn even basic mountaineering, yet feels she was cheated out of a summit attempt? I think this was a lot less about mountaineering, and more about being on a tv show.

  7. Russell Brice is responsible for keeping people alive on the most dangerous spot on the planet.

    He doesn’t care what you whiners think.

  8. Please read the updated thoughts on Betsy that came later when the show was airing. This is all very old news and not really worth treading over again.

  9. I seen her website, she is nothing more than a groupy. go check her damn site, she talks a good one but if you check this woman you see she went there for the exposure. she also been on another show for discovery " motorcycle woman" I seen the beyond the limit show and is clear the groupy was cluless and did not put in the work to summit. man ya such a brice hater and I bet most of ya never been on an 20,000 climb before.

  10. The more you read about climbing, esp. high altitude climbing, the more you realize climbers have a high percentage of bad character. Terribly selfish, self important, people who love to attack each other, backstabing contradicting all the time. Of course the people on everest are not the super level climbers, as we all know. so here we have at best second tier climbers, who have all the more frustration and need to feed their egos. the great climbers are out attempting first ascents. but even the greats are constantly accusing each other of all kinds of things. Given this general character flaw in climbers, i would tend to give the biker chick the benefit of the doubt, simply because she is not from a group known to have a high percentage of total a-holes. she looks extremely fit, and everest is not climb, but a vertical marathon. so you do not need technique on that mountain, this is somethign ALL the greats agree on. don't take my word for it, the king of the mountain (and yes it has a king) himself, the greatest of all time, Messner, called it "treading snow". even he is famous for his badmouthing and sometimes vicious bitching about his climbing partners. and bitching about his climning partners lying about him (the whole thing with Habeler) so, in nutshell: high altitude climbers might be many things, but they certainly are not a bunch who tell it like it is. as nobody here knows the facts first hand, the reasonable conclusion is that her story more likely to be true, simply cause she is not a climber. sad, but true.

  11. Um, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that she was totally and completely unqualified to climb most mountains in the Alps, let alone Everest.
    And shame on the author for publishing this story without doing any research into the matter whatsoever.

  12. And thank you for coming in three years after the fact to leave a comment like this one on a story that was published well before the show was aired, and never mind that a different view and mea culpa was published when the real story DID break.

  13. Snarky comments back to other replies is kind of a low blow. You post unsubstantiated bologna and you get what you deserve.

    I did read your follow up, and it's a little bit more balanced, but I think the comments give the whole story more justice than your character assassination of Brice.

    The question still stands, why write this post with so little information, unless you really have it out for Brice? And sure he may be a nasty, rude, insensitive guy, but is it your job to attack him at every moment, even when you don't have all the facts?

    And I'm happy to not post anonymous.

  14. I think its fair to say that she would have never made it. Brice knows what he is looking for when selecting who can and cannot summit. This is not about being fair! She did not have what it takes physically

  15. I have been on expedition with Brice before. All I can say is that he is a discredit to the kind and honest nature of most of his countrymen. As one of your previous commenters mentioned: to call him a bully is a severe understatement.

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