Betsy Huelskamp Revisted

WARNING: The following post and links contain spoilers for the season of Everest: Beyond The Limit that began airing last night. If you do not want to have any of the show spoiled for you before you get a chance to see it, you may want to skip this post and move on to the next. You have been warned!


A few months back I posted an article entitled Everest Dreams Shattered about Betsy Huelskamp, a climber with HiMex on Everest this past Spring, and a part of the Everest: Beyond The Limit Team. Betsy was unceremoniously dropped from the team, and told that she wouldn’t be allowed to go for the summit. When she returned home, she wrote this entry in her blog entry detailing her experiences and how she was treated by Russell Brice, The Discovery Team and other climbers. In short, it wasn’t pretty.

Her story touched a nerve with a number of us that cover the climbing scene. I first read about the story over in a climbing forum and Jason over at the The Adventurist weighed on the subject with this post. We were all quick to come to Betsy’s defense, and quick to condemn Brice and the Discovery Team. We’ve all heard the stories of Brice ruling the North Side of the mountain with an iron fist, and this wasn’t the firs time we’ve heard allegations about him treating a customer poorly. But, in our rush to judgement, is it possible we might have been wrong?

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot today, after watching last night’s episode of Everest: Beyond The Limit. There were several instances in last nights showed that demonstrated that Betsy might not have been ready to climb the mountain after all, and that she wasn’t as strong as she may have thought. There was even a scene where Brice was telling Betsy that he didn’t think she was ready, and that she may have exaggerated her experience on the mountain. He told her that Everest was no place to learn to climb. Later they showed her struggling a bit while descending a fixed rope. On top of that, I’ve heard through the grapevine that at one point, she even put her crampons on backwards while on the mountain. Clear signs of someone who is not prepared to go up Everest.

However, I also know that video footage can be edited to serve a purpose and tell a story the way the editor wants to tell it. Perhaps Discovery knew about the Internet controversy over Betsy, and has already begun telling the story that they want to tell. For now, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see how the story plays out, and what kind of footage they’ve captured. I would also like to hear Betsy’s side of the story once again after the show airs. But at this point, I’m not sure which side of the story is true.

I guess we’ll just have to keep tuning in to find out.

35 thoughts on “Betsy Huelskamp Revisted”

  1. Ummm…wasn’t expecting this post yet. Haha. I do have a bit more to the story. Perhaps I should put it out there. I was kind of waiting to see how things were going to go. I will email you first.

  2. It is not new news that Russell is a prick and has treated clients before as dirt. Russell will get what is coming to him someday for his lack of kindness, integrity and compassion for others. His record on his own climbs is said to be sketchy and that he may not have the great resume that he states. I am with Betsy on this one. And I hate The Discovery Channel. They manipulate there stories based on what outcome serves them. If it was National Geographic doing this show, I would feel more complled that it all is truth. Just my thoughts.

  3. You’re right Lawrence. It’s certainly not news that Russell is an abrasive guy, and can be a complete ass to his clients. Those allegations have been swirling around for a long time.

    I also agree that Discovery can edit things to tell the story the way they want, and to make things appear in a way that may not be completely accurate. However, in this case, there was some pretty solid footage of Betsy struggling or saying things that were a little off. The scene with Brice telling her he wasn’t sure she was read to go up the mountain is not something that could be faked, but it could be taken out of context a bit, and may have occurred much later in the climb, and simply inserted in the first episode.

    As I said, I guess we’ll have to wait to see how these things unfold.

  4. I was never on her side. I wonder how many lives Russell has saved by being a ‘jerk’?

    Btw, I’m not Russell.

    : D

    Keep it civil, thx.

  5. You make a great point, and Jason/The Adventurist and I were just chatting about that last night in e-mail. Russell can’t afford to put his clients in jeopardy and that includes the ones who are strong climbers, but may get in trouble because of a weak one.

    He has to be a hard ass on these people to ensure they come back safely, and that his business doesn’t suffer as a result. He probably has saved more people then we’d ever know by not allowing them to climb. Great insights.

  6. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand about the great importance of making sure that those that are on the team need to be able to mentally and physically capable of achieving the goals that are before them. My wife and I are both NY State hicking and climbing guides and are very upfront about our clients being completely honest about ability both physically and mentally. It is always good proof to look at their gear before seting off. If crampons look new, if they do not have an ice ax, or another piece of gear that is standard for what they say they have done before and do now then we have respectful conversations with them.
    If all is true that Betsy was not up to par, that is completely Russell’s fault. She can stretch the truth, say she is up to the task but I truly believe that it is the responsibility of the company, that being Russell to confirm that completely. He is responsible for all these people and neds to make that what his clients say is true. What is funny is that in TIM MEDVETZ’s bio, there is no claim to any mountain he has climbed beside overcoming his motorcycling accident. Whay would Russell take him the mountian and jepordize the whole team, because this reels in more viewers, just like Mogens with his asthma problem and trying to climb withot oxygen. I believe Russell new full well, if it is the case that Betsy was not going to be able to make it. I am sure that the Discovery Channel bit hard on this one. If all were able and seasoned on the mountain would the show be as popular?
    But this needs to be remembered, there is no reason in the world that a person should be treated the way Betsy was supposedly treated. I don’t care if she was an amatuer or not.

  7. I agree with you on both accounts Lawrence. Russell needs to take responsibility for allowing her to join the team in the first place, and probably Discovery as well, although they may bow to his decisions on this. But as team leader, he should have known before hand that she wasn’t ready. Betsy did tell him that she hadn’t been up above 20,000 feet before and that it had been some time since she climbed, but he took her none the less.

    I also agree that she doesn’t deserve to be treated poorly either. If the rumors of her pack and gear being thrown out are true, then it demonstrates how “professional” Brice can be at times. No client deserves that.

    It seems to me there is her side of the story, his side of the story, and the truth somewhere in the middle.

  8. I’m sure some of you may have observed what I have over time. How do I treat people, namely adventurist types. Some that are fun loving I treat nicely and I let my guard down. Others, well, I treat them very delicately. I’ve come to learn that it’s difficult because they often don’t know how to be humble and vulnerable; they are alphas including even the women. It’s difficult for them to say help me or even cry tears of pain – even in a really bad injured state. They never got over there invincibility complex of their youth and they are like some species of animal that fights to the death – even alone. One last characteristic, they take themselves too seriously and they can’t laugh at themselves when there are plenty of laughs to be had and enjoyed.

    “TIM MEDVETZ’s bio”

    Yeah, I know a guy that is planning for Everest in 2008 – I’m unsure if he is ready but if he is not I hope someone stops him prior to some 8000M. I don’t think he will have an impressive resume either at the start line.

  9. Why all the “Anonymous” comments? Just curious..Is this issue really so big that people are afraid to speak out?

    I have shifted in my approach to this issue, as Kraig has mentioned. I have talked at length to him about my thoughts..

    #1: If Betsy knew she wasn’t qualified to go–why did she?

    #2: Why did Russell take her on knowing this ahead of time?

    To me, those are the main two questions that we will probably not have answers too. I do have more to this story–including some comments by another well-known Himex and Everest: Beyond the Limit member..regarding Betsy’s situation. I am waiting to see how this all goes down before I jump in with much more–you can be sure though, there is more to this story.

    By the way, Lawrence, keep in mind that what Russell supposedly done is being put out by Betsy..This has not been confirmed by anyone else at this time.

  10. What’s with all the suspense? Spoiler alerts?! Is there really an anticipated surprise in how this will “go down?” : )

  11. Actually, yes, there is suspense amongst viewers who watch the show, but don’t follow the climbing scene in any other way. If they are enjoying it and don’t know anything about what happens with Betsy, I don’t want to be the one to ruin it by giving it away. Would you want to know who wins Survivor for instance, or who is voted off two or three weeks before it happens?

    Those of us who actually follow events on Everest could post the entire list of those who summit this year and those who don’t. I’m not going to do that, as obviously the show has a good following, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience for them. Judging from the amount of traffic I’ve been getting on all of my posts regarding Beyond The Limit, I would say that there is a great deal of interest in the show.

  12. #1: If Betsy knew she wasn’t qualified to go–why did she?

    arrogance and ego; just sayin

    #2: Why did Russell take her on knowing this ahead of time?

    business, he and the sherpas he hires need food, logistics/plans executed, and things like health insurance.

  13. Arrogance and ego get a lot of us in trouble sometimes. It’s probably as good an explanation as any for why Betsy went. She probably truly thought she could do it.

    As for Brice, I mentioned in my very first post on this topic way back in August that he took her on at half-price. Perhaps he knew all along that she wouldn’t go up, and he was simply taking her money.

  14. Way to go Betsy. Politics aside, I am proud of you. You performed better than I could have. Your accomplishment is a great one and nothing to be ashamed of. Dissappointing for you maybe at a personal level. Keep your spirit up and come back to climb another day. Ride on. You are a class act. Trailerhitch.

  15. Betsy has a lot to be proud of on her own. Getting as high as she did on the mountain is not something to sneeze at, and going back next year would shut up a lot of people complaining about her as well.

  16. I have read so much about this story and have no sympathy for Betsy Huelskamp once so ever…First of all I have watched EVERY show….and Betsy was given several chances to prove herself capable of making that climb…and she failed miserably EVERY time…Granted Russell shouldn’t have given her false hope that she could possibly make that climb and then take her money…but has anyone seen her application? Who’s to say that she didnt exaggerate on how much experience she had? NO ONE knows the truth in what was on the application…except for what she is trying to make people believe….for all we know she could have said she had ample amount of mountaineering experience when in fact she had little if no experience….She paid Russell to TRY to get her to the Summit….but she was ALSO paying for his HONESTY as to what he thought she would be capable of and sometimes especially at that altitude when no one can think clearly you have to be abrasive and maybe even a little hurtful to make sure that what you’re saying is sinking in to their oxygen deprived brains. As Far as I am concerned she should be thanking Russell Brice for telling her “No” and ultimately saving her life. And as far as her belongings being thrown around camp…does she even know FOR A FACT who did that? Probably not……all she is trying to get is someone to throw her crying ass a pity party,,,,and if thats the case….I WILL NOT BE ATTENDING!!

  17. I agree with you Julia. Everything she stated in her now infamous blog post seems so far off the mark it isn’t even funny. At this point, I think the whole thing is a non-issue, and seems to be much ado about nothing. Clearly she wasn’t ready to climb and even she now admits that, which wasn’t the case a few months back.

    As for getting her gear tossed around, I’m still wondering if it even really happened. We’ve seen no evidence to support that it has.

  18. Who cares if Russell’s a prick. If anyone here believes that she could have made the summit probably believes that a person who’s best time in a mile run was 8 minutes, could walk out the next day and run a 4 minute mile.

  19. This all water under the bridge at this point, as her tune seems to have changed based on the “After The Climb” episodes.

    And the whole issue has been discussed to death by now.

  20. this is what I think happened,
    1-Betsy watches season 1 decides she likes Tim
    2-decides she needs to interview Tim cuz she has a crush on him
    3-thinks it would be a fun and exciting trip with Tim
    4 spur of the moment decision to go
    at any price just happy to be accepted
    5 gets to base camp and realizes Tims feeling are not mutual
    6 Tim has turned all “the boys” against her
    7 Betsy’s very surprised at this
    8 thought she would be the “cool chick” on every guys list
    9 realizes very quickly that climbing really is hard work
    10 paid a high price for 10 min. of fame!!!finally realizes this!!!

  21. If I was going to climb Everest, I would want Russel to co-ordinate my climb. He has the guts to tell people the truth. No-one likes the truth, that’s the problem.

  22. What’s all the fuss about anyway. Betsy has shown an incredible amount of disrespect towards Everest by just jumping into this event in a period of mere months. Other people dedicate years to this. She fancied the idea of having done this mountain – and I utterly hate that.

    Other than that, she couldn’t do it. Didn’t complete any of the tests in time, showed clear symptoms of high altitude sickness, and complained afterward that Everest is such a cold place for a warm person like her.

    I’ve seen Russell bringing her the news, and the man showed more empathy than I would have done. Perhaps his later fury had something to do with Betsy dwelling on about his misjudgement? Rightly so then.

    Tim completely ignored her because he obviously did not share her feelings for him. Makes sense to me…

    Only thing that I find disturbing about this is the massive 50% discount Russell gave this lady (that is: according to Betsy). Not fair at all with respect to the other climbers who did pay the complete sum of money (perhaps worked years for it).

    Conclusion: Betsy’s side of the story is as subjective as it can possibly be. The woman was there for the romance with Tim and for the prestige that comes with saying: “Everest? Done that!”
    You don’t just do Everest. Show some of the respect Russell pays this mountain!

    ~ ValAktaion

  23. I am not a fan of Brice at all, but Jeez – how about a little bit of personal responsibility here?

    When all the drama, whining and complaining is done, we are left with the following simple facts….
    1. YOU are responsible for yourself on a summit attempt. Some of the worlds best and most experienced climbers have died up there, and anyone who is even remotely qualified to be on that mountain knows that no expedition leader is going to be able to save you if you get into serious trouble.
    2. Expedition leaders are not responsible for making sure you summit. Their role is to provide equipment, support, and advice. It is not their responsibility to look into your background to see if you are lying about your abilities, or are qualified.
    3. You pay your money for a CHANCE to summit. You are not paying for compassion, hand-holding and encouragement to press on when you are clearly not qualified to do so.
    4. If you pay over 20k for an expedition, you might want to take 15 minutes and do a Google search on how to put on your crampons. That’s basic mountaineering for God’s sake. I did two months of research before I purchased my first pair of hiking boots, and she can’t be bothered to learn basic mountaineering before attempting to summit the highest mountain in the world? A little commons sense, please!

    In the end, I think this was much less about her having a chance to summit, and a lot more about her ego and wanting to be on a TV show.

  24. I watched in amazement when Russell is trying–desperately trying–to get Tim to come down even though he’s so close to the summit. Remembering that 80% of the people who die while climbing Everest die on the way down–that was Russell true concern. When he says to Tim, come down now I don’t want you to die, that sealed it for me. Regardless of all the negative things that have been said about Russell and take it any way you want, but I truly believe that Russell doesn’t want anyone to die regardless of it being bad for business or bad for his personal reputation or whatever self-serving example one could point to, the bottom line is that Tim didn’t die and even though he pushed Russell to the limit of his patience and understanding, he was allowed back for another attempt.

    I, for one, would never attempt to climb Everest, but if I had to go, I’d go with Russell because in the end he really wouldn’t want me to die.

  25. The fact that she was clearly not technically skilled at all and not able to deal with the altitude alone speaks for itself. Boo hoo, this is a matter of life or death; would you have a soldier who couldn't handle a gun covering your back?

  26. Betsy has no right to be on Everest in the very least regardless of what the show depicted. She has never completed a prerequisite climb for Everest (any 8000m, even Denali) She went there to massage her own ego and she is lucky they didnt let her higher cuz she would have wound up dead. The only diff between her and Sandy Hill is at least Sandy Hill had some experience…not a second wind in her mid life crisis. High Altitude Mountaineering is serious shit, its not fiddle f**kin on the side of some ridge, fist pumping with your pretty north face outfit. Anybody who knows anything about mountaineering would tear their eyes out watching you attempt to climb. Stay in LA, rub your face all over the camera, stick to the shit you do there, yoga ball, and other old lady stuff, Quit your bitching how people were mean to you, blah blah…. you should have never been there in the first place. period. Completely unarguable.

  27. ON SELF PITY:

    I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A bird will fall frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

    BETSY: KEEP YOUR SELF PITY

  28. Just a thought on comments about Brice's requirements to Summit.

    Brice really only has a single method to see who's capable of the summit section (at that time) and that's the 'required to climb in x hours' part of the acclimatisation. That has to be his filter for dishonesty or overstating climbing skills on an application. If you can't do it – you can't go.

  29. Wow, I just watched the show for the first time and I'm no expert and could see she had no chance from the start. She was by far the most annoying person on the show and should've been kicked off earlier. People like her die there, her life was spared by a wise man. AND it's no surprise that she would leave the show in tears speaking badly of the experts and no surprisae either that she would continue spewing her ignorance and false pride after the show. She is sooo typical it's pathetic she was even invited on the show. And as far as paying half price, you get what you paid for, the show got half it's moneys worth, while she got a great view of the mountain and what it's like to be really strong and adventurous as she "claimed". What a disappointment, no wonder there isn't another season to a good show. Ruined by one weak and lame person. And I'll remain anonymous because she ruined a good show and deserves nothing more than these comments… over and out!

  30. Russell must be hard on applicants for their egos stand above reality.
    Russell would be responsible for a weak climber to jeopardize the entire group where as people have died before. The "I can do" crowd needs to get a reality check as Nature is tougher than you'll ever think, arm chair ideas lead to underestimating the elements, namely a Mountain that no one should be on. She has a need to be liked and uphold an image of the cool chick biker who has different men in her diary. Pushing 50 as a road rat does not qualify you to climb death mountain. Let the lines on your face be the testiment of miles earned not feet climbed. Russell did her a favor, she avoided a body bag. You can't do it all Betsy, no one can. Wanting a steady guy means sacrificing some social networking and ego check. Perhaps you can stand on the hilltop at Sturgis and wait for another animal spirit to enter you.
    And quit blaming white people for North Dakota, that's what guilty liberals do in California..blame themselves while wearing feathers and turquoise.

  31. I can't believe the lack of respect Betsy showed for the mountain and the complete unawareness of how trully monumental climbing Everest is. The only reason she even had the slightest chance of climbing this mountain is the arrangements and organization Russell's company provides. She seems to act like it is some sort of Disney adventure that the only reason she doesn't get to ride is because Russell is mean. Russell makes solid, excellent judgements for his clients. If I were climbing Everest, I would love to have someone as straightfoward and thoughful as Russell. Hats off Russell, boo hoo Russell. I wonder how many people writing to support Betsy have climb serious, high mountains, but are better at watching reality TV shows…

  32. Years later I know, but has nobody worked out Betsy was cast by Discovery?
    Why would Russell fly out to meet her – Discovery found her for sure.
    This is TV, people!

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