NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2012

Newsletter #116 aug 2012

Firstly I have to apologise that the newsletters this season will not be as entertaining as when written by Billi Bierling, however she has decided to climb Makalu with Kari Kobler this season, but will be back with us on Nuptse again next spring.

Our Manaslu expedition is not far away and our preparations are in full swing for this autumn season. Our team this year will consist of our long-time guides Mark (Woody) Woodward, Bruce Hasler and Shinji Tamura with myself in support and of course our Sirdar Phurba Tashi and his Sherpa team. Like every year, Lachhu Basnet will perform his wonders in the kitchen.

First of all, I would like to introduce out team, which is very experienced and is very international with a majority of Japanese members.

Daryl FRANCK from the USA lives in Italy. He was training with Chamex in Chamonix last summer and will be here again next week. He has successfully climbed several of the well-known 4,000m peaks in Europe.

Andreas FRIEDRICH is German, although as a pilot spends considerable time travelling. He has scaled Ama Dablam and several of the 4,000m peaks in Europe.

Kazufumi GOMI from Japan has already climbed Mount Everest.

Naoki ISHIKAWA, also from Japan, has been on several Himalayan Experience expeditions to Everest (north and south) and was with us on Lhotse earlier this year.

Gary JONES from Australia is returning to the Himalaya, where he has previously climbed with our guide Woody.

Tomoe KOBAYASHI, the only woman on the team, is also from Japan, where she has climbed several peaks. Last summer, she was training here in Europe.

Susumu MOTOIKE, another member from Japan, was with us on Lobuche Peak earlier this year, and was with Shinji on the Matterhorn.

Shokichi SAITO from Japan is returning to Himalayan Experience. He has been on Everest (north and south), Cho Oyo and has almost climbed the Seven Summits, with only Carstensz Pyramid missing, We are looking forward to having him on the team again.

Wim SMETS from Belgium comes with a wealth of experience with all the Seven Summits, Cho Oyo, Broad Peak and most of K2 under his belt.

John THOMSSEN from New Zealand has climbed numerous summits in his home country. He has been on Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and Kenya as well as several trekking peaks in Nepal.

Spring Season

Not surprisingly, it has been an interesting time since returning from Everest earlier this year. It has also not been an easy time during which we got a lot of media attention, but I am still happy with the decision made by the majority of my guides and Sherpas. It has also been a very sad time as I had to end my long-term relationships with Adrian Ballinger and Monica Piris, who will no longer be working for Himalayan Experience.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and personally I had the great chance to climb Mont Blanc for the 90th time on my 60th birthday with David TAIT, one of Himalayan Experience’s long-term members on Everest. We actually had some great snow and weather conditions. It was also fabulous reaching the summit of Mont Tacul with Chris DOVELL, another Himalayan Experience member, who is my (part time) next-door neighbor in Chamonix as well as a great friend to be in the mountains with.

We had our own dramas on the Mont Blanc massif earlier this summer with 28 people caught in an avalanche, which resulted in nine deaths. The situation there was very similar to what is happening on Everest and many other peaks in the world. Of course, all these things are very complex, but I will try to put this into just a few categories.

Guides are under a lot of pressure to make a living and support the infrastructure around them. On Everest, operators have to find work for Sherpas, lodges, hotels, helicopter companies, restaurants, bars, taxi drivers and even for the man selling post cards. In Chamonix, it is the same - we need to support the lift companies, refuges, restaurants, bars as well as the souvenir shops.

Over the years, operators and guides have learnt very well how to make activities much safer and successful. However, the number of people with disposable time and money, who are able to do many activities, has increased significantly. This growing demand has lead to the development of the Adventure Tourism market with skydiving, scuba diving with sharks, climbing Everest and the like, which again has led to overcrowding.

The next factor is our clients’ high expectations. As mentioned above, we have made reaching the summit of Everest almost look easy, which has led to our clients expecting that they are going to get to the summit, despite their own condition or the condition of the mountain. These clients are putting even more pressure on the operator.

This is an ever-changing environment that we need to observe, respect and work with.

Aid Project

Himalayan Experience has also made good progress with the Kumjung Cultural Centre that is being built under the watchful eye of Phurba Tashi. During the spring season, the rocks and timber for the building were collected, and construction has now started. The total budget is $66,000 and we have so far collected about $50,000 of the required funds. David (Chimu) McGRAIN who was on our spring Everest trip, is a very active sponsor for aid projects in South America, and has made a sizeable donation. He has also offered to help collect funds for this Sherpa project via his Trust Fund There will be a new page on the site dedicated to this project, and donations are always welcome.

The idea for this project comes from our Sherpa staff after having discussed what would be a good way to help the people, without which most mountaineers in the Himalaya would not be able to get to the summit. Phurba once explained to me that many of the young Sherpas are leaving the Khumbu area to live in Kathmandu or foreign countries, which has led to the old culture being lost on the young people. By building a special room dedicated to Cultural Studies near the original Hillary School complex in Kumjung, we hope that young kids will get a chance to gain an insight into their heritage that will stay with them - no matter where they will travel in the future.

This year Himalayan Experience also became a partner with Toread, a large clothing and equipment manufacturer in China. Last season, all of our Sherpas were dressed in their new uniforms and we had new tents and sleeping bags. In June, Phurba Tashi and I were invited to the official announcement of this partnership in Beijing at the Toread Spring Collection Show. We look forward to working together over the coming years in order to design a great Alpine / high altitude range of clothing and equipment.

Jing WANG, one of the owners of Toread, has been to the summit of Everest and Lhotse (with Himalayan Experience) as well as Shishapangma, Cho Oyo and Manaslu. This spring, she was able to summit Makalu with our sister company in Nepal, Mountain Experience and she has just reached the top of Broad Peak in Pakistan along with our Sherpas Tashi Tshering and Tshering Tashi.

I also travelled to Switzerland to visit Marcel BACH. a past Everest summiteer with Himalayan Experience. Marcel has kindly made a sizeable donation to the Culture Centre and has employed our Sherpa Loppsang Temba and Base Camp Cook Rams (Tashi) Basnet in Gstaad for the last few years. This has been appreciated by the Sherpas but also by many of our members, who have had the chance to sample Tashi’s cooking. The experience in a Swiss restaurant kitchen has been a great asset for all of us at Base Camp.

I understand that the Walking With The Wounded film about their trips to Manaslu and Everest will be premiered on 27 Aug.

Read more here:

Last but not least, I do not utilise Facebook personally, however I do have an Official Facebook page ( ) managed by my comunications team in Chamonix. I understand that there is an unscrupulous impersonator who has set up another Russell Brice page. Please bear in mind that this is not me.

I am looking forward to leading a great team to the eighth highest mountain in the world and I hope that you will enjoy following our expedition. I will do my utmost to keep you informed, however, the newsletters may not be as frequent as they are when ‘Billi the Blogger’ is on the computer keyboard.

Russell Brice