One of the most memorable events was ice climbing Ball Glacier on the South Island. We rocked up, secured a guide, equipment, and we were off for the day.
Our guide Russell, was an icon of a Kiwi: friendly, rugged, knowledgeable, confident, and a great sense of dark humour.
Not much of a mountaineer, but a keen mountain walker, I relished the instruction and greatly improved my technique. We cramponed, axed, pitoned and belayed our way up to a plateau enjoying a small hot lunch, and shared humourous stories.
We were close to the top of the world. The views were outstanding.
Glaciers can be dangerous places and Russell always had an eagle eye on us, the glacier, and the weather. Especially the weather, it can change in a flash, and often violently in the mountains.
At the end of a thoroughly satisfying day, he invited us back to his house, where his girlfriend was cooking dinner. Very hospitable, very New Zealander, very Canadian!
Following one of the best properly cooked dinners I had in months, his girlfriend suggested he show us THE video.
“What video,” asks me?
“Oh it’s nothing,” says Russell.
"Oh go on Russell,” says his girlfriend.
Reluctantly Russell loaded up the video. A most amazing story began to unfold. It was a documentary of a climb of Everest. Russell and his climbing mate were the first to successfully climb the Pinnacles on Everest's Northeast Ridge.
Russell Brice was a world class mountaineer and a leader of Himalayan expeditions, and still is, not that he would have ever mentioned this to anyone.
Last Monday evening, I was doing some late night channel surfing and stumbled upon Everest: Beyond the Limit, a Discovery documentary of Everest Climbers filmed in 2006/7. To my surprise and delight, it was led by Russell Brice.
Since my chance meeting with Russell, he has summited Everest twice, and numerous other mountains in the Himalayas.
Following our dinner and the preview of the video, I asked Russell how he got into mountain climbing.
“As a youngster, I hated my parents so much that I would run out the front door of the house, and the mountains were there in front of me,” he answered wryly cracking a smile.
Never underestimate the role your parents can have in motivating you in life.
Russell Brice is a living legend.
I am privileged to have spent a day with this humble, talented and endearing man.