After six years working under Gold Rush’s most successful miner — the 23-year-old Parker Schnabel — Milwaukee’s Rick Ness is going out on his own. Season 9 of Discovery’s No. 1-rated show returns Friday, Oct. 12 at 9/8c to find Ness as his own mine boss with a claim of his own and everything on the line.
Ness spent the offseason caring for his moving, who passed away months prior to him departing for the Klondike. Never having mined a claim of his own, he recruited his Wisconsin buddies (almost all who had no experience) to join him on what he thought could be an amazing opportunity. He pretty much cashed in his life savings and took the biggest risk of his life.
“It was a crazy year for me,” Ness tells us. “Obviously, I spent the beginning of the year with my mom until she passed, and then I really only had about two and a half weeks to plan for this season, where most of the time you’d want probably a year or more, so it was pretty much a frantic, just throwing stuff together, getting some people together, and just getting up there and then putting in the work and really just rolling with the punches and kind of flying by the seat of my pants all summer.”
Prior to his departure, Ness did meet up with father (who you’ll meet in the season opener), and he gave him some unnerving advice or maybe some motivation. “I went and met with my dad before I headed up, and he didn’t think what I was doing was a good idea, or that was just his way to motivate me, but he basically said that I was going to come home broke with no friends,” Ness shares. “I’m happy to say — I can’t spoil it too much — but I will say I have at least one friend left.”
It was a huge leap of faith for his friends to put their lives on hold and venture along for an unknown payout (if any). And for Ness the pressure and stress was palpable right from the start, as he’s leveraged everything. He could walk away either the hero or completely hated among his friends. Ness gives clarity to why he ultimately opted for friends over an experienced crew. “The guys that I picked, I knew would be up for it. In my mind, I also thought that that was a bad idea, honestly, because I did have everything that I own on the line, and so I thought about just trying to put together a crew of people that had lots of experience, but ultimately, I’ve had a lot of success up there with mining, and I did have the confidence that I could hopefully make this work this year. I just didn’t feel like sharing that with strangers. I wanted to try and give that to my friends, as well. That’s ultimately how I made my decision.”
The job is a six-month commitment. Ness left Milwaukee in March of this year and is looking at first coming home next week. When you go up to mine you pretty much say goodbye to the rest of the world for six months. “Having my friends up there, I knew, was going to help,” Ness shares, about leaving so soon after his mother passed. “I trust them, and I knew that they’d have my back, and that was just a real reassuring thing going into the season, knowing that I had my buddies on my side and with me.”
Balancing friendships with business did come into play. “I do have things on the line, so ultimately, I do have to treat it like a business, and I do have to run them like employees, but I don’t think that it has to be miserable or not fun to run a successful business, and I wanted everybody to have a good time. Ultimately, I think that you can be more successful if everybody’s in the right state of mind and working towards the same thing. Also, at the same time, being serious about it. I think that we accomplished that this year.”
One of his best moments of the season was when he brought the guys in and showed them the gold in the sluice box for the first time. “We got a bit of a late start, and we had a lot of ground to move and a lot of stripping to do this spring. It’s kind of easy for everybody to lose focus and forget what they’re there for and what they’re doing. I was seeing that in everybody. It can get monotonous after a while, but as soon as we started sluicing, and as soon as that first gold showed up in the sluice box, I brought my friends in there who had never seen it before and got to see their reactions and the realization dawn across their faces of like ‘Oh, that’s right, that’s why we’re here. There’s gold in the ground, and we’re here to dig it up.’”
As for the others, Parker and Tony Beets are in a full-out land war and competition to beat each other in gold. It doesn’t look like Tony is going to budge on royalty rates, either. So it’s a rough start for Parker. Plus, unlike previous seasons, Season 9 of Gold Rush will actually include a gold tally every week, so the miners (and viewers!) know where they stand in their race to beat each other out.
Christo Doyle also returns to the series’ preshow The Dirt. The one-hour preshow begins at 9/7c.