At 8,848m, Mount Everest is the highest peak on the planet. Trekking to base camp there was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. For mountaineers, it’s a “relatively easy” climb, compared to K2, a terrifying 8,611m summit. Montreal fireman, Serge Dessureault, who witnessed death up close on his first attempt, plans to try again in 2018.
Fewer than 400 people have ever summited K2, compared to nearly 8,000 who have made it to the top of Everest. K2 also has a ratio of 1 death for every 4 successful ascents. From 2009 to 2016, successful summits of K2 were recorded in only 3 years, whereas people have successfully climbed Everest every year since 1974. “I was very scared on K2 in 2016,” says 53-year-old Dessureault, who summited Everest in 2007 with Maurice Beauséjour. “But the drive is stronger than I am. I want to have another go.”
In 2016, after a series of big storms, Dessureault and his fellow climber, Benoît Lamoureux, decided to wait for the snow to compact before heading up to Base Camp 3. That decision saved their lives, as Camp 3 was wiped out by avalanches. They came back disappointed, but alive! “On that 2016 expedition, I understood why so many climbers get to K2, take one look at those gigantic, intimidating walls, and decide to turn back,” he adds.
Dessureault, a rope rescue specialist for 12 years (and still a firefighter!), understands how well his training has served him. “When I get scared, I know how to stay calm and analyze the situation. Like business professionals and people who work in so many other fields, climbers can’t let themselves be distracted by negative circumstances or too much emotion. You have to relax and take objective stock of things.”
K2’s reputation for being practically invincible presents a huge psychological challenge right off the bat. Then there are the deaths that have occurred over the years. August 1, 2008, was a particularly black day in the history of the mountain, when 11 climbers died on K2. This is only 1 example. And let’s not forget that it’s just plan tough! “K2 is a giant, difficult vertical ascent. Unlike Everest, you’re climbing almost right from the start,” says Dessureault.
Whatever the obstacles, there’s no doubt that Dessureault is happy when he’s immersed in rocky, icy solitude at the top of the world.
Of course, when you embark on expeditions of this nature, there’s yet another challenge—with a capital C.
“It’s not easy to find sponsors who will help foot the bill for expeditions like these. Yet there’s so much value in it: the story of the exploit, the perseverance involved, the team work…these are the things that inspire people in any business, from the top down”
“I often tell myself that this is the last one. Then time goes by and my wife notices that I’m starting to get antsy. That’s when she knows I’ve got a project in mind, that I’m ready to take on something else. When that happens, I can’t sleep. I’m like a man possessed. It’s very intense.”
If Serge Dessureault’s dream comes true, he will become the only Quebecer to have summited both Everest and K2. We wish him luck!