MONTREAL — A Montreal firefighter who fell to his death on Pakistan’s treacherous K2 mountain is being remembered as a passionate mountaineer whose courage and “unwavering spirit” propelled him to ascend the world’s highest peaks.
Serge Dessureault, 53, had been leading an international mountaineering expedition when he died early Saturday while attempting to scale the 8,611-metre peak in northern Pakistan, according to Karrar Haidri, secretary of Alpine Club of Pakistan. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fall.
Yanick St-Martin, a fellow firefighter, said Dessureault had become a mentor to him after he expressed an interest in mountaineering.
He said Dessureault’s “enormous soul” and passion always shone through, whether he was fighting fires or climbing mountains.
“He showed great pride, a great compassion towards others and the sport, and he radiated courage all around him,” St-Martin said in a phone interview from the Rocky Mountains, where he’s training to attempt to climb Mount Everest next year.
He described Dessureault, who has previously summitted Everest, as a cautious climber who always advised him above all to remain alert to danger.
“He told me to take my time, and said it was always the mountain that had the last word,” he said.
St-Martin said it wasn’t always easy to explain why a climber would want to climb K2, which is among the world’s most difficult, dangerous peaks.
“It’s surpassing yourself, accomplishment, and what we forget is the spirituality behind it,” he said. “It’s not just conquering a mountain, it’s conquering oneself.”
Dessureault had been a captain with Montreal’s fire department since 1990, according to the city’s firefighters’ association.
“The shock is all the greater among the firefighters since Serge was known to be an experienced mountain climber, very cautious, always aware of the possible risks at all times and never taking any unnecessary risk,” president Chris Ross said in a statement.
The Montreal Fire Department also issued a statement praising the 28-year veteran as a “firefighter who was fully committed to serving the Montreal community.”
The department said it would offer support to Dessureault’s family, including his wife and children.
A Facebook page following the climb of Dessureault and two other climbers said Dessureault “took a fall near camp 2 at 6,700 metres” early Saturday.
Dessureault had been leading the nine-member “K2-Broad Peak” expedition up the mountain, which is extremely steep and attracts notoriously bad weather.
Claude Beausejour, whose brother Maurice Beausejour was with Dessureault on the mountain, told The Canadian Press in a phone interview that the other climbers were planning to end the expedition and return home.
“Both of them, my brother and Serge, are people who are very, very careful and they take no unnecessary risks. They calculate things well, they are excessively intelligent beings and they understand what they do and they are very careful,” he said, adding he did not yet know exactly what happened to cause the fall.
—with files by The Associated Press
Morgan Lowrie , The Canadian Press