In a few weeks, the Lindsay, Ont., mountaineer will traverse northern Pakistan to attempt to reach the summit of K2 which is 8,611 metres (28,251 feet) above sea level. K2 is considered one of the world’s most dangerous climbs, on average claiming the lives of one out of every four climbers who reach its summit.
But those facts don’t seem to phase Selby as he looks to fulfill his need for adventure again. In May 2021, he and a group of 23 climbers reached the summit of Mount Everest — the world’s tallest mountain at 8,849 m (29,032 ft.).
So why climb K2 — known among mountaineers as the “savage mountain”?
“Well for one, I think it’s (for) the never-ending kind of understanding or knowing and finding out what your limitations are,” Selby said on Global News Peterborough on Friday.
“I think the other side is … we are all born in life with specific talents and gifts. I think one of our purposes in life is to use that gift to be able to help and serve other people.
“My passion has always been outdoor adventure — pushing myself physically and mentally — and I want to combine my passion for climbing and combine it with a fundraiser to build a much-needed (expanded) medical clinic in Haiti.”
The medical clinic is part of Hope Grows Haiti, a grassroots volunteer-run charity launched in 2006 to support the impoverished Grand Goâve region on the west coast of Haiti, focusing mainly on children. Formed by Peterborough, Ont., couple Heather and Gord Rodin in 2006, the organization has built up a five-acre compound that offers feeding and educational programs and free medical care for hundreds of youth, and helps builds homes for Haitian families.
Selby’s latest climb aims to raise awareness and funds to expand the small clinic, Heather Rodin says. The organization has faced several major challenges over the past few years, including the COVID-19 pandemic, political upheaval following the July 2020 assassination of President Jovenel Mosse, and a major earthquake in August 2021 that claimed 2,100 lives.
“(The clinic) needs a pharmacy, two more hospital rooms and a washroom with a shower,” she says.
“Four beds donated by (Peterborough Regional Health Centre) are there and awaiting the extension. Before COVID-19 shut down travel, Peterborough paramedics faithfully donated time at the mission every year, and are looking forward to having a larger facility in which to run clinics in this destitute area.”
Selby during his first visit to Haiti he provided electrical work in the mission’s early stages. And the charity’s growth and success has since fuelled him to continue to help.
“I walked through banana fields with my tools and there was nothing basically on site,” he recalls.
“Over the years, the buildings that they have put up — and essentially what they’re contributing to the community down there — is probably one of my strongest beliefs. With the sustainability that Hope Grows has — just the impact that the organization has had on that community in Haiti — is unbelievable.
“When I first went down there, a lot of the kids had jaundice, or were homeless or school-less. Over the years — even just a decade — seeing that change, seeing all of sudden now kids are clothed, are fed, they are going to school and getting an education … some of them are getting jobs because of it. It’s almost created a little micro-economy.
“I think that whole success — seeing that grow from where it was to where it is now — continues to have me involved in fundraising efforts.”
Those efforts included raising nearly $20,000 in 2015 following a three-month trek from the U.S.-Canadian border to the U.S.-Mexico border — known as the Pacific Crest Trail — a distance of 4,270 kilometres that passed through 25 national forests and seven national parks.
Selby says preparing to climb the world’s tallest mountains takes years of “resume” building — a slow, but steady learning curve.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always into the adventure books and exploration and (Everest) had been on my mind for years,” Selby says.
“But obviously over the years, you have to build up a little bit of a resume and climbing experience until you’re ready to challenge that physically, mentally and financially.”
Highlights of the Selby’s Mount Everest expedition with a group of 23 mountaineers can be found on the International Mountain Guides website.
The K2 summit is 8,611 metres above sea level. The base camp for the climb is at 5,000 m with another camp at 6,000 m. Located in the Karakoram Range of northern Pakistan, K2 is located near the border with China.
“You have to plan, prepare mentally, physically and also kind of spiritually — you’ll spend as much time as you possibly can in the mountains,” he says.
“For me, I lived in a tent for 100 nights in a row as I hiked from Canada to Mexico at one point. You have to dive into more technical climbing; so you start moving up, building on more challenging peaks and also moving up in elevation to get your body exposed and climatized to the elevation.”
“So a lot of it funnels together to really create … or to come together … to set you up for even the chance to possibly summit,” says Selby, who graduated from Lindsay Collegiate Vocational Institute, and currently works as a first responder with the Toronto fire department’s high-risk rescue squad.
And as he makes the climb, he’ll have the support of those in Haiti.
“I know it will be life-changing for both Isaac, and the ones he will be helping in Haiti,” Heather Rodin says.