Venturist René Peeters
Where there’s adventure, that’s where I want to be
Seeing René Peeters in his business suit, you may not expect someone who is drawn to extreme situations. Think lonely, snowy mountain peaks thousands of meters high. Where survival comes down to skills, common sense and the quality of your gear.
It’s 5 in the morning, the altitude is 3000 meters, the sun rises over the icy peeks. You drink your tea at minus 30 degrees Celsius, while the sunlight warms your face. Around you: just the mountains, complete silence and utter solitude. It’s moments like these that make the climb worth all the hardships, says René Peeters, alpinist and tax advisor.
“In the mountains there’s only one thing on my mind: climbing”, René reflects. “I guess I need that extreme focus to counterbalance the constant bustle of my daily job.” He embarks on one or two expeditions per year, mostly in the Alps, but he has also been to the Himalayas and the Andes.
Not just a thrill seeker
“Where there’s adventure, that’s where I want to be”, says René. But he is not just a thrill seeker. “People who know me from business are often surprised when they see me in a T-shirt at an informal event. In the office my tattooed arms don’t show. I don’t want to draw attention. But I also don’t hide it: it is who I am. People are all different, and I believe that’s something we have to cherish.”
To René the world of tax advisory and mountaineering are not as far apart as they may seem. “My clients are often entrepreneurs. I try to help them control risks. But on the other hand, risks are inherent to business so you can never completely exclude them. Finding that balance is also what attracts me to extreme sports. There is an element of risk, but you try to be as safe as possible.”
Very real risks
In the mountains those risks are very real, René has experienced on more than one occasion. “I remember one time in the Italian Alps, I was on a supposedly easy trail, in preparation for a more difficult climb later that week. We only brought light material, and planned to sleep outside. But unexpectedly a cold front came in and temperatures suddenly dropped to minus 10 as a thick layer of snow covered the mountain slope.
“The water in my backpack froze, as did my fingertips. The top was so close, but we decided to turn around.” René had to cancel the next expedition because of his injuries, realizing that a good adventure is not only about going as far as you can go. It’s also about knowing when to go back, and try again another time. “That peak will always be there”, René concludes. “In the end there is nothing more important than coming down in one piece.”