Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bounders' Log: Kerisma

Being able to offer life-transforming experiences to those individuals who need them most is something that we at Outward Bound Canada have prided ourselves on since day one in 1969, and with our impactful Women of Courage (WOC) Program we see this come to fruition perhaps more than anywhere else. For Kerisma – as with many participants – just exactly what she was getting herself into was a bit of a grey area. Our staff had worked closely with her to make her feel ready and prepared for the journey ahead, but Kerisma couldn’t help but be unsure of her own ability to complete the adventure that lay before her. Sure enough, as soon as she was in the company of the women who would be taking this journey with her, she found herself rapidly and wholly embracing all that was to come.

"In preparing for, applying for and considering the Outward Bound Canada journey ahead of me, all of my concerns, doubts and fears revolved around my physical ability to complete the trip. 

Within minutes of getting to the base camp I realized that the physical challenge was just one small part of the journey I was embarking on, and I needed to take a few moments to acknowledge that I was putting my trust for my safety and my basic needs such as food, water, and shelter in the hands of people I had just met. I realized that this was going to be a challenge on so many more levels than just the physical. I was ready. 

The coordinator had done a wonderful job of selecting participants who were up for all aspects of the journey and I think we were all pleasantly surprised to discover she was coming with us. We spent the first night at the camp and it gave us all a chance to adjust to our new gear, sleeping outside, and each other. It was nice easing in to the journey we would embark on the following morning.   

It was that first morning together riding in the van to the trail head that I came to understand the true gift of being selected for this particular course. This was the Women of Courage course, and as I listened to the women speak to each other and begin sharing parts of their unique stories with one another, I was deeply moved by an overwhelming feeling of being amongst kindred souls.  They were speaking my language, and their compassion and wisdom filled the van with such depth of being that I found my heart bursting. I don’t know if anyone knew how special that ride was for me. The other women all seemed to have had other experiences of sharing stories of courage and survival with other women but for me it was unexpected and a first and it had a deep and profound impact on me. I came to understand that this was to be an entirely different kind of journey than I had anticipated… and it was. 

Two weeks prior to the trip my marriage had come to an abrupt and surprising end. I had considered cancelling the trip because I was in pretty rough shape emotionally.  I am grateful I did not. For on the trail, on the beaches, amongst the women, and under the stars I found peace and authenticity of self. I spent time each day inwardly reflecting on my feelings and I was graced with serenity that I think came from being out away from everything.

As we walked through the forests I let my memories of the past rise up, creating new memories and reclaiming my ability to laugh and enjoy being in the outdoors.  As we walked along the beaches I discovered strength in my body. As we walked along the muddy and rugged trails I discovered how capable I truly was. As we broke down and set up camps every day I discovered I could navigate between taking time for myself and spending time with others authentically.  As I lay in my tent listening to the ocean I faced being alone and I discovered being connected to something so much bigger than myself.  It filled up my cup and gave me back a foundation with myself that carried me far when I returned home to clean up and move on from the wreckage I had left behind.  And now I carry it in my heart that when my soul needs some healing, or some rest, I can go out into the woods, or beaches or anywhere in nature and find that for myself. 

My course mates will tell you a story of me losing my only spoon, of how crushed I felt knowing it was only day two and I had nothing to eat with.  How I bounced back and found a shell at the first beach we came to and happily ate my dinner that evening with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart just to be able to eat.  They would also tell you that after dinner when my shell did not come back from the ocean where the dishes were washed that my body tensed and tears welled up in my eyes as I again tried to find acceptance and trust in the situation.  I would tell you that over the following days all of my sisters brought to me shell after shell in acts of kindness and comradery.  I would tell you that inside I had to let go of attachment, anger, the need to control. That inside I came to understand that I would be fine without a spoon or my favourite shell that was inlaid with abalone and so clean it might have come from a shop.  We could all tell you of the morning where I turned my head to see an old encrusted fork lying beside me on the driftwood and how my face lit up.  How I cleaned and polished that fork till it shone. How I ate with it for the rest of the trip with absolute delight and pride.  Never in a million years would I have believed that I would joyfully eat from someone else’s fork that had been abandoned dirty on a beach, that just was not even to be imagined. But I grew on that trip. I learned to let go and let go and let go, and in the process, I found everything I needed including an old fork that I cherished.  When we arrived back at base camp and my original spoon fell out of the backpack of one of my mates, all heads turned to see what I would do.  I looked up smiled and laughed, for I would not have traded what I learned and what I gained for all the spoons in the world."

Monday, December 12, 2016

Why I Give to OBC: Nora Stevenson

Nora was looking for an organization in which she could get involved and know that her contribution would have a real impact on the people who benefited from it. When her neighbour introduced her to Outward Bound Canada and the Women of Courage Program, she knew almost immediately that this was the organization for her.

"In April 2014 my new next-door neighbour came over for a visit and talked about her involvement with Outward Bound Canada and the Women of Courage (WOC) Program.  I had been looking for a charity that provided programs for abused women and I instantly knew that Outward Bound Canada was a perfect fit.

I did some more research and decided I would donate to Outward Bound Canada and I would also participate in the WOC Program, canoeing for eight days in British Columbia’s Clayoquot Sound. I am not a camper, so a week canoeing in the wilderness was completely out of my comfort zone. In that week, with a group of amazing women, I learned that I could camp and be without the creature comforts that I was used to. I also learned to trust the strength of myself and that I can rely on others to help me out too. Probably most rewarding for me, was to see and be with the other participants that were experiencing the wilderness of B.C., away from the painful experiences in their lives in a safe and energizing environment as a result of my donation. It showed me that I had value both in being a part of the team that canoed for eight days and also that I had the resources to help others.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, who grew up in an abusive environment, my hope is that through providing funding for women to participate in the WOC Program, I can in a small way prevent the cycle of abuse from being passed on to these women’s children, and hope that in the future all children will grow up in a world where they are honoured and respected.  I am grateful that Outward Bound Canada provides these programs."

Monday, August 29, 2016

Update from the River

We're happy to report that the #NahanniTeam2016 is doing well and is on track with their itinerary.

Here's an update from Reach Beyond coordinator Angus Murray, who has been receiving updates from the river through satellite technology:

"The Nahanni Trip is on schedule. I have been receiving daily SPOT messages from the team confirming their location. Sarah Wiley will post photos once they are back within reach of a cell phone tower."

Angus also shared with quick message from the river, "All is well, river life is grand!"

Thanks for the updates, team!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: Instructor Jason Kuruc

Joining Outward Bound Canada executive director Sarah Wiley as an instructor of the #NahanniTeam2016 is Jason Kuruc. Jason has been instructing with Outward Bound in the Rockies for the past several years, and is also working as part of the program team out West as a course director based out of Canmore. Meet Jason below as he shares with us his passion for outdoor adventure.

"I truly believe that Outward Bound transforms people's lives in a positive way!

Outward Bound is so much more than a physical adventure... being immersed in an "Outward Bound experience" has limitless potential in terms of human capacity to learn, grow, and transform. As an OB instructor, I have personally witnessed in others and have experienced for myself how the power of the human spirit can show you how to be your best self and be a positive contribution to society! The programs and courses that Outward Bound offers are life changing and a critical opportunity for participants to reconnect with themselves and the environment they call home.

When I was a teenager, I really wanted to go on an Outward Bound course. When I realized that I could not afford it, I was a bit discouraged. I found other ways to engage in wild adventures and transformative experiences but the desire for an OB experience still lingered. What I didn't know at the time was how OB offers bursaries and scholarships to students who can't outright afford an OB experience! I wish I knew then what I know now. Fast forward 15 years and I find myself working as an instructor and a course director for OB and fulfilling the dream of having meaningful work.

I have a deep passion for wild places, especially river environments, and my favourite thing to do is share that passion! I have been canoeing for over 25 years, guiding or instructing for about 15 years and have guided on the Nahanni for several years. I have also been working with Outward Bound Canada in the Rockies for about 6 years now. As a graduate of the esteemed Thompson Rivers University Adventure Guide Diploma, I have dedicated the majority of my working life to guiding, instructing and sharing adventures. This also kick started my dense list of certifications! To name a few, I am certified through Paddle Canada as an Intermediate Moving Water Canoe Instructor, through Rescue Canada as a Swiftwater Safety Rescue Technician III and I hold a 90 hr wilderness first responder certificate. The North has a special place in my heart and I am thrilled to be going North again and sharing the experience with the wonderful people on this expedition!

Born and raised in the Toronto area, I inevitably migrated out west to pursue post secondary and live out my passions in the river, ocean and mountain environments I now call home. In my spare time, you'll find me whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, backcountry skiing or riding my motorcycle! My next big adventure is training to become a certified ACMG Backcountry Ski Guide :) Through all these adventures, I continually learn from everyone around me and of course, mother nature.

I am very excited and humbled to be a part of this year's Reach Beyond Expedition on the Nahanni River and to help support Outward Bound Canada."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

And We're Off!

Here is a picture of the team in front of the twin otter that we will take to fly into Virginia Falls for the start of our expedition. We have sunny skis, a ton of food and good cheer abounds! This will be the last time we can post as we are entering the world of no cell coverage - it is called wilderness. Can't wait! Back in a week!

Sunset on the Mackenzie River

Well, "the gang is all here" and everyone is excited (and a little bit nervous)! Had a wonderful first night together here in Fort Simpson - meeting and greeting - and are all ready to head to Virginia Falls tomorrow morning by twin otter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Packing Food for the Nahanni Expedition!

Nahanni River Expedition staff are getting ready for the participants to arrive tomorrow. The group of 11 students plus 3 staff head down the iconic wilderness river on August 25th. The group has already raised over $50k to support Outward Bound Canada's programs for youth and adults as part of our Reach Beyond fundraising expeditions.

#NahanniTeam2016: Instructor Sarah Wiley

Our #NahanniTeam2016 paddlers will be led by two instructors. The first is certainly no stranger to Outward Bound - she is Sarah Wiley, Executive Director of Outward Bound Canada! Here's what Sarah has to say about herself, her background and the journey ahead:

"I am currently the Executive Director of Outward Bound Canada, a position I have held since June 2010. I got my teaching degree and speciality in Outdoor and Experiential Education in 1989 and began working for Outward Bound Canada as an instructor in 1992. I left Outward Bound in 2004 and moved to Calgary where I worked as Director of Student Life at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School and then moved to Vancouver Island where I was the Deputy Head of School at Shawnigan Lake School.  I have a Masters of Education and an MBA (I love learning!). I have travelled extensively and have climbed mountains in South America, North America, & Africa. I have led five climbs up Mt. Kilimanjaro, four of them with Outward Bound Canada.

My husband and I have an eight-year old son, Hugh, and a dog named Charlie who both keep us quite busy! Though I work in Toronto at OBC’s head office, I am lucky to live in the country, about 90mins northwest of the city. I am really looking forward to spending time on the Nahanni River with what seems to be a fabulous team and am extremely grateful for the fundraising efforts to date. With the funds raised from this expedition, we will be able to increase access to Outward Bound programs for those who will most benefit from them."

Friday, August 19, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: KC Rogers

One of the most majestic and breathtaking sights along the Nahanni is Virginia Falls.

This iconic natural waterfall has a total drop of 96 m (315 ft), making it about twice the height of Niagara Falls. It consists of a single drop with an average width of 259 m (850 ft). The rock in the centre of the falls is called Mason's Rock, named after Bill Mason, the famous Canadian canoeist, author, and filmmaker.

Our next #NahanniTeam2016 paddler is KC Rogers.

Captivated by paddling in her youth, KC has fond memories of her first Outward Bound trip in Northern Ontario in her late teens. Ever since, she’s hoped to do another, and this summer’s trip down the Nahanni seemed like the perfect opportunity to realize that dream. 

KC is the “CEO” of her home, single-handedly managing a tribe of four kids aged 8, 10, 11 and 13. Summers and weekends are devoted to imparting her love of the wilderness to the kids through adventures on the outer islands of Georgian Bay. 

Her downtime takes the form of singing with Toronto’s Choir!Choir!Choir!, which isn’t a surprise since she sang with the Toronto Children’s Chorus for many years, as her eldest daughter still does. She’s also learning how to play the Ukelele for campfire singalongs.  Count her in for paddling songs this summer!

KC knows how transformative an Outward Bound expedition can be, and is motivated by ensuring someone who might not otherwise be able to benefit should have the opportunity to develop the grit, confidence and competence that comes from being part of a team for days in the wilderness.

Personally she’s also excited to discover the Northwest Territories – a mythical place for many Canadians which few southerners have the opportunity to discover. Her friends, family and supporters can’t wait to hear all about it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: Mark Burton

The arrival of float planes in the mid 20th century greatly increased access to the river, and allowed it to be visited without extended backcountry journeys. This, and the publishing of R.M. Patterson’s Dangerous River, made the South Nahanni an outdoor destination.

In 1972, during his last expedition, Jean Poirel guided then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who came in person to evaluate this mysterious and fascinating region. Following his visit Pierre Trudeau declared the Nahanni a National Park for Canada.

Our next #NahanniTeam2016 paddler is Mark Burton. Mark is no stranger to taking on adventures with Outward Bound Canada, having taken on Everest Base Camp earlier this year. Here's what Mark has to say about his next challenge, the Nahanni:

My name is Mark Burton. I am incredibly lucky to have one wife, three teenage kids, and three dogs. We split our time between our house in Unionville, Ontario, and our cottage in Muskoka.

Professionally, my background is a bit eclectic. I have a science degree from Queen's University and a law degree from the University of Western Ontario. I was a partner at a big Toronto law firm, prior to which I was a lawyer on "Wall Street" in New York City. I specialized in corporate law, with an emphasis on initial public offerings, VC financings and mergers and acquisitions. I have been a partner at a "Big Four" accounting firm, working on the consulting side in restructuring and turnaround situations. I've been the CEO of 5 small to mid sized technology companies, 2 of which were TSX listed public companies and 3 of which were venture capital (VC) backed. All of these companies were ultimately sold to large public technology companies. I have been a member of quite a few private, public and not-for-profit boards of directors and advisory boards, and recently joined the Outward Bound board. Currently, I am "temporarily semi-retired", and doing strategy, operations and transactions consulting work for a small number of private clients.

Personally, I love sports, fitness and outdoor adventure. I am a climber, a golfer, a pilot, a scuba diver, a sailor, a skier, a backpacker, a paddler and an avid beer-league hockey player. At one time I worked for the Canadian Coast Guard in search and rescue.  A long time ago I did Ironman triathlons in Canada and Hawaii.

In March 2016, I was lucky enough to be part of the Outward Bound Reach Beyond Expedition to Nepal and Everest Base Camp.  It was such an incredible experience that when the opportunity came along to join the Outward Bound expedition to the Nahanni River, I jumped at the chance. Two bucket list trips in 6 months – all thanks to Outward Bound!

During the many outdoor expeditions I have been part of, I have seen first hand how impactful and inspiring outdoor adventures can be. The funds raised by Outward Bound, through expeditions like this one and through the generous contributions of sponsors, provide those that might not be able to afford it with the chance to experience the power that the outdoors has to inspire, empower and, in some cases, heal. I am honoured to be able to play a small part in the great work that Outward Bound does for so many.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: Robert Safrata

The Nahanni is unique amongst mountainous rivers. It formed long before the mountains ever existed, establishing a winding course typical of prairie rivers. As the mountains rose around it, the Nahanni maintained its course, cutting steep canyons into the land.

Our next #NahanniTeam2016 paddler is passionate OBC supporter Robert Safrata from British Columbia.

Robert Safrata is entrepreneur experienced in acquiring, building and growing companies by delivering a triple bottom line.

In 2000, Safrata acquired Richmond, BC-based courier company NOVEX out of receivership. The strategy included being a leader in sustainability practices with the addition of hybrid vehicles to the company’s fleet of over 100 vehicles and in 2010, the company added Canada’s first 2 all Electric Trucks to its fleet.  NOVEX wins awards for raising the bar and setting new standards of environmental ethics in a business historically not known as being environmentally sensitive.
More recently, Safrata purchased West Coast Sightseeing in 2009 – a 30 year old Vancouver based tourism business.  The first initiatives at West Coast were walking and bike tours and a partnership with the BC Breast Cancer Foundation donating $1 per visitor on the Big Pink Bus Tour; in keeping with triple bottom line business practices.  The company is now the largest bus tourism business in Vancouver.

As an industry leader and speaker, Robert has delivered Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" to audiences across North America and regularly shares the story of NOVEX's transformation from a high-carbon business into an industry leader as a certified B-Corp and the greenest courier company in Canada.

Robert served as an inaugural member of Vancouver's "Greenest City Action Team" helping to guide economic development leadership towards the goal of making Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Robert believes strongly in giving back to the community. He is a member of the Young Presidents Organization and past Chairman of Outward Bound Canada; organizations he continues to actively support.  He also served on the Board of Tourism Vancouver and was past Chair of the Audit Committee where he was instrumental in guiding the organization towards greening its investment portfolio to achieve greater returns.

As a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team from 1973 to 1978, Robert competed in the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.  The discipline and drive of competitive sport continues to guide his triple bottom line approach to business.

Robert is married to Jacqueline Koerner, a former chair of Ecotrust Canada and who is currently completing her PhD.   He has 2 daughters and 2 sons who have now completed their post-secondary education and making their own way in their chosen disciplines.

You can help support Robert's fundraising efforts here.

Monday, August 1, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: Bob Foulkes

The history of the area began 550 million years ago beneath a tropical sea. Here a sedimentary layer of sandstone and limestone formed from the powerful pressure exerted by the sea. Eventually this sea dried up, forming a wide plain upon which the Nahanni River first took its course.

The Nahanni is unique amongst mountainous rivers. It formed long before the mountains ever existed, establishing a winding course typical of prairie rivers. As the mountains rose around it, the Nahanni maintained its course, cutting steep canyons into the land.

The next paddler joining the #NahanniTeam2016 is Bob Foulkes. Bob has been a cherished supporter of Outward Bound Canada for over 20 years, and we are beyond happy to have him joining us for this latest adventure to the Northwest Territories!

Here's what Bob has to say about his relationship with Outward Bound Canada and his decision to take on the Nahanni with us this year:

"My relationship with Outward Bound started in 1994. It had a profound effect on me and on my son.

I had heard about Outward Bound and encouraged my son, then 15 years old, to embark on a 17 day Outward Bound program in the Coast mountains of BC. He went off a boy and came back a young man, more confident, more capable, more assured. I saw his transformation and wanted to experience it myself. A year later, I had my own Outward Bound experience - an eight-day backpacking adventure in the Coast Mountains.

It changed the course of my life, opening the door to the outdoors and the joy of adventure.

In 2014, I joined Outward Bound’s Mount Kilimanjaro Expedition, celebrating my 65th year.

Bob and the 2014 Reach Beyond: Mount Kilimanjaro team

Over the past twenty years, I have run, cycled, swum, hiked and paddled through adventure after adventure; I trace all this insanity back to that first Outward Bound experience.

Nahanni is the next big one, my most exciting adventure ever!"

Friday, July 29, 2016

#NahanniTeam2016: Maria Foo

Nahanni National Park is located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories, and is approximately 500 km west of Yellowknife. For canoeists, paddling the Nahanni River is truly a trip of a lifetime. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Nahanni attracts visitors from around the world for its spectacular scenery.

In less than one month, our most recent team of Reach Beyond expeditioners will experience the magic and majesty of the Nahanni with their very eyes, spending a week paddling 240km of river through this pristine wilderness.

As participants of our Reach Beyond Expedition along the Nahanni River prepare for the start of their journey on August 25, we'll get to know a bit more about them, why they are looking forward to the journey, and perhaps a little more about why they want to give back to Outward Bound Canada.

Our first paddler is Maria:

Maria Foo was born in Manila, Philippines and immigrated to Canada at the tender age of 8 with her family.  She grew up in the town of Quesnel, BC and then moved to the big city of Vancouver after graduating from high school.  Maria completed her education, obtained her CMA accounting designation and pursued a fruitful career in accounting.  Maria has worked in a variety of accounting and operational roles in the golf, tourism, and logistics industy.  She is married and has 2 teenage daughters.

Although her exposure to the great outdoors has been limited, Maria is looking at the Nahanni expedition as an opportunity of a life-time.  She is looking at the expedition as an opportunity to challenge herself mentally and physically and push beyond her box of familiarity with the Outward Bound team.

Follow along as we introduce you to more of the #NahanniTeam2016 over the coming weeks!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why We Give to OBC: CMH

Outward Bound Canada is extremely thankful for the generous individuals, foundations and organizations that help us make our mission and vision a reality. We love to hear from these supporters about why they believe in what we do and why they choose to stand alongside us as we deliver our charitable programs to the individuals who really need them. In this issue of Fresh Tracks, we are proud to share the story of our collaboration with CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures. Celebrating 50 years of heli-adventures, CMH is the world’s first Heli-Skiing and Heli-Hiking operator. From their head office in Banff, CMH operates exceptional mountain experiences based from 11 lodges located in the Bugaboo, Purcell, Selkirk, Monashee and Cariboo ranges of British Columbia, Canada.

Learn more about CMH’s adventures with Outward Bound Canada:

In fall 2015, CMH Heli-Skiing and Summer Adventures, one of the world’s largest heli-skiing and heli-hiking operators, and Outward Bound Canada, announced a new partnership to provide an outdoor experience at CMH Bugaboos and CMH Bobbie Burns lodges. Working together, CMH and OBC hosted two courses in early September aimed at providing life-transforming experiences, with a focus on people who are recovering from trauma or facing a major transition in their lives.

“It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life,” said Andrew Field, Analyst at CMH, who volunteered for the Veterans Program at CMH Bugaboos last fall. “The benefit of the program - it’s huge. Coming from the feedback we received from the veterans themselves, being in such an incredible place and surroundings just makes the therapy sessions that more sincere. Everyone felt at ease to speak what they’re truly feeling and being surrounded by the beauty of the Bugaboos encouraged huge amounts of dialogue.”

Check out this video made by CMH and Outward Bound Canada as part of the Women of Courage course run at CMH Bobbie Burns in September, 2015:

Visit the CMH website to learn more about the organization and the adventures they have on offer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Bounders' Log: Kiley

As a student at North Battleford Comprehensive High School in Saskatchewan, Kiley was offered the opportunity to go on last summer’s West Coast Discovery, thanks to a scholarship offered by W. Brett Wilson to students attending his alma mater. Coming in to the experience with some nervousness and apprehension, Kiley was quickly put at ease to learn that not only were all of the other participants feeling the same way, but also that her two instructors were well prepared from day one to help every group member feel comfortable and prepared for the awesome journey ahead. “Outward Bound helped me realize I am a leader and the experience motivated me to take on significant leadership and volunteer roles in both my school and community.”

Read Kiley’s amazing account of her adventure below:

"I learned about Outward Bound Canada from a school guidance counsellor who recommended me for the program. Thanks to a Brett Wilson Scholarship, I embarked on the West Coast Discovery trip in August 2015 for 21 days of camping, hiking and kayaking amongst the islands off the west coast of Vancouver Island. There, I saw breathtaking sights, explored the ocean and coastal rainforest, all while improving my kayaking and leadership skills. Along with like-minded and new friends, the experience was challenging both physically and emotionally, but I was rewarded with a life-changing adventure.

I was nervous at the outset, because I did not know what to expect and felt unprepared. I soon realized I had nothing to worry about because all of the participants were in the same position and what I did have was a positive attitude and determination to succeed. Our two amazing instructors, Erin and Emily, taught us everything we needed to know and helped us through each challenge. Throughout the trip I learned about navigation, tides, camping and wild life, with my favourite lessons being on tide pools. I saw incredible sights as we paddled around islands and through fog, sleeping on beautiful beaches and watching sunsets around the campfire. We were surrounded and even interacted with incredible wild life, such as bears and wolves on the islands and seals and porpoises in the ocean. One of my favourite experiences was discovering the beauty of bioluminescence, which made wading in the water at night feel like dancing in a sea of stars. But the definite highlight was ocean surfing under the guidance of world class instructors. The West Coast Discovery trip was a new adventure every day and an experience of a life time. 

Every one of the 21 days presented challenges, and I was pushed to work just as hard as I played. I embraced the long and exhausting days, which I faced with a diverse group of amazing people from across Canada and the world. Each person brought different strengths but also weaknesses to the group, and we pushed hard to help each other. Taking turns leading and providing constructive feedback as to how we could each improve, we became stronger as individuals and transformed from strangers into a capable team. After being pushed so hard physically and mentally, and succeeding, I became confident in my own personal strength and I knew that I could face any situation when I returned home.

Days after returning from Outward Bound I entered my final year of high school (with a class credit from my trip) and took on significant leadership roles including Senior Pin. I transferred the work ethic I gained into making my school a more inclusive, more enjoyable and more collaborative environment. With new confidence in my leadership abilities and the inspiration from our trip leaders, I continued to find ways to be a role model for youth. I am now a Girl Guide leader and am passing on skills and stories to inspire a new group of explorers. These roles are rewarding in themselves, but I have also been honoured to receive recognition as valedictorian, Junior Citizen of the Year and the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.

Outward Bound was an adventure of a life time. I took away unbelievable memories and lasting friendships. No one’s experience is the same and if the adventure is approached with an open mind and positive attitude, there is so much to be gained and to take forward into your future." 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lukla - we were lucky to get out!

The weather has been overcast in Lukla the past few days and many groups have been stuck there (or stuck in Kathmandu.).

We were lucky to be with Mingma and to fly out on the first flight of the day. 

I am now the last member of the team in Nepal and am leaving today, thanks to everyone on the trip for making the expedition such a great success!

Namaste, Angus

Last view of Everest, day 12

On our last full day of trekking, we were treated to our final view of Everest below Namche.

Day 12 - Double Bridges

On the last day of the trek, many of us tied ceremonial scarves (called kata) to this bridge.

Last day in Namche at Bodhnath

Namaste from Kathmandu!

We spent our last day packing, buying final souvenirs and visiting the Big Stupa.

We have had a great trip, we have journeyed well, but it is time to go home.

We will continue to post blogs en route.

Angus, Andrea, and Dr. Dave

Friday, April 1, 2016

Safely in Kathmandu!!

Dear All,

We are all now safely in Kathmandu at the Yak and yeti Hotel.

People are showering and putting on their clean "normal" clothes.

Mark Burton is heading home today with the rest of the group leaving for home tomorrow.

Tonight we will have a final celebratory dinner at the Rum Doodle restaurant.

I will send photos once we can locate a memory card reader!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beautiful morning at the Lukla airport

The teams all here at the at the Lukla airport. It's a little chaotic but we're all through security and waiting at out gate.  It's a beautiful day outside!


The group is now safe in Lukla . We started at 8 am, and finished at 6 pm. It rained on and off all day, the trail was slick with Yak dung and mud, a long Outward Bound day! Tomorrow we hope to fly to Kathmandu so that we can shower and dry out. Tonight we did our pin ceremony and people spoke of what had inspired them to join the expedition and their experiences on the trip. It's 8:30 pm, time to go to bed! More photos and stories tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Now in Namche!


We are now on the 11th day of our trek. We stayed at a lovely lodge last night in the hamlet of Deboche. Our home for the night was in the  rhododendron forest below the Tengboche Monastery. Everyone had a felt good to wash off the dust of the trail.

This morning we headed out with cloudy skies. We stopped at the monastery and marvelled at the story panels depicting the Buddha's life. The head Llama isn't at the monastery yet, he winters in Kathmandu!

On our way down to Namche David Wong and  I ran into an old friend, Mingma Sherpa from out last trek here in 2012.  (There is an interesting article about him in the Outside Magazine Archives.)

We walked on and it started to rain, we were happy to get to our lodge in Namche.  Tomorrow will be our last day of trekking as we walk down to Lukla. We continue to enjoy: more oxygen in the air, better food, and better accommodation!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why I Give to OBC: Brandon

Brandon did double duty in early October of 2015 – he pushed himself by taking part in a challenging race across the Northern Ontario wilderness, and as part of the same event, led his team in raising an impressive $4,200 in support of Outward Bound Canada’s life-changing charitable programs for vulnerable individuals. “We were willing to push ourselves to the limit,” says Brandon, “for the desire to test ourselves, to feel ‘human’ again outdoors, and to escape, for a moment, this highly digital, urban world.” Brandon and his team Muck Dynasty took part in last year’s Wilderness Traverse, a 24-hour race through 150 kilometres of unforgettable Canadian Shield on foot, mountain bike and canoe.

Here’s why Brandon decided to take part in OBC’s Challenge Events:

“When I first heard of Outward Bound Canada’s charitable programs from my friend Bo, I was immediately struck, thinking, ‘wow, I am 100% on-board with what they are trying to accomplish here and they way they go about to do it.’ My second thought was how could I realistically help them? 

This was back in 2014, when two buddies and I, very naively decided to compete in our first ever adventure race. I say naively, because in the adventure race world we decided to enter into the Ironman equivalent of Adventure Races, the Wilderness Traverse, without ever trying some of the smaller, shorter races first. For context, the traverse is a 24-hour, 150-km race in the bush of the Parry Sound District, using only map and compass. 

I have been a lover of the outdoors throughout my whole life, attending Kilcoo Camp in Minden for most of my childhood and taking outdoor leadership courses in high school, but this was an incredible and daunting challenge. 
It became very apparent after I signed up for this race and learned of OBC’s charitable programs, that there was a clear connection there. 

We were willing to push ourselves to the limit, for the desire to test ourselves, to feel ‘human’ again outdoors and to escape for a moment this highly digital, urban world. (Disclosure: I use #hashtags and shamelessly post on Instagram.)

This kind of test, once attempted, has incredible psychological powers that can provide confidence and significant mental strength to any individual. It is pretty simple in my mind, ‘if you can accomplish a 24-hour adventure race, why can’t you achieve that promotion at work or why can’t you build your own company?’ 

OBC’s charitable programs for at-risk youth, women of courage and veterans are fully aligned with this idea. To put people who have gone through significant challenges through outdoor experiences that tests them, pushes them but then ultimately builds them up again and creates a sense of empowerment. 

Realizing this natural fit, my teammates and I, Muck Dynasty as we are called, decided to fundraise for OBC’s charitable programs. While we didn’t finish the adventure race that year (rattlesnakes, owls and torrential rain were formidable obstacles), we were successful in fundraising a few thousands dollars for OBC. 

This past fall, after a full year of licking our wounds and putting in months of hard training, we managed to finish the Wilderness Traverse, and almost doubled our fundraising results. 

At the end of this year’s race the beer in our newly achieved Wilderness Traverse finisher mugs tasted pretty sweet; however, it was even sweeter knowing we finished this race not only for our own achievement but to help others who have had some bad luck get back on their feet.”

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beautiful morning in Pheriche

We awoke this morning to blue skies, the storm Is over! Everyone is feeling better with the increased oxygen. Today we will go to Deboche to sleep in the rhododendron forest.

Sent from Samsung Mobile
On day 5 and 6 we were in Pheriche. Beautiful views of Ama Dablam!

Bounders' Log: Zane

Zane took the first steps out of his comfort zone when he signed up for the Bay of Fundy Veterans’ Sea Kayaking program, despite being initially uneasy about the idea of travelling along the ocean’s waters. “It took a lot for me to apply,” says Zane. “I was not comfortable with water and focused on the fact this was something I had never done before, in the end I decided why not give it a try?” Zane is one of many men and women to benefit from the impact of participation in the Veterans’ Program, designed to help Canadian military veterans face the challenges they often encounter post-deployment, through inspiring journeys of healing and self-discovery in the supportive and restorative environment of the Canadian wilderness.

“I first heard about the Outward Bound Veteran's Program through other veterans.  I had just medically retired from the military after 24 years and was interested in exploring the outdoors.  I had associated the outdoors with work for many years and was a bit nervous; however interested.  It took a lot for me to apply for the Sea Kayaking event in New Brunswick.  I was not comfortable with water and focused on the fact this was something I had never done before, in the end I decided why not give it a try?

It was a memorable trip and I look back fondly on my time with Outward Bound Canada.  I remember capsizing in the cold Atlantic and it was my confidence in the staff on the trip that kept me centered and focused on the trip and the experience as a whole, not that I capsized.  I remember watching and talking with a Master Warrant Officer as he realized he was not responsible for setting up the camp or making sure dinner was started.  He was a participant just like me… We were there to have fun and if we as participants wanted to change the plan we could! This was a bit of an alien concept and a great lesson to learn as I was no longer a soldier with a mission to complete. We were also able to accommodate and help other medically released soldiers with debilitating injuries. We set up the camp while they might start the stoves for dinner or put the hatch covers on the kayak. Everyone took part to the level they were comfortable with.

The Outward Bound Canada Veterans Program gave me the confidence to look after myself as well as presented challenges that can be met and overcome even though new and unknown. There were military members from all branches and all across Canada and I believe this trip offered everyone a chance at self discovery. On the trip you were not part of a larger machine as you are in the military, but your own person, a participant. The activities reinforced a new identity and I left refreshed with new ideas and the concept, ‘hey, I can do this!’ I was surrounded by like-minded people who had left, or were leaving the forces as I had.  

It is important to share ‘your story’ and Outward Bound Canada, along with the adventure, gives you that opportunity. I remember sitting around a fire, talking about everything, and nothing.  It was great to hear someone tell a story about their release and someone else say, “that happened to me too.” I challenge all veterans to take the opportunity Outward Bound Canada offers and challenge yourself along side others from the military in a similar spot in life.

I look forward to the next time I am Outward Bound. Be uncomfortable, only for a little while.”

Group well, in Pheriche

We were hit by a major snow storm overnight!

We didn't climb to the Kala Patthar viewpoint as visibility was very bad.

Instead we trekked down in the blowing snow to Pheriche at 4200  m for more oxygen and good food.

Here we are leaving Gorak Shep.


Sent from Samsung Mobile

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Made it to Everest Base Camp!

It was a long cold day but we all made it! Everyone's very excited and in awe of the massive Khumbu ice field. Now we're safely back in Gorak Shep warming up and getting ready for Kala Patthar.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Instructor Andrea Mitchell

Back here in Canada we've been loving all of the updates coming in from our Everest Base Camp instructors. We've already introduced you to Angus, let's get to know our second instructor, Andrea Mitchell.

Andrea has been instructing for Outward Bound Canada for six years. Andrea is a clinical counsellor, certified therapeutic recreation specialist, adventure therapist and owner of Hemisphere Adventure. She has been designing and facilitating groups for individual, community, and team development for the past 13 years. Andrea is honoured and excited to be on the team for the Reach Beyond Expedition to Everest Base Camp.

In preparing for this expedition, Andrea took some time to reflect on the impact Outward Bound Canada has had on her throughout the years. Thanks Andrea for sharing your story with us!

"I’m in the hallway of my basement packing to go instruct an Outward Bound Canada fundraising trip to Everest Base Camp. I’ve been involved with OBC since 2008, instructing since 2010. It’s an organization that I’m passionate about.

I came to Outward Bound because I was desperately seeking a lifeboat. I would have settled for a raft, instead I got a ship with a crew and leaders who were highly skilled and intentional.  At 23 I was still crawling my way out of a pit I was dropped in as a preteen.  Experiencing sexual assault was by and away the hardest event of my life; a close second and third were the thoughts and behaviours that came in the years that followed.

In nearly every other way I was a child of privilege. I have empathic, intelligent and capable parents, who had the ability to apply a lot of resources towards my recovery. I grew up with an ocean view on the hill in West Vancouver, went to one of the best public schools in Canada, lived and travelled all over world.  My life was not hard - abuse trumped all that, it made life unbearable.

My geophysicist father is a compulsive reader and researcher and learned everything he could to help me. I attended trainings, and workshops and sessions, whatever he could think of. My brothers joke that I’m the most trained Mitchell and three out of five of us have graduate degrees. It helped, I accomplished a lot. I was pursuing a university degree in recreational therapy after a two year false start in engineering, and I had spent a year studying yoga therapy and backpacking through India. Yet still it felt like I was clawing at happiness; I could get some under my fingernails but never a hand-full. Then my father heard about Outward Bound.

He pitched it to me as career research - I was studying therapeutic recreation with a focus on adolescence mental health. So I went. I chose “Mindfulness in the Mountains”. I would have chosen “Women of Courage”, a program specifically for women who have undergone abuse, but I didn’t know it was an option yet. I was 23 and the minimum age was 25 so I had to write a letter to get in. The course was taught by Ken Wiley and Martha McCallum. It was 10 days backpacking expedition through the Canadian Rockies. I remember arriving at CrossRivers Wilderness Centre and meeting Troy Patenaude and Julian Noris, I had a strange sense that I had arrived to my people.

Physically I was’t challenged by the course. In high school, my father had read, exercise helps anxiety and depression - I did a lot of sports. Socially I had always been good with people, I had always found it easy to start conversations and make friends. I was also a pretty extrovert, and that has never hurt anyone. My self-esteem and ability to be vulnerable however were in shatters. I had a deep, hurt place inside that was curled up in a ball crying.  Outward Bound did not force me to take her out and look at her, instead they taught me resilience.

Being on expedition was something that seemed to come naturally to me. I didn’t struggle when it rained, I was fine with long days, I slept well in tents, I enjoyed learning the skills and I really liked developing as a leader.  I gravitated towards leadership rolls; I kept my head in stress and could get people on board with my ideas.

Following was harder. It wasn’t that I wanted to tell people what to do, I didn’t trust anyone else with my safety.  Ironically not my physical safety, I’d been on a rock climbing team in high school and never stressed about putting my life in someone else's hands. It was my emotional safety I wouldn’t risk. The experience I had on that course and the many that followed restored my faith in other people and in my own humanity. I learned that there is always an end to situations that feel hopeless and even if I can’t see it yet if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I’ll find it.

OBC’s programs are developed to facilitate growth in people; they are in the business of building resilience and they are very good at it. It is not therapy, it is facilitated growth and everyone is capable of growth and change. I learned that I was responsible for myself, I was responsible for my community and my community was responsible for me. The door was then opened for trust.

On my very first day I fell in love with Outward Bound Canada. I began instructing for them as soon as I finished my degree. Another degree, a start up, a fiancĂ© and two step children later I still use my holidays to instruct for OBC.  Yes, now I get to do incredibly cool things like instruct Women of Courage out of a heli-lodge with a Via Ferrata and do this trip to Everest Base Camp; but more than anything I keep coming back because I know that for some people Outward Bound Canada is going to change their lives. It is important for me to support this organization’s success and I deeply hope others feel the same."

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ama Dablam at sunset

From Pheriche

Pheriche Rest Day

We are now in Pheriche for a second day to acclimatize. The team is resting and hydrating. Having a final shower, washing clothes, charging their phones...All the things that will be harder (if not impossible) higher up. Tomorrow our "summit push" starts. We go to Loboche for a night, then to Gorak Shep for a night. From Gorak Shep we will travel to Everest Base Camp. We will attempt Kala Patthar weather permitting. The team is in good shape, a few minor stomach issues, but overall doing well. Namaste, Angus


We woke up to blue skies and a stunning view of Thamserku across the valley. Today we will head up to Kunde for a tour of the hospital.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mount Kunde

Great weather in Namche and another beautiful morning with a not too shabby view. Only -5.

Kunde hospital

Wow! What a great experience to return back to the Kunde Hospital just a short climb from namche bazaar. A great way to acclimatize as well as to see how much the hospital has done for the health of the community. Dr Kami Sherpa from a neighbouring village has run the hospital for fourteen years with a dedicated staff and the hospital is funded through the Sir Edmund Hillary Foundation. He gave us an excellent tour of the hospital and clinic.

One of the exciting moments was seeing the new digital x ray machine in operation that had been donated by funds through the group that Angus took to Everest Base Camp several years ago as well as community raised funds back in Canada. Chest infections are a big reason for visits here plus fractures so the x-ray machine will help a lot in diagnosis. They are also looking at getting a portable ECG machine to help out in the field for villagers with chest pain who can't get into the hospital to help in diagnosing heart attacks.

A big moment as well was when the group woke up to clear weather and could get their first clear views of the Himalayas and the first view of Ama Dablam and Everest with its distinct wind blown cloudy plume. Not sure if we wanted to be on the summit at this time!

Hope all of you are well back home and will talk again soon with you!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Out and about in Nepal

A good night sleep later and we're ready to see the sites of Nepal. First stop the monkey temple. Warm weather and a beautifully sunny day makes for a lovely day. 

Arrived in Nepal!

We've made it to Nepal! It's late and everyone's a bit jet lagged but in good spirits after our warm welcome by our guide Mingma Nuru Sherpa. The Yak and Yeti hotel is a wonderful oasis.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

1st Injury!

1st injury at the Conrad Hotel buffet table! Dr Wong shows off his skills.