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.

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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.


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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.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Final Countdown

Well team, here we go!

Some of us are already en route to Hong Kong!

All of us will meet in Hong Kong before we fly into Kathmandu together. There are 3 waves converging. The early arrivals (Mark, Edyta, Andrea, and David) the Alberta Gals (Heather and Jocelyne) and the folks flying from Toronto (Angus, Ibrahim, Steve, and Elena.)

Can't wait to see everyone!


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#EBCTeam2016: Instructor Angus Murray

Our Reach Beyond Expedition to Everest Base Camp leaves early tomorrow morning! We can't wait to follow along in the adventure via updates on this very blog.

This group is in great hands with instructor Angus Murray, as this will be Angus's fifth trip to Everest Base Camp. Even better, In 2008, Angus became the 50th Canadian to successfully reach the top of Everest!

Angus is thrilled to be going back to the Himalaya, and is excited to be going with such a strong group from such a wide variety of backgrounds.  Angus began his career at Outward Bound Canada in 1992 as an assistant instructor and is proud to be working with the organization again as the Reach Beyond Expedition Coordinator, in addition to leading the Everest Base Camp expedition. 

Angus Murray is an accomplished outdoor educator and guide and has guided expeditions throughout North America, and in Africa, South America and Europe. He has been working in the outdoor industry for the past 30 years.

Angus is on his way to completing the seven summits (the highest mountains of each of the seven continents), having successfully climbed five of these mountains to date.

Read more about Angus and his climbing adventures in this recent article from the Orangeville Banner.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Mark Burton

Exactly how tall is Mount Everest? That depends on what side of the border you’re on. China has said the peak is at 8,844m (29,016 ft), while Nepal says 8,848m (29,029 ft). That’s because China argues that the mountain should purely be measured by rock height, excluding the meters of snow at the very top. Whether or not that’s the better measure, the international community regularly includes snow when describing the heights of peaks around the world. The two countries came to an agreement in 2010, settling the official height as 8,848m.

Our next climber is Mark Burton, who has been dreaming of seeing Everest since he began mountaineering eight years ago.

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 shortly will be assisting with the Outward Bound Canada 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. A long time ago I did the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii.

I am thrilled to be joining Outward Bound Canada’s Reach Beyond Expedition to Everest Base Camp and Island Peak. Seeing Everest and climbing a Himalayan mountain has been a dream of mine since I started mountaineering eight years ago. Combining my passion for climbing with the chance to raise funds for Outward Bound Canada was too good an opportunity to pass up.

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 Canada, 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 Canada does for so many.

To support Mark in fundraising for Outward Bound Canada's charitable programs, please visit his personal fundraising page here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Jocelyne Collin

When did the global fascination with Everest begin? In the early 20th century, when George Mallory was planning his expedition, explorers had reached both the North Pole and South Pole and there was a passion for new frontiers. Everest, the so-called "third pole," represented a new and interesting challenge.

Jocelyne Collin is our next #EBCteam2016 climber, and Everest Base Camp represents a "new and interesting challenge" for her as well.

Jocelyne has explored the outdoors all of her life.  She grew up in a small town in the east coast of Canada where hunting, fishing and snowmobiling  were part of daily life.  She now resides in Western Canada where she became familiar with the Rocky mountains.

From there, her love of the mountains blossomed and she continues to explore the world's mountain ranges.  She has climbed in the South American Andes, European Alps as well as the Russian Caucasus chains.  Her mountain accomplishments also include reaching the summits of  Kilimanjaro as well as Elbrus.

"This is my first trip to the Himalayas.  I have wanted to explore this part of the world for many years and I am very excited to have an opportunity to see that part of the world.  I am grateful to outward bound in providing us with such a wonderful experience as part of a fundraising event.”

To support Jocelyne in raising funds for Outward Bound Canada's charitable programs, please visit her personal fundraising page

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Steve Wuthmann

Two Sherpas, Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi, hold the joint record for most Everest ascents. The pair have each managed to reach the summit an impressive 21 times. Phurba reached the top of the world three times in 2007 alone, and Apa has successfully summited the mountain almost every year between 1990 and 2011. Apa, nicknamed "Super Sherpa," has dedicated several Everest ascents to raising awareness of climate change.

Reaching Everest Base Camp and looking up to the summit is in itself an incredible accomplishment, and one that Reach Beyond climber Steve Wuthmann is very much looking forward to.

Steve is semi-retired from the corporate world, where he spent over three decades working in human resources, corporate affairs and operations. Currently working part-time in executive coaching and career transition work allows Steve the opportunity to spend more time on his other interests, including the cottage, outdoor activities, travelling and workouts at the gym.

Steve has always been an outdoor enthusiast – especially with regards to hiking and canoeing. Although he has been on some interesting trips such as the Inca Trail, climbing the glaciers and volcanoes in Iceland, the West Coast Trail and various safaris – trekking to Everest Base Camp has always been on his bucket list and he’s extremely excited to be joining the Outward Bound Canada expedition.

The fundraising for supporting the great programs offered by Outward Bound Canada is another reason why Steve is excited to join the group. He has a history of involvement in the not-for-profit sector, including being awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to the community, and is happy that this trip will benefit various extremely deserving groups.

To learn more about Steve's fundraising efforts for Outward Bound Canada and to donate to his climb, visit his personal fundraising page here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Edyta Pacuk

The Himalayan Mountains may have formed 60 million years ago, but the history of Mount Everest in fact goes back even further than that. Limestone and sandstone rock found at the summit was once part of sedimentary layers below sea level - 450 million years ago! Over time, ocean floor rocks were forced together and pushed upward at a speed of up to 11 cm (4.5 in) per year. The highest points of Everest still contain marine fossils of sea creatures and shells that once occupied the earlier ocean!

Our next climber, Edyta Pacuk, is no stranger to adventure. Edyta took part in a previous Reach Beyond Expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro, and will now join the #EBCTeam2016 in the journey to Everest Base Camp.

President of MarchFifteen Consulting Inc, Edyta has a mission: to make the business world a better place. Her ongoing efforts to connect organizations to community is not only a message in her work, but also her way of living. Whilst being a hopeless ideologist, she is also pragmatic and ensures that conversations about social footprints do not remain on an esoteric plane. Edyta is thoughtful and reflective in her professional practice but definitely could not be described as someone who enjoys sitting still!

Climbing Mount Everest with Outward Bound Canada is another way in which Edyta wants to contribute to increasing awareness, with a particular focus on the Women of Courage Program, which enables victims of violence to transform into Thriving Survivors.

To support Edyta in helping to raise funds for Outward Bound Canada, visit her personal fundraising page.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

#EBCTeam2016: Heather Jones

Relatively speaking, Mount Everest is a young mountain at just 60 million years old. While many of the world's mountains are actually receding slowly over time, Everest is still getting bigger, rising 40cm each century, or about 4mm each year. That means whenever someone new climbs to the top, they've gone just a little further than a climber the year before. Not that anyone's counting!

Our next Reach Beyond climber is Heather Jones, who will be accomplishing a life-long goal by climbing to Everest Base Camp.

"Hello! My name is Heather Jones.  I was born in Ontario and raised in Alberta and Manitoba.  My early career was spent in Southern Manitoba and over time I have developed a love for working with persons with disabilities.  I moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta three years ago to pursue and opportunity to manage an agency for people with disabilities.

The most enjoyable experiences for me have involved the outdoors.  I have always loved water sports, swimming, skiing and hiking. I have two grown children who are independent and finding their way in life. This has afforded me the opportunity to pursue a longtime goal trekking to Everest Base Camp.   I'm excited to embark on this adventure with the team along with the opportunity to raise funds for Outward Bound  Canada."

To support Heather in raising funds for life-changing Outward Bound Canada programs, please visit her personal fundraising page.