The True Patriot Love Scotiabank Expedition trekked across the Himalayas to help raise money and support for Canadian soldiers, veterans and their families.
A last minute trip to hike the Himalayas, taking on the daunting and beautiful Mount Everest, isn’t something everyone would say yes to. But for Canadian Anthony Alliot, 28, the chance to join the True Patriot Love Scotiabank Expedition: Himalayas 2018 was a childhood dream come true.
Canadian charity True Patriot Love Foundation launches expeditions across the world, partnering soldiers and veterans with leaders in the private sector on physically challenging adventures. The trip helps participants raise a better understanding of each other’s worlds, while raising millions to support Canadian military families.
It’s hard to imagine a better fit for this adventure than Alliot. Ten years ago, he enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves with the Canadian Grenadier Guards, looking for a challenge and to build memories. During his career in the armed forces, he served two tours overseas in Afghanistan as a security specialist for high level Canadian military personnel and diplomats. After years of working alongside the Regular Forces, he returned to his home unit, the Grenadier Guards, and ventured into the private sector, taking on a role with Scotiabank’s recruitment team in Montreal.
True Patriot Love Foundation helps veterans making the transition to civilian life, including support in finding a career. Alliot says he appreciates the work of the group, having recently made that change himself.
“Although I successfully made the transition, I did so with limited tools and support. In retrospect, I realized that many veterans struggle tremendously with how their skills can be best applied within the civilian landscape,” says Alliot. As part of his role of recruiter, he helps lead the Scotiabank Military Talent program, promoting the hiring of veterans and reservists at the bank.
“I’ve recognized more needs to be done to increase awareness in the business world of the many skills veterans and reservists bring with them, especially their ability to act as strong peers in high stress environments.”
The bank is a supporter of True Patriot Love and its expeditions, so when a spot on the adventure to the Himalayas opened up, Alliot jumped at the chance to take part.
Taking on the mountains as a team
On the summit of Mount Lobuche East, at 6000 m with the group’s lead guide Tendy Sherpa and Megan McDonald, Manager, Expedition Fundraising at True Patriot Love.
A last minute arrival to group, Alliot missed out on the training sessions the rest of the group did in Alberta in February. He met the collection of veterans and business leaders in Toronto before flying out to Kathmandu, “From the get go, everyone was super nice and super welcoming.”
During the trip, the team trekked up to Everest Base Camp before ascending an incredible 20,000 feet up Lobuche East, which is next to Mount Everest in Nepal.
The civilians and veterans worked closely through the trip, motivating and helping each other through difficult stretches of the journey. On the group’s fourth day on the way to Namche Bazaar, which is at 3400 metres altitude, Alliot and another veteran hung back near the end of the group to climb with a veteran who has a serious leg and spinal injury.
“There was a bunch of really steep steps to go up for hours. It was like two and a half hours of ultimate Stairmaster,” he says with a laugh. “It was a great chance for us to bond. It really drove forward how resilient the vets were that they did this despite these injuries.”
With minor injuries affecting different members of the team during the trek, Alliot faced a personal challenge when a serious case of altitude sickness forced him to take a rest day to recover; while the rest of the group continued on without him.
Determined not to miss out on the ascent up Lobuche, Alliot and a guide compressed a challenging two-day walk into one day in order to reunite with his team. The reaction he got when he made it to Mount Everest base camp turned into one of his favourite memories from the trip.
“When I got to base camp, no one knew how I was doing. They weren’t expecting me; they figured I was too sick to continue. When the team saw me, there were a few people outside of a tent and the welcome I got there was tremendous. People came running out of the tent, hugging me. It really showed how close we became in those few days,” says Alliot.
After being briefly separated by his bout of altitude sickness on the ninth day of the trip, Alliot stayed with his team for the final, grueling leg of the journey, battling difficult conditions, including a blizzard, to make it to the top of Lobuche East.
A special guide
Leading the group on their adventure was accomplished climber, Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person, along with Tenzing Norway, to climb Mount Everest in May 1953. Alliot says Peter Hillary is a local celebrity in Nepal and brought an amazing energy to the trip:
“It was surreal to be with Peter. Everest has been such a large part of his life. He brought this deeper level of appreciation and knowledge. Every few evenings, he would read us letters his father had written him from his expeditions. It was unreal. He is really passionate about climbing and Nepal and adventure.”
By the end of the trip, Alliot says the group was sad to say goodbye to each other because everyone, regardless of their background, had gained such a deep understanding and appreciation for each other.
“I saw firsthand the impact the trip had on the veterans, who not only got to live this incredible experience, but also for the civilians who came out with a much better understanding of our military, our veterans, and what they can do to help [veterans]. I think it was such a humbling experience for everyone.”