Think back to the most difficult portage you’ve ever experienced. Maybe there was miserable weather, rugged terrain, unbearable distances or injuries along the way. You felt tired, overwhelmed and focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. Now, imagine that for 18 days. And, when the portage comes to an end, there isn’t any water in sight.
That was the reality for two brothers, Kyle Roberts and Tom Schellenberg, who took portaging to new heights on January 18 when they reached Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal after a grueling 58-mile portage.
Why did the brothers portage canoes through Mount Everest?
The mission of The Weight We Carry, a non-profit organization founded by the brothers, is to carry canoes to the most unlikely places on earth in support of mental health.
Roberts and Schellenberg have friends and family who have suffered mental health illnesses, and the two 30-pound Cape Falcon Kayak skin-on-frame canoes they carried represented the extra burden people living with mental health issues face.
As a tribute to growing up camping and canoeing in Algonquin Park, they both have a map of Algonquin Park tattooed on their shoulders. Their love for camping in combination with their determination to help others is what drove them to start this unique non-profit.
Planning for a good cause
This expedition was two years in the making. The brothers took a hiking trip to Everest Base Camp in 2016, where they witnessed the devastation of the 2015 earthquake. This inspired the pair to raise money to support the local community.
Speaking with the brothers via satellite phone while they were in a tea house just below Base Camp, they agreed the most challenging parts of the climb came from high winds, cold temperatures and the rough terrain they were trekking on.
“Keeping our hands on the gunwales of the canoe was very difficult. Our hands were freezing but the winds were so strong we weren’t able to let go of the canoe,” said Schellenberg.
“It was a challenge to find a comfortable position to rest the canoe after carrying them for such a long period. We were constantly making adjustments to relieve pain where we could,” said Roberts.
In addition to carrying 60 pounds of gear and 30-pound canoes, Tom was fighting a pain on the big toe of his left foot.
“My toenail was being driven into my foot causing an infection with a lot of discomfort. It was likely from climbing all the elevation. I was soaking it in salt water in the evenings and had a few doctors evaluate it on the way up and decided I wanted to keep climbing,” said Schellenberg.
What is their goal?
The pair raised $75,000 and is continuing to fundraise back home with hopes of hitting their goal of $150,000. The money will fund the construction of The Women’s Mental Health Centre facility for Koshish, a Nepalese organization providing short-term care for women with mental health illness.
“The canoes grabbed a lot of attention. We found it difficult in some circumstances to communicate what it was we were trying to do. For those who did understand, everyone was very appreciative of us giving back to their communities” said Roberts.
After reaching Everest Base Camp, the pair turned around to begin a weeklong trek back down the mountain. In total, they hiked 115 miles with almost 70,000 feet of vertical altitude gain on the long portage to and from Base Camp.
Donations are still being accepted at www.theweightwecarry.com.