Ever since our Founder, Shane Toohey, skied off the summit of Two Hummock Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, our business has benefited from spectacular natural environments around the world.
Adventure has always been at the core of our business and we have been lucky enough to experience and explore many of the world’s most beautiful destinations.
When members of our team completed a traverse of stunning Baffin Island in the Canadian High Arctic in 2018, it became even more personal.
In a small, remote town with a population of less than 1500 people, 12 young people attempted suicide in one month. That’s almost one percent of the community! In one month. We were horrified, and immediately committed to helping in any way we could.
Of course, we will never know the exact reasons why this tragedy happened, but for our founder Shane Toohey, it sparked a strong desire to help. To give back.
In 2013, Shane suffered a traumatic brain injury while skiing in Chamonix, in the French Alps. Many of his injuries are impossible to see, like depression and the loss of hope, while other things, including vertigo and the loss of balance are more obvious.
So, when expedition leader Kevin Vallely shared news about the unseen struggles with depression in Baffin, and the more obvious impact of climate change on the Arctic environment, it sparked an intense desire to help.
inspired by kevin’s ongoing commitment and passion, our business has made a promise to give back. to pay it forward.
Our intention is to shine a light on the ongoing challenges our society is facing with mental health issues, particularly in the younger generation, and to showcase the impact we are having on many of the world’s most remote and pristine environments.
We have two projects underway – Baffin Island, and our expedition to Greenland.
Our efforts in the Arctic are focused on supporting communities in dealing with what has become a mental health crisis in the north.
Like many small towns in isolated parts of the world, the challenges of substance abuse and teen suicide have made life difficult in numerous communities we have visited.
Since 2018, we have made two trips to the Baffin Island hamlet of Pangnirtung, the first in March of 2019 and another 6 months later in November. Pangnirtung is a community facing many struggles and has been our entry point to helping the Arctic as a whole. Our trips to the Arctic have been made possible by the support and partnership of Canadian North Airlines.
In our visits to Pangnirtung thus far we have spent a great deal of time listening and learning in conversations with the local people, including educators at the school, police at the RCMP, the town mayor, and venerated elders. Our belief is that you listen first, then ask questions and finally add input. The challenges faced in Pangnirtung, like all communities in the Arctic, will not be solved overnight and we have made it our commitment to stay true to the process to ensure communities are stronger for it in the end.
Since 2018 we have commissioned thousands of stone carvings, called Inukshuks, to be made by artisans and shipped around the world to be used in our talent development programs. This is one of the ongoing projects we hope will provide a sense of hope and income for members of Arctic communities.
Much of our continued work in the north has been made possible by two of our key partners, our friends Markus Wilcke and Daryl Dibblee.
Markus is originally from Germany. He is a retired nurse who has worked in the north for most of his professional life. He is a passionate individual and is deeply committed to helping people in need.
Daryl is an amazing man with a huge heart, a total commitment to getting things done and a remarkable ability to stay calm under intense pressure. We are honored to call these men partners and friends.
Our Greenland expedition is a cross-cultural journey that will connect the remote Arctic community of Pangnirtung in northern Canada with an equally remote community in Greenland.
We are taking two local community members with us from Pangnirtung to facilitate the sharing of cultural knowledge with outdoor leaders in Greenland. One member is a traditional hunter (Tony Nauyuq) and the other a spirited young female leader (Mary Rose Kilabuk). We will be meeting with village elders and students in Greenland and will be building a relationship between the two communities.
We recently spoke with CBC news in Canada about the expedition, and what it means to both Tony and Mary Rose. Click here for the story (starts at 1:45).
Our plan is to join a dog sled journey on the sea ice of eastern Greenland, from north of Kulusuk to a remote Greenlandic community on the east coast. As we travel several members of our team will attempt ski and snowboard descents from a number of the unnamed peaks on route.
We will be filming and photographing the entire expedition to create an immersive learning video simulation for our company. In addition, we will be sharing the story of our journey through photographs and video, through the writing of articles and through a documentary we will create. We hope that all this will help increase the volume of the cultural conversation we start.
By engaging community members in Pangnirtung and connecting them with a sister community in Greenland we hope to start a dialogue that transcends territorial boundaries and looks at the challenges the Arctic faces as a whole.