Portaging To Everest Base Camp | Canoeroots Magazine | Rapid Media
Tom and Kyle from The Weight We Carry Preparing for the portage of a lifetime - Courtesy of The Weight We Carry

Tom Shellenberg and Kyle Roberts are two brothers originally from Ontario who have started a unique non-profit organization called The Weight We Carry. Their mission is to carry canoes to the most unlikely places on Earth, in support of mental health organizations around the world. Currently, they are in the final planning stages of an expedition to portage two canoes to Mount Everest Base Camp, in hopes of raising $150,000 for Koshish, a Nepalese Organization building a women’s mental health centre. We had an opportunity to speak with Kyle Roberts who provided us with more information on the proposed plan.

What is the story behind The Weight We Carry and choosing to portage canoes?

Tom and I grew up spending summers in Algonquin Park with our family. The park was the first place that we both truly connected with nature. So much so, we both now have the map of Algonquin Park tattooed on our shoulders.In 2017, Tom and I hiked to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal over 16 days. We spoke in depth about our dream of starting at not-for-profit organization one day. The signs of the Nepalese earthquakes of 2015 were still very evident at this time, and at one point I can remember climbing out of a valley with incredible views over a village called Namche Bazaar. One of us looked at the other and said, “Can you imagine portaging a canoe up here? What an incredible portage that would be.” This is when the idea was born, and we decided we were going to portage our canoes to Mount Everest Base Camp in support of the mental health of those affected by the natural disaster.

What is your connection to Mental Health?

Mental Health is something both Tom and I are really passionate about and we strive to be mental health advocates for others.  We've had friends and family affected by serious mental health as well as experiencing the effects of poor mental health ourselves.  We believe mental health is the single most important aspect of ones life and therefore feel like it is the right cause for us to support. We have also done some previous work in post-disaster situations and understand that typically very little money is put specifically towards mental health support.

When are you planning to start the portage?

We have been working on the project for almost two years now. We returned to Nepal in January 2018 to do some ground work and find the most suitable Nepalese beneficiary of this fundraiser. We will now be returning to Kathmandu, Nepal this month to start the expedition. Our younger brother, Seton Roberts, will be joining us and filming a full length documentary as well as our good friend Dane Wilkes who will be managing social media from the mountain. Our Schedule has us hiking hiking with canoes for 33 days over 200 kilometers of mountainous Himalayan terrain. This would have us reaching Mount Everest Base Camp around January 14, 2019 and hopefully returning to Kathmandu by the end of January.

Which canoes are you bringing?

Cape Falcon Kayaks based in Portland, Oregon, came across our campaign and approached us about donating two canoes. These canoes are a skin-on-frame design weighing 30 pounds and have been built to stack inside each other to save on shipping costs.

Cape Falcon Kayaks

What do you anticipate being the biggest challenges on this portage?

Injury is our biggest concern. On our previous expedition my knee fot really bad towards the end of the climb. We have been training to help mitigate this. With any luck the wind isn't going to be too much of a concern and we are specifically going in January because there are less people and the winter is usually calm and clear. Temperatures can get as low as -30 degrees Celsius as you get closer to Base Camp and we will ensure we are prepared for this.

How have you been training?

Tom and I are both very active people. Tom is a competitive rower and I have been doing a lot of biking and swimming to stay in shape. We have both taken a few opportunities to carry heavier canoes up local mountains and this also provided great marketing material for our fundraiser.

Where will the money be going?

All of the money from our fundraiser will be going to the construction of a facility for Koshish, a professional mental health organization. They currently have no physical assets, and this would help give them some security. The plan for the facility itself is to be a short-term mental health support facility to help women living on the the street in horrible conditions and suffering from mental illness, get back on their feet again. 

If you would like to donate you can find the link here and you can follow along their journey via Instagram and Facebook



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