Veterans set for March to the Top of Himalayan mountain

Twelve wounded and ill Canadian veterans are preparing to climb a mountain in the Himalayas, an adventure being captured in a CBC documentary highlighting the challenges faced by these brave men during their "rediscovery of self and their emotional, physical and mental rehabilitation."

Adventure by 12 injured, ill Canadian Forces vets to be captured in CBC documentary

12 former members of Canada's Armed Forces, all wounded or ill following their service, prepare to conquer Island Peak in the Himalayas 10:56

One could say the 12 former members of Canada's Armed Forces who are preparing to conquer Island Peak in the Himalayas later this month have climbed many a mountain in their lifetimes.

But this latest challenge facing the dozen brave men and women, all wounded and ill following their time serving their country, is more of a feel-good story — their March to the Top of the 6,189-metre-high mountain near Everest is serving as their "rediscovery of self and their emotional, physical and mental rehabilitation," says the website dedicated to the expedition. 

CBC is following their journey for a documentary, titled March to the Top, which will air in January.

March to the Top was commissioned by the documentary channel and CBC, and produced by Montreal-based Muse Entertainment and Canadian Adventure Productions based in Ottawa, which is headed by director Ben Webster, who is leading the Island Peak expedition team.

Besides chronicling the climb itself, March to the Top will give Canadians a window into the lives of the 12 former soldiers —10 men and two women — by visiting their homes and families across Canada to discover why they joined the Armed Forces, how they sustained their injuries, what their lives are like now, and what their hopes are for the future.

Every soldier has a story

Webster and David Macdonald, one of the 12 veterans participating in the expedition, discussed the team's adventure with CBC's Heather Hiscox on Thursday morning. 

Macdonald, who was born and raised in Toronto, joined the army on March 17, 2005. A corporal with Toronto's Royal Regiment, he served with Task Force Afghanistan 3-08, and ran more than 80 combat logistic patrols.
Ben Webster, a television producer, documentary filmmaker and experienced leader of adventure expeditions, is heading the team of 12 Canadian former Armed Forces veterans on a March to the Top climb of Island Peak in the Himalayas this month. (March to the Top/CBC)

On March 4, 2009, Macdonald's patrol transport was involved in a rollover motor vehicle accident. He dislocated his left leg, injured his pelvis, crushed his left hand, and suffered rib damage and neurological bleeding.

Macdonald says he's taking part in the expedition to show the public and other wounded veterans that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"Every day is a challenge, but you have to accept that challenge and get over it," he says on the expedition website. "My war with the Taliban ended that day in March, but my war with my injuries just began and it's a war I continue to fight."

Filming for the documentary began with the group's training in the spring in the Canadian Rockies. The film will also take viewers to Kathmandu, where the team is slated to arrive this weekend, the trek up to Everest base camp, and finally attempting to summit Island Peak itself on Oct. 25.

But people can follow the team's gruelling and exciting path to conquering Island Peak before the documentary airs, through Twitter, a blog and an interactive map on the website, and additional content on CBC-TV and CBC Radio One.