In 1978, Bibiana, then a medical-school student, embarked on her three-week course at the Outward Bound Canada Mountain School in Keremeos, B.C where she spent her days kayaking, climbing and hiking. She fondly remembers the other eight like-minded students who came to the course from all walks of life, as well her chief rock climbing instructor, originally from the Lake District, in England, through whom she learned British technical terminology for ‘abseiling’ (or rappelling). She not-so-fondly remembers the terrible blisters formed by poor footwear and long days on foot.
In addition to her technical learnings, during her expedition Bibiana realized the importance of group dynamics, team work and developing interpersonal skills.
“Different people contribute to a group in different ways. Some people have great navigational skills, others have a great sense of humour. I discovered that I was more of a nurturing and directive presence. I learned that it takes a lot of skills to survive in the mountains, and you should always go with people with skills that you don’t possess.” She says. “We all suffered at various times with fatigue under the weight of our packs, but there was always someone in the group that cheered you up. When someone had a blister, it was your job to make sure that they’re looked after, to make sure that everyone was as good as they can be. It was always about building community.”
Another significant impact of Bibiana’s Outward Bound experience is in how it consolidated her connection to the mountains as a place of comfort and hope.
“I knew I could never recreate my Outward Bound experience, but I always knew that I would go back to the mountains. My Outward Bound course reinforced my knowledge that I would always find what I needed in the mountains when life got difficult. Mountains teach you so much, they teach you that you just have to keep moving… you can achieve great things by putting one foot in front of the other.”
The adventure ignited a life-long connection to nature, a stepping-stone which led to many other outdoor education experiences and expeditions, including the National Outdoor Leadership School and the National Alpine School in the United States and trips to Nepal, New Zealand and throughout Western Canada.
Currently a Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta and a Cardiologist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, she continues to rock-climb and hike in the mountains of Alberta near her home in Edmonton.
She has recently made a generous donation to Outward Bound Canada which she hopes can, through our charitable programs, help facilitate an initiation and deep connection to the outdoors for individuals who otherwise would not have access to such a transformative experience.
“I really like Outward Bound Canada’s goal, to build inner resiliency through being in nature.” She says “I think it’s particularly important as our populations become more urbanized and consumed by technology - people aren’t able to get into nature very much. I think it’s essential to help people to experience the benefits of being in nature.”