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Canadian Armed Forces cadet Alfred Boivin (left) receives his commission of the Queen from RCAF Lt.-Col. Jean-Paul Chabot.

Canadian Armed Forces cadet Alfred Boivin (left) receives his commission of the Queen from RCAF Lt.-Col. Jean-Paul Chabot.

I was born in Villebois, a small village in the Baie-James region of northern Quebec, and grew up surrounded by black spruce and mosquitos. This magnificent region introduced me to the beauty of the great outdoors and the wilderness. My grandmother was a prominent figure in shaping me into who I am and shared her love and respect for nature with me, through wild berry picking, nature walks and gratitude for it all.

I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my uncle, Lt.-Col (ret.) Jean-Paul Chabot, who was a helicopter pilot in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I also had a burning desire to live unique experiences, so I decided to attend the Royal Military College in Kingston.

The training I received throughout my career has equipped me to tackle the challenges I intend to take on in the future. Mandatory courses in psychology, physical aptitude tests, camaraderie, leadership, discipline, perseverance, teamwork, various command positions and my brothers in arms have all contributed to shaping the person I am today. The experiences I had in the CAF were among the most intense, unique and enriching I’ve ever had. And that’s exactly what I’m still looking for: experiences that are memorable, full of emotion and that allow me to grow as a person.

One of the most important values I learned was about teamwork. It’s a lesson that I find most useful to this day.

Military career

I graduated from the Royal Military College in Kingston in 2000, with the highest physical education score: 476 out of a possible 500 points.

I was posted to the 5th Brigade at CFB Valcartier as a signal officer, serving there for six years. I had a seven-month rotation in Kabul as an informatics officer in 2006. When I returned to Canada, I had surgery that was planned before my deployment, unrelated to service. After I returned to Canada.

However, following the surgery, the doctors said I could no longer run nor do any impact sports. It broke my heart, but I turned to other activities that I could perform without injuring myself.

I released from service in 2006 with the rank of Captain.

An active life after service

After my 11 years of military service, I decided to go back to school, which was necessary to give me the extra edge I needed to find a stimulating job in my new “civilian” life. I earned a Master’s Degree in Electrical engineering, power electronics from the Université Laval.

My transition from military to civilian life was not without its challenges and apprehensions. My advice to those going through this transition is to share your concerns and aspirations with your friends. Connect with your network, which is often underestimated, to find opportunities. Believe in yourself. Make a second career plan and commit to it.

I deeply believe that with effort, perseverance and discipline come results. Over the years, I’ve developed a taste for bicycle touring, mountain biking, canoe expeditions and road bike racing. It was through road bike racing that I discovered that knowledge, perseverance and discipline, applied over several months, are what make it possible to achieve your goals. I tend to believe in luck, except for one aspect, which is genetics and the environment in which we are born. Genetics shape us and we have no say in them, but we are in control of what we do with them.

Alfred Boivin at the summit of Huascarán Sur (south summit of Huascarán), the highest peak in Peru at 6768 m.

Alfred Boivin at the summit of Huascarán Sur (south summit of Huascarán), the highest peak in Peru at 6768 m.

My taste for adventure began when I met people who shared this passion. These encounters enabled me to develop my passion and explore different types of adventure, such as traditional multi-pitch climbing, multidisciplinary multi-day expeditions, long-distance hiking and bikepacking.

I like the necessary balance between the physical and mental strength required for climbing, the endurance and solitude of long hikes and the challenge of long multidisciplinary expeditions.

Over the years, a desire grew within me to climb mountains. Specifically, Alpamayo, standing 5,947 metres tall in Peru’s magnificent Cordillera Blanca. With its steep, sunset-facing southwest face, it is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Reaching the summit requires over 350 metres of ice climbing at an altitude of over 5,500 metres, which seemed impossible to me as I had no experience above 3,000 metres.

It was the words of a friend, Nathalie Fortin, that inspired me to take action, gather the necessary knowledge and seek the ideal climbing partner. She said that: “Finding a partner for this type of expedition is not a simple task; you need someone who will be as committed to reaching the summit as you are. If your partner is too committed, your life could be in danger, and if not committed enough, the expedition could be cancelled due to lack of motivation.”

After several months of training, preparation and planning, on July 21, 2022, my climbing partner François-Guy Thivierge and I reached the summit of Alpamayo. A few days later, we summited Huascaran North, Peru’s highest peak at 6,768 metres.

An unguided expedition is a real adventure that requires planning to minimize risk, a sense of urgency to deal with the unexpected, and teamwork to achieve your goals. It’s that same sense of urgency and teamwork that appealed to me and resonated with me in the CAF.

The emotions I experienced on the summit of Huascaran convinced me that this type of expedition was the pinnacle. All the expedition planning, from food to fuel, route and climbing strategy, equipment and permits—all of this increases the level of commitment to and control over the expedition.

I have plans to climb a few more peaks over the next ten years.

  • 2023: North America’s highest peak, Mount Denali in Alaska, and Mount Rainier, a stratovolcano in Washington, USA
  • 2024: the beautiful Laila Peak in Pakistan
  • 2025: Mount Thor on Baffin Island, Canada
  • future: Half Dome in California, Ama Dablam in Nepal, Mount Assiniboine in Canada. 

The lesson I’ve learned is to never stop chasing your dreams, and when you’re doing what you love, motivation comes naturally!

If you or someone you know is transitioning to life after service, check our website for services related to mental and physical health, finances, education or jobs and housing and home life. We also provide services to families and caregivers who support our Veterans.

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