By Natalie Bruckner. Originally published in the fall/winter 2020 issue of Business Class magazine. Photo by James Frystak.

Climbing the largest mountain near his home in Squamish, BC, Mike Schauch, BCom ’03, pauses for a moment. It’s unpredictable terrain, and yet in that moment, standing on the slopes of Mt. Garibaldi, he feels an inner peace and clarity. Up here, everything just makes sense. It’s a feeling he’s come to value during the hundreds of climbs he’s made over the years.

“When I’m in the mountains, it can be very chaotic and unpredictable. You have to pay attention. But in that moment it’s like everything has its place, and is doing exactly what it needs to be doing. You can get a lot of clarity by removing yourself from the modern world and spending time in nature. It’s a chance to recalibrate things,” he says.

In the five years since Business Class last shared an update from Mike and his wife, Chantal Schauch, BCom ’03, he has climbed a lot, and not just mountains. His business, Sjostedt & Schauch (an investment and wealth management practice) has continued to flourish, his motivational speaking about exploring remote places continues to inspire others and he has recently released his first book: A Story of Karma: Finding Love and Truth in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya.

And yet, ask Mike about his greatest achievement, and he would say it’s seeing two little girls, Karma and Pemba—who he and Chantal met in a remote Himalayan village on a climbing trip to Nepal eight years ago—grow into well-educated young women.

Meeting Karma marked a profound moment in his life—one that has shaped his personal and business worlds. When the Schauchs travelled to Nepal to document the newly opened Nar Phu Valley, Mike pursued a dream he had of climbing a particular mountain he had seen in an image. “It just called to me.”

However, sometimes a mountain just isn’t meant to be climbed. The adventure turned sour when Mike became trapped in a snowstorm at 17,000 feet en route to the mountain, and then his mule ran away with his climbing gear. He was forced to turn back and go to a small local village, where —fortuitously—he met the little girl Karma.

He describes her as being different than the other children in the village: “I just felt this karmic connection to this girl,” he says. “She had this longing to learn. She was seven years old, teaching the other kids English numbers and, when she approached Chantal and me, she pulled out this little card with English words on it, motioning to Chantal to teach her the words.”

After chatting to Karma’s mother and learning about the family’s future plans, the challenges of education in the area and the importance of aligning that with Karma’s Tibetan culture, the Schauchs started researching how they could help. Today, Karma and her sister Pemba attend a boarding school in Kathmandu that also fosters their unique ethnic heritage and values, and Mike has discovered his passion for helping make education more accessible around the world. He and Chantal are honoured to act as mentors to Karma and Pemba.

Mike didn’t make it to the top of that mountain, so he can’t say for certain what the experience would have been. However, he knows that his experience of meeting Karma and her family taught him to step outside of himself. “When you see things through different worldviews and find meaning, you make better decisions in business and life. Continue to be curious and ask ‘why?’ We can make the world a better place if we start by understanding others.”