CAF pilot conquers new peaks

Canadian Armed Forces members are known to be proud of their jobs, but one CH-146 Griffon pilot is taking this notion to new heights.

Capt Antoine Labranche, a pilot with 438 “City of Montreal” Tactical Helicopter Squadron (438 Tac Hel Sqn) and seasoned mountaineer, has just conquered three legendary peaks in Europe: Mont Blanc in France, the Matterhorn in Italy, and the Eiger in Switzerland.

“I want to make use of this trip to carry the 438 Tac Hel Sqn colours to these three peaks,” said Capt Labranche, before setting out on his climbing feat. “To me, the image of the squadron colours on these legendary mountains represents the step the unit has taken in changing its leadership and assuming new duties.”

Capt Labranche’s squadron recently surmounted its own challenges in taking on two new flights and a new commanding officer. These changes went ahead thanks to considerable effort and adaption in both knowledge and personnel training.

Capt Labranche, who grew up in Stanbridge-East, Quebec, does not hesitate to point out the relationship between his conquest of the three peaks and his career as a pilot.

“The mental and physical abilities needed to conduct operations and climb mountains characterize both the vision of the Royal Canadian Air Force and my mountaineering activities. One passion feeds the other.”

As far as staying in shape is concerned, Capt Labranche adapts his fitness exercises to the summits to be reached. All the same, cardiovascular training always has an important place in his physical activity regimen, both in garrison and on deployment, even if this means taking his morning jog in a former Cold War facility in Greenland, as he did during Op NEVUS 16.

Capt Labranche’s expedition in the Alps does not mark the end of his climbing experiences. He is already planning to conquer Alpamayo and Huascarán in Peru and Illimani, Huayna Potosí and Sajama in Bolivia.

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