Nick Schumann stands with a sign at Cotopaxi National Park
Alumnus Nick Schumann at Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador.

Alumnus’ trek across Ecuador volcano range raises $160K for mental health charities

In early March, Nick Schumann (BA ’06, MBA’ 12) joined 80 of his colleagues from HSBC for a charity event in Ecuador that would have been impossible had it happened any later in 2020. As COVID-19 spread across the world and governments responded by implementing travel restrictions, Schumann feels fortunate to have been able to go on the trip and make it back to the United States in time.  

“Given COVID, we were incredibly lucky with the trip’s timing,” Schumann said. “Shortly after we got home, the world went into lockdown.”

A group of about 80 people pose for a group photo in front of a palm tree.

HSCB employees from 25 different countries participated in the trek across Ecuador.

In the end, the event, a 100-kilometer trek across Ecuador’s Pasochoa Volcano Reserve to Cotopaxi National Park to raise money for mental health charities, was well worth the struggles that come with traveling in the time of COVID.

Over five days, Schumann, along with his colleagues, professional guides and mental health advocates, trekked under the shadow of the region’s snow-capped volcano, Cotopaxi, summited the 4,200-meter extinct volcano Pasochoa while taking in views of the Pichincha, Cayambe and Antisana volcanoes, and camped next to the freezing Rio Pita, a meltwater river from Cotopaxi filled with trout that meanders through the reserve, before ending their journey at Tambopaxi, the region’s only ecolodge and acclimatization center in the heart of the Cotopaxi National Park.

“The days were long and full of hiking!” Schumann said. “The high altitude made it particularly challenging. We typically hiked 10 or so miles a day, carrying our day packs. We made at least one break a day to discuss the importance of mental health with our mental health advocates and shared our personal journeys with one another.”

As a 17-year member of the U.S. Army Reserve with multiple deployments under his belt, Schumann felt prepared for the adventure, and was especially proud to participate knowing the trek would support mental health charities.

“This trek was important to me because it was an opportunity to raise awareness and money for mental health charities and to ultimately help remove the stigma that is often attached with discussing mental health more widely,” Schumann, the U.S. Head of Engagement for HSBC’s Financial Crime Threat Mitigation team, said. “Mental health is certainly something that has impacted my life from a personal/family and professional standpoint, especially within the military and given the fully remote work environment at the bank over the past several months.”

Nick Schumann poses for a photo in front of Cotopaxi

Schumann with the volcano Cotopaxi behind him.

The diverse group, made of HSBC colleagues from different parts of the bank hailing from 25 different countries, ultimately raised over $160,000 for 40 mental health charities and formed a special bond by completing the physically taxing trek and opening up about their mental health journeys.

“My favorite part was the camaraderie and teamwork we enjoyed on the trip,” Schumann said. “Being from Florida for the most part, I didn’t grow up in a high-altitude environment, and on Day #2, I contemplated not summiting Pasochoa. I knew I would regret not even trying so I decided to focus on small waypoint along the route…before I knew it, my friends and I had made it.

“There was an incredible amount of support and encouragement that we provided one another on the trek and that was critical to our success. I learned that you can tackle challenges one step at a time, buoyed by the support and love of friends and family.”

Even with the physical hardships and being away from his wife and two young boys, Schumann is excited to participate in another charity challenge with HSBC and continue supporting important causes.

“[The trek was] physically and mentally challenging, but if we’re able to help some people and raise awareness about mental health issues, it will be absolutely worth it.”

To see more from the trek, check out this video featuring Schumann and his HSBC colleagues.