Episode 3: Achieving Adventure – Part 1 with Barry Blanchard
What does it take to deliver adventure to yourself? Barry Blanchard talks about what it takes to achieve adventure. Listen as he shares his views on adventure, testing your metal, and climbing some of the world’s highest peaks. Barry is a world-renowned alpine climber, IMFGA Mountain Guide, author and brilliant storyteller.
Adventure has discomfort and involves risk: You can’t achieve an adventure without pushing through some level of discomfort, risk or challenge.
Personal evolution: Experiencing and overcoming discomfort and challenge leads to personal evolution. Testing our metal allows us to see what we are capable of.
We all need help: While adventure is often a personal thing, we all need help to achieve it. This help can be inspiration, coaching, guiding, instruction or simply following someone.
You can hire Barry Blanchard to be your guide by contacting Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
Check out Barry’s book: The Calling, a Life Rocked by Mountains
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[00:00:00] Barry Blanchard: Uh, we were going for the summon and the storm came in, clouds came in, there was, uh, electricity. So a lot of discharge of, of, uh, static into the rock. And you can hear it’s like a ge counter, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Anytime you get higher than the ridge line, you get zap and you get knocked off your feet.
Thankfully we were on the shower. Uh, part of the mountain that we could land in the snow and not go tumbling down the mountain.
[00:00:28] Chris Kaipio: This is delivering adventure. Welcome to the podcast that explores what it really takes to share adventure like a pro with your friends, your family, and as a profession. My name is Chris Kaipio, and I’m coming to you from Whistler, British Columbia.
[00:00:49] Jordy Shepherd: And I’m Jordy Shepherd. Recording from Canmore, Alberta. After a lifetime of working extensively in different parts of the adventure guiding industry, Chris and I have teamed up to launch this podcast. In each episode, you’ll hear top adventure guides, managers, marketers, and athletes share their best stories, advice, and trade secrets.
The goal of this podcast is to share how you can take yourself and others farther from the mountains to the office and.
[00:01:17] Chris Kaipio: In this episode, we are joined by Barry Blanchard. Barry is an internationally certified ACMG and an IFMGA Mountain Guide, Barry is one of North America’s premier alpine climbers.
He’s been guiding since 1981 and has guided on six different continents. Barry is also an author and his book the. A life rocked by mountains was awarded the 2015 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. In part one of two parts, Barry Blancher talks with us about what it takes to achieve an adventure.
Jordy, do you want tell us about Barry? I gather you know him pretty well. How are his first
[00:01:57] Jordy Shepherd: aid skills? Well, Chris Barry is, he’s an icon. He’s a, he’s an alpine icon. Uh, growing up and getting into guiding and climbing. Uh, he is just, he’s passionate about what he does and exceptionally good at what he does.
So if you take, uh, for those of our listeners who have been to a, like a rock climbing wall, let’s say, um, you know, and you’re hanging onto a hold, well, you’re, you’re pretty sure that that hold is not going to come off because it’s bolted to the wall in the climbing gym. But picture Barry, Climbing through all this rock, ice and snow in his alpine career, and you could never be a hundred percent certain that what your, your, your hand or your foot or your cramp on or your ice tool is attached to is actually truly attached to the mountain.
And Barry’s just done an incredible job of navigating on his own adventures, uh, as a first ASNs all over the. And all over the world, uh, not just in the Canadian Rockies here, um, winter and summer, navigating through all that and uh, and being able to. Hang on and, and not let go of stuff and have, have really, really precarious positions.
Um, you know, trying to find protection in difficult places, uh, so you can climb safely through it, but knowing you probably still don’t want to fall on that protection. Uh, that’s basically Barry in a nutshell, and, and. Certification wise? Yeah, he’s, uh, been a mountain guide, fully certified, internationally certified mountain guide for a long time.
Uh, he’s been a mentor, um, to me and to so many others in the mountain community. Uh, he’s the first to share information. Uh, lots of people in the mountains keep, uh, keep their cards close to their chest and don’t really. Go out of their way to do any kind of sharing and bury, uh, through, say, the mountain conditions report that the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides puts out.
He’s just done an incredible job of sharing his from the heart, his, his, uh, what went well and what didn’t go well on a given climb, uh, to other members of our association, but also to the public. Um, he’s, he’s just very, he just throws it out there. That would, that didn’t go well, but, Oh wait, this, this went well today in terms of first aid, Uh, Barry and I recently, uh, re-certified our first aid training.
We have to do that every three years, um, to be, uh, members of the Guide Association here in Canada. And, uh, yeah, it was just great to spend some time with Barry. We were still out in the mountains, but not, not on the big peaks. And, uh, yeah, just to, just to check in with him and see how he’s doing, uh, through his, uh, Um, you know, time that he spent in the mountains, uh, there’s so many stories, uh, that, that come out from him as you are about to see.
[00:04:59] Chris Kaipio: Well, I’m really looking forward to this Jordy, Uh, let’s bring Barry into the DA Studio and see what he has to say.
[00:05:05] Jordy Shepherd: Uh, just wanted to start out with where are you now and, uh, what have you been up to lately?
[00:05:10] Barry Blanchard: Uh, right now I am sitting in my house in, uh, Canmore, Alberta, and I can look over my right shoulder and see some of, uh, Lawrence Grassy Peak and, uh, hauling Peak and a bunch of roots that I’ve actually climbed over there.
Ice climbing and rock climbing. Have yet to do some skiing up in those drainages. But, uh, hopefully that’ll come. Um, I’ve had a huge change in my life in the last, uh, oh, uh, I guess nine months. It’s almost a gestation. Last August the eighth. I was on vacation in Saskatchewan at my buddy’s farmhouse and I fell down some stairs and suffered a traumatic head injury that saw me in the, uh, intensive care unit in Regina for a week.
And then, uh, another week plus of being in the hospital and uh, uh, for some of that time being unconscious. I can’t remember anything for a couple hours before falling down the stairs till 10 days after falling down the stairs. Um, and then in February 22nd, it was finally my time to have two knee replacements done.
So it’s a year of recovery largely. And since last August, um, Initially just learning to, to remember names and recognize faces was huge. And, uh, one interesting thing about that process was the first name that I recognized was my mother phoning me on the phone was the first time I’d recognized the name.
And I said, Oh mom. And uh, that’s interesting to me that your mother is your longest compan. In the world, you know, so until one of you passes away and you start to have more time with another human being, but to this point in time, my mother has been there, you know, longer than any other human. So that’s, that’s really interesting.
But, uh, yeah, um, you know, it’s been a recovery and, uh, I haven’t been doing my profession as a mountain guide. Uh, That time until three days ago, , I, uh, went back out and, uh, provided some adventure with, uh, some British soldiers with two other guides. And, uh, in terms of rock climbing, pretty, uh, novice level rock climbing.
A lot of these half of the folks had climbed before, you know, some, some form of climbing. But, uh, the other half of the folks, uh, had never done it before. So the very first. And, uh, you know, it’s the first time for a lot of those folks that are leaving the ground and, and climbing on natural rock and trying to figure out that, and that, uh, for any human being is a huge adventure.
It’s, uh, a test and it definitely, I don’t know, I, I don’t really like the term, uh, pushes your envelope. I don’t really like that. But, uh, It does test people and it, uh, demands things of people that they haven’t come up with before. So it’s a form of evolution, personal evolution, and we call that personal growth and write books about it and all that kind of stuff.
But, uh, out there on the rock, it’s pretty cool to see people and not everyone is going to caught into it. A lot of people are like, That’s it, I’m never doing that again. Glad I tried it once, but, you know, I’m, I’m not doing it anymore. It’s not for me. But a lot of other people are like, That was really cool.
And yeah, I’d like to do that again. And one gal was phoning her boyfriend in Britain and saying, When I get back, you know, let’s go to the climbing gym and la la la you know, making plans. So that was pretty cool. And, uh, Uh, for myself, just being able to, uh, get back in the, uh, uh, my chosen profession at even a very low level is, is, uh, baby steps, which is appropriate now, and, uh, Where it started for me, way, way back when was all baby steps.
[00:09:25] Jordy Shepherd: So. Well that’s great to hear that you’re back in the saddle here and, uh, and doing well. I’m also in Canmore too, just, uh, just up the hill from you, um, where I’m recording. And Chris is in wis, beautiful Whistler, bc Uh, so we have a, uh, a number of questions for you here. Um, you’re a storyteller. You’re a longtime mountain guide.
uh, a lot of experience in the industry and, uh, I think our listeners are, are, uh, really stoked to, to hear your perspective on a number of these things. We’re, we’re coming, coming at it from, Not so much the perspective of, uh, you know, you’re going to tell stories and, uh, it’s, that is excellent. Um, it’s, uh, it’s kind of the, the how you, how you got here and, and where you’re going with this in terms of your, your adventure and delivering adventure, which has been a lifelong adventure for you and a passion for you.
We know. So we’ll start with how do you define adventure? That’s a big, big question, but, uh, Yeah. How do you, Barry Blanchard define adventure? We’re in. .
[00:10:29] Barry Blanchard: Yeah. Um. My own definition of adventure, uh, is, uh, kind of part and parcel of, uh, what I’ve, uh, been called to, You know, I, I call it a calling. The mountains called to me when I was, uh, a young guy in Calgary.
Um, I’ve described it as growing up on the hard side of the tracks, and it was, uh, you know, an impoverished, poverty laden upbringing. And there was a lot of, uh, challenges in, uh, uh, you know, my home life and, uh, Yeah. You know, despite, or through that time, and this would’ve been in the, you know, I was born in 59, so a lot of this is the sixties and early seventies
Um, I could see the Rocky Mountains to, uh, the west on the skyline of the city. And it, uh, it, uh, pulled to me. And, uh, you know, a lot of young, uh, folks, if you ask them what they want to do, they’ll probably want to be a race car driver. If they’re guys a race car driver at astronaut or a mountain climb, So, you know, race, car driving and being a astronaut weren’t all that available to me, but, uh, the mountains I could see them and eventually got the chance to go into the mountains.
And, uh, yeah, yeah, I started reading all the books in the high school library and drawing pictures of climbing and wanting to go climbing and eventually got to go out and do it. And, uh, it’s kind of taken over, uh, my adult life and. I like the term that the big wave surfers have. The, the people who surf in the big wave, like the, the big waves.
And those waves are tremendously dangerous. And uh, they have a term that says, uh, you don’t pick surfing. Surfing picks you. And, uh, I think climbing is, is much the same thing. Mountains, you know, they pick certain people that they want to come and, you know, experience, uh, mountaineering so. With that template and that history behind me, um, my, uh, conditions or, or the way adventure works for me, and this is, uh, A lot of people won’t understand this, but, uh, you don’t get suffering without a, you don’t get adventure without suffering.
If you are going to West Edmonton Mall and getting on the roller coaster ride, or doing it in California or United States, wherever you do it, Calloway Park here in Alberta, um, yeah, you, you will feel an adventure. But, uh, there’s a significant, uh, difference between you know, how uncomfortable you’re going to be and then also how much risk you’re exposed to.
So for me, Suffering is a necessary part of adventure as is risk. And the difference I would draw between the rollercoaster ride and true risk is that the rollercoaster ride is a thrill. You’re not supposed to get hurt on the rollercoaster ride. It does happen very, very occasionally, but it’s not supposed to happen, whereas mountains are real risk and you can be hurt.
In a number of ways at almost any time, and, uh, coming to, uh, uh, negotiate that risk and come to terms with it and maybe understand it a certain amount and therefore be able to adjust to it is part of adventure. But you’re never going to cover all of that. Not in a mountain, no. No way. They’re far too complicated and, uh, far too, Uh uh.
Active. And it’s weird to think of mountains as active cuz most people think, look at a mountain and they think it’s a postcard and you could carve it outta rock, which it is, but put it on your, your mantle shelf and it will never move. And that’s not true. Mountains move and they move quite quickly at times and at certain seasons they move a lot.
And a lot of people don’t realize that mountains move . Yeah. That’s, that’s part of the process. So, Adventure for me goes into that arena with the mountain that, uh, yeah, you go to the mountain largely, uh, I guess you could say on the mountains terms, but, uh, you kind of go into the mountain and the mountain has more influence over your situation than you do.
[00:15:20] Jordy Shepherd: Absolutely. Yeah. You can definitely, uh, And adventure, uh, with, uh, experiences, but you can also have experiences that don’t have a whole lot of adventure associated with them and for us as guides. Yeah. Uh, we’re, we’re constantly walking that, that line through that risk. To, to, uh, keep our clients safe and, and move, move through to have an experience and an adventure and hopefully all positive outcomes.
But there is a certain amount of discomfort that can come with that. Um, but there’s the safety margins that we work within to, uh, to keep everybody safe. But I find in current society, we don’t experience a lot of discomfort. Kids growing up nowadays and, and adults, we, we kind of shy away from that dis.
And, uh, and that is where the adventure, uh, plays itself out, is having some physical exertion, mental, emotional exertion, um, and challenges there to make it an adventure. I totally agree.
[00:16:30] Barry Blanchard: Yeah. Yeah. I would, uh, Uh, definitely agree. Uh, you know, it’s almost like, uh, I feel we, uh, as a culture gotten softer over time, which I’m not enough of a scholar to really, uh, research, but I’m always.
Kind of blown away and impressed, uh, by Conrad Kane who made the first as sense specifically of Mount Robs and the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies in the early, uh, 1913 or 16. And that that was the first Alpine Club of Canada’s, uh, annual general. And the railway had been opened up. So all these people came from Winnipeg and were, you know, all over western Canada and the United States, and took a train ride, got off the train and went and, uh, uh, yeah, yeah, Kane, uh, uh, guided McCarthy and uh, wbo up, uh, uh, Mount Robson and made the first assent of Robson.
And it’s interesting, Conrad Kane, at that point in time, Probably the last person to ever be probably the best alpinist in North America while being the best mountain guy in North America. That combination has probably never been touched again because there’s been segregation that way, but I’m rambling.
But in 1924, the Alpine Club of Canada had its second annual general camp. Below Robson and Conrad came guided the South Southwest buttress of Robson, which he would’ve rid a horse to Kenny Lake. But that he would’ve ascended eight or 9,000 feet of complicated mountain. He guided it four times in two weeks.
The physicality of that presented to the modern guide is a little hard to understand cuz that’s pretty much will round the numbers. You know, 10,000 feet up, 10,000 feet down. Make it 20,000 feet. That’s 80,000 feet of ascent of descent in two weeks. The first three times he never made it to the high camp and BWA on the glacier.
And one of those people he took to the top that time was Phyllis Monday, the first woman to get to the top Robson and just the physicality of a guy up there with a meter long ice a. A tweed suit with a tie, and all his clients in that same rig, and then sleeping on a glacier for the first three times, you know?
Yeah. You tie all the guys today and they don’t believe you . They were tough, tough people.
[00:19:09] Jordy Shepherd: Totally. Yeah. And dealing with, uh, No, we’re near the equipment that we have nowadays too, right? And, and communications and safety nets and all those kind of things that we enjoy. Um, even though we feel like we’re kind of far out there, we’re not compared to how these early mountaineers were, were doing these things.
I’ve seen a poster where it lays out what they carried with them for clothing and in their pack compared to what we do nowadays for a, a similar type of trip. And it’s, it’s just stunning how much more stuff. And tech we have and what they did not have. And they, they did these huge, huge feats of, uh, Yeah, of physicality to, to get their clients up there and just over and over and over again, uh, during these, these general mountaineering camps. Unbelievable.
[00:19:59] Barry Blanchard: Yeah. I recently watched, uh, uh, film about the Swiss guides and. Something that if I have known, I had forgotten with all those ascents, like, uh, Edward Fos doing like a, I think a hundred over a hundred first ascents, very first mountain ever climbed by, you know, there might have been natives on some of them indigenous folk that we don’t know about, but.
For recorded record that we know about the very first time these mountains had ever been climbed. And, you know, his, his other, uh, associates during that time, of which, uh, Kane would’ve been one, although I think Kane was Austrian and not Swiss. It’s probably an important distinction. Um, they didn’t have any fatalities.
All those ass, you know, basically, uh, safe. Safest sense. You know, I’d have to read about broken ankles and stuff. But, uh, yeah, that, that’s amazingly impressive. And, uh, yeah,
[00:21:08] Jordy Shepherd: so that’s a nice historical perspective. And, uh, why do you think we need to be able to deliver adventure to ourselves? Why is that important?
[00:21:19] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I, I, I think it’s important for. certain people. I think for the, you know, a lot of people, um, are like billbo, Bains, you know, adventures, nasty things. I don’t really like them, , and a lot of people, you know, don’t really want to have adventure, don’t want that discomfort and that fear and that risk.
Um, whereas some people do, and, uh, you know, as mountain guides, um, we all are obviously on the, we do side of things. We do like adventure and I think, uh, it’s important to, uh, provide adventure to ourselves because it’s our, our testing ground. It’s, uh, where we can test ourselves and, uh, um, you know, that was Walter Bonati.
Who said that, uh, you know, uh, how much metal a person has in them. And, uh, it echoes a, a line I read in a book about, uh, a Norwegian. Uh, fighter in the Second World War who’s taken, had a conflict with the Germans and ended up hiding in the high plateau Norway and surviving through the winter. And then the, the local people, the Norwegians got him down into the fjord and he’s going to be rode across this fjord.
He’s got frost, bit and feet and he, in interestingly, Recovered and came back to being, uh, you know, fighting the Germans in Norway again, so interesting guy. But this, these two men who are going to roll him across this, this Fjord. One is the guy’s father whose, you know, in his seventies, if not eighties, and this Norwegian fighter.
You know, are, are we going to be able to do this? And, and, uh, this guy who’s in his , you know, eight years old, he says, Son, I was born in a time when men were made of, uh, ships were made of wood, and men were made of steel. And he just started rowing and rode all the way down this field and got this guy out and, uh, feeding cold water.
Whole thing. He was a cod fisherman his whole career, his whole life. But I just love that thing. You know, Ships were made of wood and men were made of iron. top,
[00:23:54] Chris Kaipio: top
[00:23:54] Barry Blanchard: people.
Yeah. Yeah. So, Yeah. Um, I think, uh, it’s important for us to, to have adventure because. You know, it’s a way of seeing how much iron we have and having that iron evolve over time because, uh, we get better at it and more capable with it, and we understand more for a certain amount of time. And then, you know, you go down the back slope and, uh, see what you’re capable.
Uh, as your iron gets less and less, but to have that guy’s iron man.
[00:24:39] Chris Kaipio: I thought we covered a lot of ground in this, uh, in this podcast when we started, but I never thought we’d get a Bilbo Baggins
[00:24:45] Jordy Shepherd: reference. looking at your career of adventure, which has been quite, uh, quite long and well round. What do you, and this might be difficult for you to, to come back with us with one answer, but, uh, what’s your, one of your biggest accomplishments that you, you feel you’ve done to date?
[00:25:06] Barry Blanchard: Um, I think one big accomplishment that I will say was our attempt on Naga Parbat and, uh, Naga Parbat is the 11th highest mountain in the world, so it’s one of the 14, 8,000 meter peaks. But more importantly, And this is a bit of, uh, uh, uh, geographic, uh, uh, distinction. Uh, the RuPaul face at Manga Parbat presents the most, uh, relief from where you are standing in the valley floor to the summit of the mountain, the A garment.
And, uh, there are geographic definitions of all that, which I have read about, but I don’t hold in my head, especially after banging in my head. But the RuPaul face, you’re in the top Elk Meadows. The summit is 15,000 feet above you. That’s the highest amount of relief of one sweep of Mountain anywhere on the.
Doesn’t get any bigger than that. There’s some other really big reliefs that go down into rivers and stuff, but this is one sweep of, of mounts going up. So it’s the biggest one in the world. It’s the most climbing you can do. Um, starting, you know, at our base camp and the three of us, myself and Kevin Doyle and Mark Twight and Ward Robinson.
Um, you know, we put all this stuff on our back. Um, we believe in the, uh, the traditional definition of Alpinism, which is all you get is the pack on your back, a roper rack and a pack. You don’t get to establish camps, You don’t get to fix line all the way up the mountain. You don’t get to use a helicopter.
You put it on your back and. Engage with the mountain, and you try to make your way up the mountain and hopefully the mountain allows you to make it to the summit. Another word I hate is conquer. It’s, uh, . I don’t know it. It’s hubris. It’s hubris and it’s idiocy because, you know, we, we are allowed to go to the top of these mountains.
That is kind of a blessing and a grace. It is not a conquer, No way. That doesn’t happen anyways. Um, yeah, yeah. That attempt, uh, knew we didn’t make it to the top of that mountain. Nanga Parbat didn’t let us get up that time, and it actually slapped us down pretty hard. And, uh, we came into a fight, fight for our lives and we were very capable at that period of time.
We were all in our late twenties or early thirties, and we were very strong. Capable guys and we fought really, really well. And we made it down off in Naga Parbat, uh, in quite a, a long, uh, trying storm. And uh, maybe we actually even made another attempt, but, uh, Naga, Parbat didn’t want us on top again, so, uh, we didn’t have to get slapped that harm twice that hard twice.
So we, we ran away . Um, yeah, but it was. It was a, it was a great attempt and it was a great, great experience and it was a massive adventure. One of the biggest adventures I’ve had in my life with three gentlemen who are still, you know, some of my best friends, my, my, my best friend Kevin. And then, you know, uh, Mark and and Ward are also.
You know, I, I love those guys. And when I had my head injury, you know, Kevin came out a number of times, but Ward came out from the coast to visit me twice when, uh, after my head injury and Mark would’ve come, but, uh, had himself busy, but he definitely communicated. So, yeah. Yeah. I guess the other side of, uh, the importance of that adventure, why that’s a great accomplishment is that bond.
You know the four of us? Yeah. We’re, we’ll never be separated. We, we live in vastly different areas, but there’s a connection there that’ll never be broken, so, yeah.
[00:29:21] Jordy Shepherd: Yep. Yeah. When you’re in the mountains like that and you’re sleeping on your rope and you’re, you’re, or not sleeping because you just gotta keep going and you’re starting to run low on food and there’s spin drift avalanches and rockfall and all that stuff associated with, with the big and the, and the smaller mountains, it’s, uh, it’s those bonds that you form, um, that are really the, the things that are, the memories that, that you come back with.
Absolutely. Uh, so if, uh, for our listeners, if, if you’re, uh, interested in, in, uh, delving more into, uh, Barry’s story about, uh, climbing there and, and other adventures and Barry’s life, uh, he, he’s written a book called The Calling A Life Rock by Mountains. And, uh, I won’t ruin it for you, but, uh, it basically plays like a mix tape.
And for those of you that, uh, I’m kind of dating myself here, uh, who made mix tapes and went on road trips and, uh, had adventures. Uh, it’s, uh, it’s, uh, hang on. It’s a wild ride. It’s a great book, . Thank you.
[00:30:23] Chris Kaipio: Thanks, Trudy. . Uh, can you think of an adventure that you’ve had that’s really pushed your skills?
[00:30:31] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, yeah.
There’s, uh, um, several of them that. Came to mind and, uh, I think it was, uh, well, I’ll, I’ll mention, uh, three adventures that, uh, uh, really, uh, pushed me. Um, were the Andra to strain, uh, the north face of Mount Alberta, both of which are in the Columbia ice field here, uh, very close to my home. And, uh, some of the, uh, especially Alberta, one of the really big and independent mountains in the Canadian Rockies.
And. Alberta’s probably overall for human beings, one of the most difficult to get up. And then, uh, also, uh, Mount Kron, uh, which is is close to where I live. And, uh, looking back on those, Like, uh, Alberta, um, uh, or the Andromeda Strain, we climbed, We did the first ascent of a route that had never been climbed before.
It was quite challenging, and, uh, it happened in, uh, April. Uh, and then Alberta happened that summer and with both of those ascents and, uh, you know, the, the, the math on the Andros strain that I went to with, uh, Dave Cheeseman and Tim Friesen, um, for one, it was my third attempt on that, that route. And, uh, for two, I had amassed 700 days of climbing at that point in my life.
So some of those ascents and those 700 days had been a very trying ascent of the Caine Ridge of Mount McKinley with my partner Kevin. And, uh, also, uh, climbs, uh, in Yosemite Valley like the nose and the Celle and Half Dome. These real classic, uh, wall climbs and also. Uh, uh, a period of time in Shay, in France.
Um, all within about a three year period where I gained all these days. And that was my, my, uh, carpenter’s kit, my toolbox, all right. And it was a pretty good toolbox, but it. There’s more that could be added to it, and there never is enough tools in a toolbox to, to go out and climb on Alpine Mountains. Um, you’ll never know enough or you never have enough.
But on those two ascents, they demanded everything I’d learned in those 700 or 750 days by the time I got to Alberta. They demanded all of that and they asked for more. So I had to come up with more. I had to go past and above my definition of myself. I had this definition of myself, this is what I’m capable of.
Those mountains and Kron two years later asked for more. They demanded more. We weren’t going to make it unless I came up with more and I came up with more. And, uh, some of that, uh, uh, involved, uh, You know, risk times that, uh, a fall, uh, probably wouldn’t be lethal, but you definitely get hurt and you could be hurt quite badly.
And I was able to hold it together and come up with whatever I needed to come up with. And the mountain said, Okay, you can continue and continuing. You know, that’s just a meter. That’s like the mountain in those situations says, Okay, you can make it up this next meter, and maybe that’s the hardest meter on the whole thing.
But those are the kind of increments we’re talking about. We’re not talking about hundred yard dashes or making the record of the mile, you know, driving in Monaco for grand PR or anything. We’re talking the next meter. Right. And, uh, yeah, just, uh, as a sidebar, climbing’s really interesting in, in that respect, in that it is a very static calculated.
Sometimes it has to be quite fast. You have to move quickly or you’re going to fall. But most of the time there is time to try to make A plus B equals C. And the really challenging parts, Where those as sense, all three of them. When I didn’t have time to come up with that equation, I had to move. I had to move like a wolf go with my instinct and my reflexes and my.
I guess reaching and going, uh, go with the flow and uh, they added up. So yeah. Yeah, all three of those were really, uh, trying a sense that way. And the wild thing, which was a winter ascent. I remember I led a, a really, uh, challenging pitch for myself that my buddy Kevin had led before me on one of the previous attempts.
The wild thing took five attempts, 15 days of my life to get three days up there, . But I, I did this, you know, snow filled off with and got up there. It was 25 below. It was cold. It was clear. And I’m, there’s a good crack and I’m hammering a couple really solid peons and they’re ringing true. It’s good anchor, and I’m feeling God, I did this.
And one of the, uh, peons didn’t go all the way in, so I tied it off. I shortened the lever on the peons so it couldn’t be broken. I remember my buddy ward getting up and he looks over, Wow, you tied off that piton because, you know, it’s an acknowledgement that war had just clipped the outside of the piton, which probably would’ve been fine, but uh, tying it off made it even a little bit safer.
So, yeah. Yeah, those were days that, uh, that definitely tried me, Those three a sense. Yeah.
[00:36:25] Chris Kaipio: So you touched on a number of things there that allowed you to, to make that happen. You know, obviously your, your knowledge and skills up to that at that point, your experience, you, you mentioned, uh, patience. What else does it take to deliver adventure to yourself?
[00:36:43] Barry Blanchard: Well, it, it takes the desire. To go up and have those adventures to want to go into that place and for myself. You know, that is Alpinism, that’s my real calling in, in the, the bouquet of things that you can experience as a climber, some of which would be gym climbing these days. And I enjoy gym climbing. I really like going there.
Some of which would be safe rock climbing, some which would be more risky, rock climbing, some which might take your rock climbing to the biggest rock faces in the world. Um, but for. It’s Alpinism, so snow, ice, rock, glaciation, kind of as complicated as it can get in the mountains. And uh, yeah. Um, the things that you need to go there is, I guess for an alpinist is, um, yeah, I guess you could call it.
A passion, a love, a respect, uh, a need to go across a glacier, come to a bird, run the big, uh, creas that divides the mountain, which doesn’t move as fast as the glacier, except when it does decide to move, then it can move very, very fast. But the glacier is constantly in motion and in, you know, it makes this big crack and glacier.
Are more dynamic overall than mountains. They move more cuz they’re moving all the time. So to go up the glacier, get to the bird, sh run, step over that bird, sh run, then you’re on the mountain. And for me as an alpinist, that is a step into a special and sacred place that is, you know, I call it my church, call it my, that’s where I really connect with the creator.
Um, whatever has put us and the universe, well stupid to say, us and the universe put the universe together. That’s where I feel it, and that’s where I connect with it, and that’s where I want to go, and that’s where I want to have myself, uh, grow. And part of that growth is the risk. Because it is a risky, uh, endeavor.
It’s, it’s very dangerous to be on these sides of these mountains. And then also you’re not going to get up there without some suffering, even on a blue sky day. Physically. It’s going to take a lot of effort. There’s going to be some pain involved to keep climbing up these mountains. So yeah. WaTch Curt. A Polish Alpinist, quite an interesting guy.
He called it the Art of Suffering . And, uh, if you read Curt’s writing about the Art of Suffering, it’s uh, I don’t know, you could almost call Curta Mystic , that he definitely has a deep connection with the.
[00:40:02] Chris Kaipio: So, you mentioned suffering, you know, can you think of a situation that really tested your motivation to push through suffering and, and, and adding on to that, you know, in that situation, how did you manage to, to do that?
[00:40:17] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, yeah. There was, uh, Yeah, something I had almost, I, I was at my tether for suffering on the North Ridge of Rakaposhi in 1984. And Rakaposhi isn’t as much relief as Naga par bat. But it’s pretty close. It is in the Karakoram Mountains, which is quite close to Naga Parbat, which is actually in the Himalayan Mountains.
So there’s a geographic distinction between the Karakoram and the Himalaya, although we often just call it the Greater Himalaya and include the Hindu Kush, which is a arranged, that’s quite close to those, uh, two other ranges. They actually come together. But, uh, rock apo. Is one of those ones where there’s a river down there that’s 5,000 feet and you go by that river, and then the mountain that you want to climb is 25.
Thousand plus feet above you. So there’s 20,000 feet of relief. So you don’t climb at all at once. You only climb, I don’t know, the top 12,000 or 13,000 feet, but, uh, we’d gone there as a group of, uh, seven climbers and a doctor. One of our, our. Partners on the team didn’t acclimatize well, so he chose to leave.
So there was six of us who went onto the mountain and once we committed to the mountain and we were, uh, using, uh, 2000 feet of rope and uh, it was our first time over there, we didn’t think we had enough ability to just go alpine style with a rope and a rack and a pack on your back and no one’s climbed.
Is that true? Maybe someone has climbed Karakoram from the north in that. But I’d have to think about that and, and go back and research it. . But uh, anyways, we committed to the mountain. We were on the mountain for 23 days. We never came back to the ground for 23 days. We went higher and higher until a storm stuffed us and we, we came down and, uh, it was like leave.
It was kind of like leaving the planet. You know, you could see the planet down there from up, uh, 23, 20 4,000 feet on Rakaposhi, but there was no way you could get there and there’s no way that anyone could get and come and get you back. Um, maybe. I don’t think they could have done a helicopter landing at that point in time with the people who were flying over there, which is a, a dis on the Pakistani air Force, um, who have done higher rescues now with helicopters or maybe not higher, but have done some.
But anyways, yeah, it felt like you’re on a different, different world. And we came down, the weather came right after two weeks of storms. And myself and Kevin Doyle and Dave Cheeseman were able to go. And in five days we climbed to our high point. And then on the, the, uh, fifth day, uh, we were going for the summit and the storm came in, clouds came in.
There was, uh, electricity. So a lot of discharge of, of, uh, static into the rock that you can hear. It’s like a Geiger counter, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Anytime you get higher than the ridge line, you get zza and you get knocked off your feet. Thankfully, we were on the shallow. Uh, part of the mountain that we could land in the snow and not go tumbling down the mountain.
Um, and it was just really trying. And the summit’s still so high above us and we’re laboring up through this snow and trying to find ways to outthink the snow to sink less in the snow. And, you know, I’m out front and Dave comes up to me and I just, you know, I, it’s like Dave, you know, this is, this is. An empty experience.
This doesn’t mean anything anymore. This is, you know, I think I said this is stupid. We should just go down. This has no meaning. And Dave’s like yaman. He was South African yaman. I think. I think we should go down, man. This is, this is too much, man. And then Kevin came up and Kevin, the day. in our tent had been what we call butt sick and butt sick is some kind of gastrointestinal infection that you get in Asia as a westerner.
And you know, the night before he was clinging to the, the, his harness, he’d taken it off and he’s crouched down and there’s like a, a garden hose of. Exploding out of his anus and it’s, you know, it’s horrible to think about, but that’s what happens. It’s like a hundred bazillion bacteria virus and whatever else is coming out of their little paramecium, you know, all the stuff that’s trying to kill you basically.
And he’s hurting bad and he’s been dragging his butt, kind of coming up the mountain cuz he’s hurting and we know he’s hurting. So we’re doing all the work, breaking the trail, and he comes up to. and Dave and I are said, Yeah, you know, we should go down. And this guy, you know, has a prize fighter’s heart.
Someone like, uh, Muhammad Ali heart, you know, you, you don’t come around many of those. And this guy pushed water uphill. He just said, Come on guys. No, we could make it. We gotta keep going. And he pushed water uphill. He got David, David and I to keep going up. And I don’t know, an hour later, we’re below the summit of Rakaposhi.
It’s 10 feet above us, five feet above us. We’re tempted to go up and touch it, but we can hear the electricity ticking into the summit of Rakaposhi. And then we know if we go up and touch it, it’s going to be, So we just stood there and looked at rpo. She took some pictures and we went down and uh, yeah, that’s one of the, I had convinced myself it was time to quit, but, uh, my buddy Kevin wasn’t having any of it.
So up we went.
[00:46:29] Jordy Shepherd: thanks so much for this, Barry. We’re going to pause here now so that we can recap some of the excellent points that you’ve made so far. If you’re looking to learn more about Barry, you can check out his book, The Calling A Life Rock By Mountains. It reads like a, uh, mixed tape. That’s how he’s named the chapters.
And I’ll, I’ll say no more. Um, but yeah, uh, music is, uh, is a passion for Barry of Barry’s and, uh, it’s interwoven, um, throughout his book. If you’d like to go climbing with Barry, you can find him guiding and instructing at Yam Nuka Mountain Adventures in Canmore, Alberta.
[00:47:06] Chris Kaipio: Well, Jordy, what were your takeaways so far? What does it take to achieve adventure?
[00:47:14] Jordy Shepherd: Well, Chris, Barry. Highlighted that adventure often, not always, but often to to be an adventure. It has discomfort. And he linked adventure with the elements of risk taking, struggle and discomfort, and, uh, The way, the way he highlights it is that, you know, having an adventure, um, there, there is a bit of a cost to that.
You know, you are paying a price and that often involves feeling a degree of discomfort, fear, effort, or challenge. And you know, the reality is life isn’t easy. It’s in, it’s its own adventure. And a adventure in the outdoors is, uh, not always easy. There’s, there’s parts of it that are pretty cruisy and, but in order to feel challenged, um, yeah, stepping up and, uh, and putting yourself out there a little bit, uh, and feeling a bit of this idea of discomfort, I think in, uh, society, uh, generally nowadays, there, there can be a lack of.
I think for, you know, kids growing up, uh, I’ve got kids myself and, you know, it’s, it’s a pretty, um, There’s always struggles, uh, but I think what parents often do nowadays is they, they, the goal is for the children not to experience discomfort in any way, shape or form, whether it’s hunger or lack of school supplies or all that kind of stuff.
Right. That, um, yeah. And, and it really, uh, if you look back through history, uh, the people who have experienced discomfort, uh, have often been. Kind of at the forefront of, of society because they. They know how to deal with that, with that adversity, you know, And I’m not saying that you want to go out and throw yourself to the wolves all the time.
Um, and that’s not fair to the wolves cuz wolves actually are quite friendly. But, uh, that idea of, you know, you don’t, you don’t want to constantly be walking on beds of nails to, uh, make your feet harder. But you do the big days in the mountains and your feet will get tougher and the only way you get up there is under your own power.
And there’s discomfort related. And a huge sense of accomplishment. Uh, Barry also talked about personal evolution, and with that evolution is, uh, that, uh, there is a degree of risk taking and suffering. Uh, potentially if you’ve seen, uh, Cedar rights, uh, Um, episodes that he’s, he’s filmed his, his, uh, movie documentaries, uh, called Sufferer Fest.
Uh, highly recommended. And, you know, you don’t necessarily need to take it to that level, , where you’re biking from, uh, from venue to venue across the desert and you’re not a cyclist. And then you climb stuff and you realize that it’s more difficult than you thought it was going to be, and you’re just beat down from the cycling side of things like Cedar’s experience there.
But you also, you know, you evolve as a person, uh, through having, uh, these adventures and, and having some risks that you’re taking that are hopefully fairly calculated because you’ve prepared and prepared and prepared for what you’re doing. So Jordy, I
[00:50:28] Chris Kaipio: totally agree with you. You know, adventure is a necessary part of life.
I think we touched on this in our first episode, uh, together. Um, and I really liked how Barry linked that with our personal evolution. But just to add on to what you’re saying, you know, one of the things that I thought was very interesting, and he kind of finished off with this point at the end. Is the fact that while adventure is a very personal thing, we often need help from others to be able to achieve it.
And that help, sometimes it comes from coaching, sometimes it comes from, uh, modeling some kind. It comes in just someone, um, trying to inspire you, um, through their words or, you know, I give pep talks, uh, to my people, uh, every now and again and, and to myself sometimes. Um, We often need that little bit of push.
And an example is, um, just following somebody, you know, down, down a mountain or up a mountain or through life, you know, that person ends up becoming our guide. And in the example that Barry used, he was climbing rock apoe. They were wearing down in the group. There was a lot of hardship. They felt like they couldn’t go any further.
And all of a sudden one of his colleagues, Step forward and motivated everybody to keep going and delivering adventure. That’s something that we do for ourselves, but if we want to achieve it, we often need others to help us in that process. And if we can help other people to achieve adventure, often we end up providing them with some of the most valuable experiences of their lives.
Now let’s turn it over to you, the listener. What were your takeaway? You can share your thoughts, stories, and insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us. You can find all of our contact email@example.com and in the show notes we’ve also posted Barry’s links and info about his book in the show notes as well.
Next up is part two of Barry Blanchard’s interview. If you like this episode, you absolutely don’t want to miss the next. In part two, we ask Barry to talk about motivation bear encounters, and his aspirations for his legacy. Please don’t forget to click the follower subscribe button for this podcast in your favorite player so that you don’t miss out on future episodes.
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