Episode 4: How to Achieve Adventure – Part 2 with Barry Blanchard
ACMG / IFMGA Mountain Guide Barry Blanchard continues sharing what it takes to deliver adventure to others and achieve it for ourselves. Barry recounts some tough guiding situations, close calls with bears, how to balance risk taking and his hopes for his legacy.
Respecting Bears: Bears generally avoid people. However, they are wild animals and they can be unpredictable. Managing this hazard safely requires awareness, preparation, and respect.
Managing Breaking Points: Everyone has a point where the adversity in a given situation can become too much. Coaching people forward when they have hit this point may require a firm hand or a soft touch, depending on the person and the situation.
Respecting risk: Risk taking can become normalized the more we are exposed to it. This can cause us to become complacent in the face of situations that have high amounts of risk taking. When it comes to taking risks, we need to tread lightly.
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
Follow or Subscribe
Make sure to follow or subscribe to the show. Thanks!
[00:00:00] Barry Blanchard: You know, without the grizzly there, they would’ve never slid with the grizzly there instantaneous, didn’t even hesitate. right over the cliff with me. And, uh, we got to run away from that bear and watch that bear rip our packs apart, basically play with our packs at one point, bouncing a Ziploc bag full of food on his head as he’s lying on his back.
[00:00:27] 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. And I’m Jordy Shepard,
[00:00:49] 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 continue our discussion with Barry Blanchard.
Barry is an internationally certified ACMG, IFMG, A Mountain Guide. Barry is one of North America’s premier alpine climbers. He has been guiding since 1981 and has guided on six different continents. Barry Barriers, also an author and his book, The Calling A Life Rocked by Mountains, was awarded the 2015 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature.
In part two of two parts, Barry Blanchard talks with us about what it takes to achieve adventure. Barry recounts some tough guiding situations that he has faced close calls with bears, how to balance risk taking and his hopes for his legacy.
[00:02:02] Jordy Shepherd: Okay, let’s bring Barry back into the DA studio.
[00:02:09] Chris Kaipio: Barry, you noted in the first part of our interview that you can’t have an adventure without some level of discomfort, risk, or suffering when it comes to achieving an adventure. These things are part of the price of admission, so to speak, for those of us who are trying to deliver a. The challenge is that the world that we live in seems to be making people less resilient to discomfort.
Put another way, people are getting softer. Last year I was leading a group of kayakers when one of my clients who was a teenage girl, brushed the side of the river bank. As a result, she ended up getting dirt on her. The way she was carrying on and having a meltdown, you would’ve thought that she was being attacked by a nest of angry bees.
Her mother was horrified by her daughter’s lack of resiliency. Unfortunately, this is a scene that I have seen play out with increased frequency. Based on your experience, what kind of advice do you have for us when it comes to coaching people through adversity? So that people can achieve an adventure. Um,
[00:03:25] Barry Blanchard: I think that, uh, it’s, uh, part of a, a guides, uh, Uh, toolbox and, uh, skill set is to, to be able to read people.
And it’s funny, you know, um, uh, at, at, at Esca Mountain Adventures where, where I, uh, have worked, uh, since 1981, as a guide, um, it’s beginning to feel like, seem like a career, but you know, we have this, uh, saying that’s been around for a long. You know, with, uh, our guests, we can often tell who we’re going to have to pay more attention to seeing how they walk across the parking lot and step up into the office and a guy being able to.
Uh, make those, it co it’s a judgment, but being able to say, Okay, this person is less stable than this person. I’m going to have to pay more attention to this person. And then on the same side of it all, when people are getting stressed, um, uh, gauging how stressed they’re. Is it going to be, uh, beneficial to encourage them to continue or are they at the point where, you know, Hemingway said never.
Do anything that you really don’t want to do. Are they at that point, is pushing ’em not going to be beneficial for them? Um, is it really time to, to take that person down and, uh, then making the adjustment, uh, uh, to do that? So I think, uh, being able to, to read people that way is part of a guide skill and.
Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and, and some of that is going to be through conversation, like, you know, just sitting and, and, and, and, uh, eye to eye with the person, you know, Ask him what, you know, what in the past has made you feel like that? Why does this seem like something that you’ve done before? Um, was it similar to something that’s, you know, Made you want to turn around trying to just, you know, get it figured out and, uh, um, sometimes.
Yeah. Yeah. No, it’s like, okay, yeah, yeah, you, uh, you’re feeling like that, but, uh, why don’t we just try going this next 10 feet? How about if we make it to that pinnacle over. And then we stop there and we can have this conversation again. But I think it’d be great if we could go to that pinnacle first before we have this conversation.
So making a, you know, a negotiation and a contract or whatever you want to call it, talking to people. I think of, uh, one person I guided, well man, it would’ve been in the eighties and he was a gentleman who had true, uh, acrophobia fear of height. And it was significant. He would have a nervous system reaction to stepping a meter off the ground.
He would start to shake and you could see that it was a central nervous system thing. And he was trying to use ice climbing as a way to, to force himself to, to get beyond the acrophobia. And it was just, you know, he’d step up in the ice and he’d start to vibrate and shake and, you know, You know, going to be falling off just because he was shaking so bad,
So, yeah. You know, I had to say to him, you know, I don’t know why this phobia is inside you, but it’s there and I don’t think this is the place to push against it. That this is too much. I think you need to do some baby steps and, uh, start with smaller objectives of height and work up to them and hopefully get to the point where, yeah, you can come back and enjoy some ice climbing, but yeah, you know, you’re, you’re not enjoying this and it don’t look a lot of fun. It is supposed to be some fun
[00:07:50] Chris Kaipio: So what, what role do you think perception plays in achieving an adventure?
[00:07:55] Barry Blanchard: uh, probably in one sense everything. And, uh, and then a sliding, uh, scale of everything. So perception, initially, it’s, it’s always just amazing to me how, you know, we as humans and me as myself, can look at the picture of a mountain like Mount Alberta, the first picture.
You know that I would look at it of was from the 1970s, uh uh, Rocky Mountain South Guidebook, or maybe it was the North Guidebook, but it’s a little tiny picture, like a inch and a half by an inch or something like that, and I could see Mount Alberta and I can perceive myself into this mountain and see myself going up this.
One and a half centimeter high mountain. That is, you know, I don’t know what the math is, but that mountain is, you know, there’s 5,000 feet of climbing to be got up that mountain or 3000 feet of climbing. So the scale is just, is wild . And to be able to, to, to have that perception and then make it. A dream and an ambition and something that you want to do, uh, is, is amazing to me.
And, uh, I think, uh, with perception also, um, you know, after those 700 days and then a thousand days and x number of days off climbing, you get a, a shift in your perception. In that you start to normalize things that, uh, the vast majority of people would never normalize. So, you know, the risks that you are, uh, undertaking on a mountain like Nanga Parbat, you start to normalize that and perceive it as proper or acceptable.
And that, uh, uh, that’s an amazing kinda. Uh, adjustment to me and, uh, I don’t have that perception anymore, that perception. I’m on the downside of things now, so, you know, even mountains that I have soloed. Uh, in this area that I can see or climb by myself on Esca are so far beyond me now that I don’t have that, uh, perception anymore.
So I don’t have that, uh, dream and that desire to go up there anymore. But at one point I did and I did. So there you go.
[00:10:35] Chris Kaipio: One of the areas that I find people have a hard time perceiving is, is risk. I think, uh, human beings have a really hard time, you know, judging, judging and assessing risk accurately. Can you think of a time when you looked back and felt that you had taken on too much risk when you looked back after the fact?
[00:10:54] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, yeah. There’s been, uh, you know, several times. Uh, in my climbing where there’s been accidents that, uh, you know, probably bit off, uh, too much and, and, uh, yeah, uh, didn’t perceive or calculate the risk for what it was. And, uh, some of those times, you know, uh, made mistakes. Um, but, uh, Yeah, one, one time that co comes to mind as far as, uh, biting off more than we should’ve was, uh, uh, my, uh, dear friend Troy Kwin and myself guiding, and, uh, at the time I think I was an alpine guide.
I hadn’t, uh, Uh, past my, uh, mountain Guide certification yet, but I was an alpine guide and my buddy Troy was an a apprentice guide and we were in on, in the Mount Logan area. And Mount Logan is the highest peak in Canada and the second highest peak in North America actually. And. The other part of Logan that’s really cool is it’s the largest masse in the world.
It’s the most volumunious independent mountain on earth. So we’re across from that and, but we could see it right there is this bulk of mountain and you can’t go anywhere and find more bulk of mountain, than Logan. It’s over a hundred or a hundred kilometers around its base. So it’s one big chunk of rock and ice and snow and all that kind of stuff.
So Logan is our back street and we’ve flown in and we, uh, have the objective with, uh, three of our clients. To get up, uh, and do, uh, a peak that already has a name. It was named Mount Upton after a famous pilot up there, Phil Upton, but it had never been climbed before. It’s 11,300 foot high mountain right across from Logan and uh, Yeah.
Yeah. I think, uh, very soon in our trip, like two or three days in, we took our three guests to the top of Mount Upton and it was, wow. You know, no other human has ever stood on this point, on the planet. We’re the very first, and that is an adventure in itself. To, to be the first human to touch some of this stuff.
Whether that’s a rock face, like in my own history, North Twin, like no one had ever touched that rock before. Some other folks have touched it now, but at that point, no one had ever touched it. So it’s a discovery and there’s adventure and discovery, right? But uh, we get to the top and the top part of the mountain was quite a hard ice slope.
It. Uh, super steep, uh, let’s call it, uh, 25 or 30 degrees, but for ice, that is steep enough to, if you fall on it as, uh, one of my friends Larry Stanier said about ice climbing. You know, grade one is the easiest ice climb you can get and it’s kind of like going up a frozen creek. But, uh, as Larry said, even grade one ice is going to seem really steep if you fall on it cuz you’re gone much like that, You.
Because ice is super slippery. So I’ve been the lead. I’ve got two of the guests following me, or I’m, I’m short roping him down, and uh, Troy is following me. He’s trying to learn this art of mountain guiding, and I’ve got my two clients. I encourage him to cramp on down this ice slope and I cramp on after them and halfway down this ice slope.
And it wasn’t huge. It’s like 30 feet or something. I’m like, Oh god. You know, I’m not going to be able to hold these guys if they slip here. Like this is too much and I, No one slipped. Great. But, Yeah, it, uh, it was too much. We, we should have stopped and put it in ice cube later. Made some kind of adjustment that was safer and, uh, how did I deal with that?
Um, you know, we came down and, uh, um, I think we put the, the clients were out front a little bit, and I said to Troy, you know, I just confessed that was too pushy, man. I, we should have, I should have slowed that down and, uh, had more protection or more safety and, uh, yeah, didn’t go south, but uh, might have gone south, so, my bad. Yeah.
[00:15:26] Chris Kaipio: How, how did, uh, how did your guests handle that when you admitted your.
[00:15:37] Barry Blanchard: I only admitted it to Troy.
[00:15:41] Chris Kaipio: I don’t think I, I, if I have admitted it to those guys, it was, uh, after the fact. But, uh, Troy, uh, was quite good about it. He said, Yeah, I knew that , So Troy was being a better guy than me at that point, so should have had him out front.
Um, but, uh, one of the gentlemen. Uh, on that trip Troy and I had in Pakistan, close to Rakaposhi a couple years later, and, uh, we had a very stressful dissent in a storm. One of the most stressful guiding situations I think I’ve ever been in. And it was because, uh, two of my clients slipped in this, uh, slidable snow twice, and I fully caught them on a, on a, a short roping technique.
Um, you know, which means that if I don’t come up with success, all three of us are going to start accelerating and sliding down this mountain. So that got really stressful and uh, at one point I just. One of the few times of my guiding that I just snapped and I shared my frustration and anger and rage with my clients, and there was a lot of swearing and profane words, and I can really link ’em together when I really want to bellowing out of my mouth.
At the end of which you guys kick your, and grandpa’s said bit hard, right Fucking now after my third catch, right. So Troy’s having the same situation the day before in the storm going down. And, uh, one of the gentlemen on his rope just hits the snow and starts, you know, blathering around and he’s losing his stuff.
Like he’s totally losing his marbles, like just going. He’s totally unregulated, is what the psychologist would say. He’s in flight mode and he can’t flight far enough. He wants to run away as fast as possible, but the one guy we had on Robson, Dale, he’s uh, he’s worked with animals his whole career. That’s all he did.
He was, uh, you know, he worked with horses and cattle and stuff his whole life. He was a stockman.
[00:18:03] Barry Blanchard: He grabbed this guy by the lapels and said, For God’s sakes, man, pull yourself together, and shook him. And that kinda worked.
So, yeah. Dale, how would he, you know, uh, he react, he. You know, if I did tell him about that story, he would be just, Well, I’m glad you know, you, you thought we wouldn’t trip and we didn’t trip, you know,
So there you go. I didn’t get picked up by the lapels
[00:18:41] Jordy Shepherd: as a guide and a, and a professional adventurer, uh, you probably had to make a lot of. Big decisions and some of those decisions have been tough. Uh, tell us about, uh, a time you had to make a difficult decision.
[00:18:58] Barry Blanchard: Um, yeah, some of the, uh, they’re, they’re not actually difficult decisions, but they’re stressful decisions. And, uh, they’re often around guiding at altitude and, uh, you know, part of guiding at altitude. Is trying to keep people gastrointestinal healthy and then keep them from getting, uh, mountain sickness.
So, um, both, you know, especially the mountain sickness can be a deadly, uh, disease or mal adaption that people get so stressful times are, you know, um, Uh, making a judgment about these people that they’re getting in trouble and they have to go down. Dissent is usually, uh, the cure and, uh, then the, the stressful part of the situation.
Often is how do we get them down? Um, you know, sometimes there’s been times when that was like in Peru putting someone several different people on boroughs and having them carried by an animal down until they can get to a lower elevation. Um, one time on Mount Mckinley. When I was guiding and, uh, there was a, uh, some young guys who, uh, got in trouble close to us at the, the high camp and to this one guy, he was going to die from, uh, some form of edema.
I don’t know if it was pulmonary or cerebral, but the solution was for me to run down from 17,000 feet through the night. Um, down to the, uh, uh, medical tent at 14,000 feet and get, uh, Rob Roach and Peter Hackett. Peter Hackett was one of the best. He still is one of the best physicians in the world with regards to altitude sickness and getting Rob and Peter to pack up the three of us to climb back up to 17,000 feet, get this guy.
And, uh, and then I lowered the three of. 300 feet at a time down the, uh, do the math buried 4,000 feet to the camp. And what’s amazing, this guy who was comatose and had two liters of saline put into him to get his, uh, His blood back to more viscus form and he had amphetamines, not amphetamines, dexamethasone, I don’t know what else Peter put into him, but got the guy staggering and that got me to lower the three of ’em.
We got down to the base, the the camp at the thing, and this young guy said, Oh, I’m going to go make myself soup, and he walked. And that’s the, the recovery from, from the loss of altitude. Just, just remarkable. So yeah, those things are, are pretty stressful. Uh, yes and no. They’re stressful, they’re decisions you have to make and then you got to do something about it and it’s the doing something about it that’s often the most stressful part.
How do you get these people down? Yeah.
[00:22:29] Jordy Shepherd: Who in your, uh, time mountaineering has helped you become better at delivering adventure, uh, to yourself and others? And what advice did they give you?
[00:22:41] Barry Blanchard: Um, I think, uh, some of the great advice that I got, was that first season in Chamonix, which was 1980. Kevin and I had, uh, you know, uh, quit our jobs in Calgary and by trained planes and automobiles, made it over to Chamonix.
And we’re committed to climbing in the Alps till our money ran out, camping illegally on the side of, uh, in front of the cemetery, actually close to the cemetery in Germany. I think the French left us alone cuz they’re kind of suspicious that way. And, uh, Yeah, you, you get, uh, uh, into the largely British climbing culture, but also some of the French climbing culture and a greater European climbing culture.
But specifically, the Brits and the Brits were the ones we were camping with, hanging out with, climbing with a lot of the time, going to the Nash, the Bar National, um, when it was raining. And it rains a lot in Chaman. And, you know, nursing a beer for. A, you know, a while and just talking with these guys and some of the older Brits who had been at the game in a while for a while, you know, they would give us this advice and it was tread lightly.
Lads tread lightly. These are dangerous mountains. It’s really easy to get seriously hurt or killed the very first day. So, another way to say it, which I have said here, is baby. You know, it’s got to be incremental, you know, tread lightly, lads, take your time, get your toolkit together, learn stuff, get your skills together and eventually, you know, see where that can take you in this game.
But, uh, it is a game and you’re playing chess largely. You could say you’re playing chess with death. If you make a serious enough chess move that’s wrong. You can get killed doing it. So, you’ve got to be quite, uh, calculated and, uh, appropriate
Easy to say. Not always easy to do. You do bite off too much.
[00:25:09] Jordy Shepherd: Uh, let’s switch gears a little bit here and talk about, uh, the environment that we’re out in, Uh, in the mountains. Uh, we often have encounters with wildlife and some, and quite often we don’t even know they’re there and they know we are there, uh, and we are in in their home and, and their environment.
Have you ever had an interesting encounter with a bear on one of your trips?
[00:25:33] Barry Blanchard: Uh, yeah. I’ve had. Probably four relatively close encounters with grizzlies and a couple of those encounters. The grizzly was definitely going to make contact with us. It was coming towards us and it wanted to make contact. And at that point, you know, the biologists and people who study bears will probably tell you that the bear has made a.
And, uh, it may not be a great decision for the human being, but it’s the Bear’s decision. And in both those events, I was able to get away from the bear. Once in 1991 at the Columbia Ice Fields by hitting my butt and putting my ice ax over my head and sliding over the cornice that we used to teach CVAs rescue at up in Parker’s Ridge.
And going off this cornice and going for 15, 20 feet of air and hammering down into the snow and then getting up and sliding down the snow and sprinting up the other side. And thankfully the grizzly, you know, was Butch, Cassie, and the Sundance kid for one. You know, without the grizzly at that point, between two meters and a meter away from.
If I had to hit my clothing and said, slide, you know, without the bear there, my, my, my two guests would’ve again, what? Are you crazy? You’ll break your leg. We’re not doing that. Like Butch Cassidy. We’ll jump. We can’t jump. What? I can’t swim. Heck, the fall’s probably going to kill you. Anyways, you know, without the grizzly there, they would’ve never slid.
But the grizzly there instantaneous didn’t even hesitate. right over the cliff with me. And, uh, we got to run away from that bear and watch that bear rip our packs apart, which was kind of funny in itself. But just to watch this animal, basically play with our packs at one point, bouncing a, a Ziploc bag full of food on his head as he’s lying on his back paws in the air.
And, uh, we eventually got away. Another grizzly encounter was, uh, 2000 and, uh, 11, I think up in the, um, Lake Louise group. A grizzly, my, uh, client and I were coming up to go to, uh, uh, Mount Aberdeen. So, hike up through, um, towards Saddle Pass up the side Mount Fairview. And, uh, you know, I’m yod every 50 meters as I do to warn the bear that were coming.
So it’s like, Wow. That set the, the sound thing off on the recorder. You guys ears. Okay. got the meter in there. I the bear hears that too, and I know this bear hurt us. We come up on this trail and this bear steps right onto the trail and looks at us and he’s. About, oh man, 20 meters away, 30 meters away, something like that.
And I do what I usually do with other bears that I’ve been that close to. It’s like, Okay, Mr. Bear, it’s okay. It’s cool. You know, avoid eye contact. Start talking to ’em in a calm voice. Get my client. Don’t run, don’t scream. Slowly turn around and start walking away. And the other two bears that I’ve talked to like that have let me walk.
And that’s pretty cool. This bear, I thought, Okay, he’s going to let us walk away. He got up and started walking after us and he walked with us for, I don’t know, 3, 4, 500 meters, 15 minutes down the the trail. And then towards the end, he had made a decision and he was getting closer to us and it was obvious he was going to make contact with us and.
I knew that cuz the last time I looked over my shoulder, he went up off the ground and slammed both paws on the ground, which is a very firm form of communication that it’s not going to end well for you guys. And it’s like, I’m, I’m in charge here and I’m not. So I loosened off our packs and I said to my client, Trump your pack.
And I was hoping that Bear would go after the packs and buy us some time. And there was one tree that I had spotted the first Engelmann spruce that I saw, because we’re going through an avalanche path and all the trees are five feet high and there’s that one tree. I’ve got to get up this tree and me and my client go to this tree and climb up this tree initially 30 feet and we’re up there.
Uh, probably three hours getting hypothermic, seeing a helicopter fly by with the rescue guys in it that I know. I can almost see their faces, but I can’t communicate with them cuz my radio and my, uh, telephone are in the pack. and the bears rip up the pack and then every so often coming towards the tree, which is all very scary.
And then the bear came into the. And it went from scary to absolute terror, and we started sprinting up. The tree went as high as the tree as we could go, and the bear kept coming up the tree. We went. Uh, Troy and I went back with a tape measure and measured it. We went 56 feet up, a 65 foot high engleman spruce, and the branches were, there was liter had broken off.
So one branch was the size of my bicep, the other, the size of my forearm, and I’m surfing these to keep the wind from breaking these. And the bears coming up the tree and the bear came 33 feet up the tree before he decided to go down. And uh, initially my response was to scream for help in a voice that I didn’t even recognize coming out of my own body.
It was like my 12-year-old when she would fall on her bike or my 10 year old when she’d fall on her bike and maybe scrape her knee and start wailing. It was that kind of little girl, high pitch voice screaming, just abjectly screaming for help. And then I changed it to a very deep baritone voice and I started swearing at the bear and looking into his eyes.
And for whatever reason, the bear decided to go down and. Yeah, that’s the other time I got away from a grizzly by going up a tree, huh? Yeah,
[00:32:22] Jordy Shepherd: that’s, uh, I was actually pretty, pretty close to that incident. Um, I, I was working as a wildlife human conflict specialist for Parks Canada that summer in Lake Louis.
But I just happened to be on a day off when you were having that, uh, adventure. Mm. Shall we call it. Yeah. And uh, yeah, it was, it was great to hear that uh, things had worked out okay for you there. Yeah, yeah. Quite a terrifying situation. Yeah. It worked
[00:32:46] Barry Blanchard: out great for us, that it was amazing to see, uh, our friend Alex come up with his shotgun and.
Just made me feel so good, . And by then the bear had left. Actually, the bear was out of the area. Uh, the bear has left the building. You can all go home. The bear Elvis has left the building. But, uh, unfortunately, uh, that bear, uh, had had a number of encounters that were getting closer and closer with humans.
So, uh, the next day, He was, uh, kind of y you know, trapped and euthanized soon after down by the highway tracks. So, yeah, it, it’s not a happy story. It, it’s, uh, yeah, it didn’t work out for there.
[00:33:38] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, we, we’d worked on that bear for, uh, for quite a while. Um, And at, at a certain point, yeah. Unfortunately it becomes untenable for the, uh, for the safety of, of everybody, uh, in the area.
[00:33:52] Chris Kaipio: You know, Barry, my grandmother, gave me two pieces of advice. She said, Stay away from the bears and don’t fall down the mountain. Those are the two things, those are the two things that she gave me. You know, What do you say to someone who can’t understand why people want to climb mountains or, or push themselves to the edge?
[00:34:11] Barry Blanchard: Oh, um, yeah, if, uh, You know, I am going to have a conversation with people, you know, that’s another judgment that you’re going to going to make. And, uh, most people who are making that comment don’t really want to have a conversation. They, their mind’s made up, you know, and most people say you’re crazy, right? Uh, and I like Warren Harding’s response to.
Was that, you know, they’d ask him, why do you climb? And he said, he’d say, I’m cl I climb because I’m mad. But it’s a fine kind of madness. So, there’s more there and there is, uh, a conversation to be had about, you know, the reasons that we go climbing and, uh, Uh, Alex Lowe used to say, when people would, would say to him, Oh, you have a death wish, and Alex did end up dying, climbing, but his response would be, No, I don’t have a death wish.
I have a life wish I want to, to live. And for me, you know, for whatever reason, part of my definition of life is climbing mountains and, uh, my buddy Jack tackle. Once asked me about, uh, 15 years ago, maybe 20 said, as Jack would say, So when was it that you figured out you were put on this earth decline . And you know, like the big wave guys say climbing chooses you.
And it’s not for everybody, nor is everything else for everybody, but. Everybody didn’t explore some of this stuff and, uh, test themselves and try to come to terms with mountains and a lot of other human pursuits. We wouldn’t be the species that we are and we wouldn’t have had. Whatever success we’ve had, if we can call it success.
I like the term that, uh, an entomologist said on the radio when day I was listening, and they’re talking about humanity and what humanity is, has, has, uh, done. And the, the entomologist said, Well, you know, if ads were given the. Kind of, uh, influence or, uh, prevalence over the earth, uh, that humans have. The earth would last about 15 minutes,
So I don’t know. Maybe there is some hope for.
[00:37:08] Chris Kaipio: Barry. I just want to circle back to something that you talked about. We’ve been talking about the importance of adventure, pushing our limits, exposing ourselves to adversity, and the danger that comes from that, not just with climbing, but with all outdoor sports. You mentioned that the first mountain guides in Canada who were the Swiss guides, had no fatalities while they were guiding.
While I would say that the safety record for guided trips is still very good, considering the vast numbers of people going out into the outdoors, In general, there’s been a push when it comes to outdoor sports towards the more extreme. When I started to teach skiing, getting five feet of air was a big deal.
Two years ago, I was working on a program where teenagers were doing 20 foot drops without batting an eyelash. To build on this, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine last summer, the previous winter. He had a paragliding accident that led to some various serious injur. Apparently he was trying to do a role in mid-air when you ran out of space.
The end result was that he sailed straight into the ground at 60 kilometers an hour. He just missed landing on a large rock in the process. When I spoke to him about it, he was very keen to get back out and to try that maneuver. He went on to tell me that he loved the adrenaline rush that he got when he really pushed his limits.
When I asked him if that adrenaline rush was worth 40 years of his life, he gave me a puzzled look. I pointed out to him that he had just almost being killed, and now he wanted to go out and do the same thing. What concerned me was that he hadn’t really come to grips with what had happened and what he could do to reduce the chance of it happening Again, listening to him, he was painting a picture of someone who was going to keep pushing his limits until his luck finally ran out.
Barry, it’s fair to say that you’ve done a lot of extreme climbing in your life. What is your advice to people who want to get out there and do higher risk activities?
[00:39:24] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, I think it’s, uh, same advice that the, uh, British climbers gave me. Tread lightly lads. And, uh, you know, you need to have, uh, a number of, uh, things come together for you to, uh, get to wherever you’re going to get to, to, to, to get to the point where you’re the most capable.
And some of the, you know, my, my buddy Bill Bell. Uh, calls it, uh, I think three or four lines that need to intersect, one of which is your, your physical ability, so your, your athletic physical strength, endurance, and a lot of that’s going to peak. In your thirties, maybe to 35,um, your experience and you need a lot of miles to gain experience.
You need to see a lot of different things. So your physical ability, your experience, the mountain has to come together and your intellectual. Ability to, to deal needs to come together and, you know, these lines come in and intersect, um, a couple times in a lifetime for a certain amount of time, and then they start to drop off and separate.
So there will be a time, but you don’t want to, to try to force those lines together. They’ve got to come over time. And it’s really cool when you do get it all together to be, you know, the best you’re going to be. And to be able to, to, to realize that and to see where you can get at that. And interestingly, one of the best times those lines came together for me were on Naga Parbat, and we didn’t make the top.
One of the most valuable events in my life. And we were relatively close to the top, but we never made the top. We, you know, had a long ways to go, still to get to the top. And, uh, those lines came together. The mountain line didn’t come together. But, uh, what I learned from that and took away from that, is some of the richest experiences in the mountains for me.
So specific to, um, your buddy who wants to get back at the parapenting, um, you know, after. An injury or a pretty significant setback, or if you want to call it failure, and those are such bad terms, like success, failure, here’s the two goal posts. There’s where they exist, and really all of human existence happens pretty much between success and what we call failure.
We’re mostly in between those goal posts and that’s where we grow and live and learn and all that kind of stuff. But, you know, after a, a serious accident or, uh, you know, a slapdown gauge, your perception, Have you normalized something too much? Are you accepting too much of a situation that you don’t have to accept?
And, you know, soldiers have to make those decisions too. Um, policemen have to make those decisions. I’m sure firefighters have to make those decisions. Like we alter our perception to make things that perhaps we shouldn’t declare normal. So think about that. Where am I on that scale, and is it appropriate for me to accept this right now?
Is it appropriate for you to accept this anytime? That’s a fair question. And a lot of people will pose that question and turn away from Alpinism and, And walk away from it. Yeah, yeah. Or whatever risk sport you’re. So
[00:43:39] Chris Kaipio: Barry, you’ve shared a ton of great wisdom and insights with us today. Going forward, what do you want your legacy to be?
[00:43:47] Barry Blanchard: Yeah, this is like, uh, something we haven’t talked about, but, uh, we’ll be like 180 degree shift and I want my legacy to be having been a good. That you know, of all these accomplishments you we’ve been talking about, and this is something that people say, but comes from my heart. The most important thing that I do on this earth is raise my daughters full stop period.
Nothing else is anywhere near as important as that. All the climbing, all, all whatever, the writing, working on movies, all of that doesn’t, That’s, that’s my. Important thing. And that’s what I would love to be, uh, remembered for
[00:44:36] Chris Kaipio: Yeah. That’s awesome.
[00:44:37] Barry Blanchard: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:44:39] Chris Kaipio: Yep. Barry, thank you. Uh, thank you so much for joining us today. Uh, we really, uh, really appreciate That was, uh, that was amazing. .
[00:44:49] Barry Blanchard: Cool. Well, thank you gentlemen, and good luck with listening to all this and trying to figure out how to chip it together. ,
[00:44:58] Jordy Shepherd: lots of great material there.
Barry, uh, when we were on our first aid, recert Wilderness, First Aid recert a few weeks ago, uh, yeah, we had a, a good conversation there about this podcast, and it’s great to have you on it.
[00:45:10] Chris Kaipio: Well, thanks for coming on today, Barry. This has been really, If you’re looking to learn more about Barry, you can check out his book, The Calling, A Life Rocked by Mountains.
If you would like to go climbing with Barry, you can find him guiding and instructing at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. Well, Jordy, what were your takeaways from part two? What else does it take to achieve a.
[00:45:37] Jordy Shepherd: Well, Chris, uh, standout, uh, story that, uh, came from Barry, was the bear incident there, Uh, just absolutely terrifying to have a large male grizzly bear angry with you and, uh, and coming up the tree at you, uh, to you and your client.
You know, and, and you do hear from people that will say, even experts say, Oh, grizzly bears don’t. Trees or don’t climb very well. And this is a pretty classic example where that one climbed quite a ways. And, uh, Barry and his client did a great job of surviving that incident. Uh, and uh, so yeah, really kudos to them for that.
Uh, yeah, and, and being able to tell live, to tell the story there cuz it was, uh, definitely on the edge of, uh, feeling like they might not survive. And, uh, you know, just a couple things. Uh, you know, there, there are probably some tools that Barry wished he had with him there, including communications. Bear spray, that sort of stuff.
And, uh, so consider, you know, if you’re out biking or climbing, you got a pack, you got a bike, don’t have that stuff, uh, attached to your, uh, accessories or carrying, carrying, uh, devices and actually have it on your person. And then if you have to ditch and run, or you have to get away from your bicycle, if not attached to your bicycle.
There was the discussion about his client that was kind of losing it there and, uh, and having to, having to bring him back into, uh, some semblance of reality in order to, uh, to carry on with, uh, with the adventure and have the adventure go well. And so I, I think we should all, uh, really work to have some pretty good tools in our toolbox.
Cuz one thing that works with one client, Might, might work with them and, and, but other, sometimes it might not work with them. So I’d really encourage you to, uh, kind of create a number of strategies to, to deal with, uh, people that are. Starting to freak out, freezing up, uh, wanting to run away, all, uh, you know, just not thinking clearly and how, how you can deal with that.
And basically every situation is a custom situation there, uh, depending on the circumstances and the, the, uh, personality and experience of your client. So Chris, uh, what did you, uh, want to talk about with this episode? Any, uh, anything that really hit home? Well, Chris, uh, that was just great conversation with Barry.
Always a pleasure. And let’s start with a bear incident. So just to set the, the stage for that, I was, I was working as a human, or sorry, as a human wildlife conflict specialist, uh, in Lake Louise for Parks Canada. Um, at the time that that bear incident occurred and I just, I happened to be, Not working that day, but that was one of the bears that myself and my team were, uh, were working on there, um, to try and, uh, and basically keep it safe.
We worked on that bear for a number of years. Uh, so it was an unfortunate incident, um, and basically resulted in the bear, uh, having to be destroyed, uh, which is, uh, never, never a task that’s taken lightly, um, by, by the wildlife management team, uh, that bear. Um, Had, uh, had quite a long history of, uh, of being too comfortable with people and, and pushing things.
Uh, too much is just really unfortunate that it happened. And so just for, for folks to know, um, in our audience here, uh, Barry did a lot of stuff right there and, uh, and. Survive because of that. And, uh, you got to be, yeah, basically at that point you’re, you’re, uh, looking up for your own survival. And, uh, and it, it did work out, um, in this case for, for Barry and his client.
So having preparedness, um, you know, be travel with other people, um, the larger the group, the better really in bear country, um, statistics have shown. And, uh, having the tools available to you, so that includes bear spray, knowing how to use it. Uh, If, you know, I’m not going to criticize Barry for leaving his pack cuz it seemed like the right thing to do.
Uh, but on the other hand, then you don’t have, uh, some of your tools with you including, uh, you know, he was, he was within cell coverage there. So it would’ve been nice to call out for help at that point. Um, not that anyone’s going to be there right away, but, uh, good to get the cavalry coming towards you. So, uh, just a few things like that.
You know, critical things, uh, whether you’re biking, skiing, climbing, uh, it might be better to have that right on your person as opposed to in your pack. Um, you know, every situation’s different, so we don’t want to second guess too much. . Uh, another point, uh, that Barry talked about was, uh, when his client was kind of, kind of losing it in a important, um, moment, uh, you know, and grabbing him by the lapels as, as a strategy there.
Really, you know what? Us as guides and, and educators, um, you know, you have to take every person, uh, as, as they come to you. And, uh, you don’t always know what’s going to work. Uh, but trying to use different tactics, uh, when people are starting to freak out. I’m sure, Chris, you’ve had that too, where people are not fully thinking straight and, uh, and it’s, you know, a bit of a, a hazardous situation, maybe not a full emergency situation yet.
Um, but you don’t want it to go that way. And it’s just, it’s good to have, uh, various tools in your toolbox for, uh, for bringing people back to. To where they need to be in terms of making good decisions and, and looking out for themselves and look and working well with the team as a group. Uh, so we won’t get too into all the, uh, the ways to do that, but they’re, um, yeah, have, have a number of tools available to you.
Strategies. So Chris, uh, what were some of your, uh, the things you took away from this podcast interview?
[00:51:46] Chris Kaipio: Yeah, there were, there were a lot of great points there. Jordy, um, one thing that stuck out to me is that idea of normalization and making sure that we don’t fall into the trap of it. And Barry referenced the idea of, or the situation where if we spend a lot of time in a high risk environment, that level of risk can become.
And, and accepted, and it shouldn’t be. Uh, and that’s something that we need to be, um, cognizant of. And so, you know, driving is a really good example actually. If, if, you know, if the type of person that always drives it, you know, 30 or 40 kilometers over the speed limit, you kind of get used to that and you think that that’s normal.
Um, but it’s not exactly. Safe. And so being aware of what’s becoming normal when it shouldn’t become normal is something that is really important. Another point that I thought he did a really good job of, of keying on was the idea of the packaging of the experience. And great adventures don’t happen by accident.
They take a lot to get them to come together. And the different components, you know, that he was referring to as, you know, your level of experience, physical ability, the conditions, uh, that you’re in, the environment, your mental ability to deal with, the challenges you’re going to face along the way. All of these forces have to come together.
And being able to achieve an adventure requires us to manage those and to react to all of them in a way that allows us, uh, to succeed. And I know he didn’t really like that, that word, that that failure succeed. But, you know, success is being able to return, uh, back to where you started in better shape than.
Then when you began, and that success is measured by how much better you were, whether it’s it’s emotionally or mentally or, or physically, you know, better off. And so this whole podcast is about what it takes to be able to deliver those adventures so that we, uh, can experience, uh, more adventure for ourselves and for, uh, the people that we are spending the most time.
Jordy, did you have any other thoughts on that?
[00:54:11] Jordy Shepherd: Yeah, The, the focus of this, uh, particular episode is, uh, what it takes to achieve adventure. And, uh, I think really through talking with Barry here, uh, he is his, uh, pent ultimate adventurer. Uh, he has gone many places where no one has gone before. In terms of first as sense, uh, sleeping in very uncomfortable.
Vertical environment positions on the rope and tucked into a snow cave kind of thing. And uh, so he’s got that side of things. And then also he’s taken people out just to the crag and taught them how to climb for years. Uh, he’s done that kind of, uh, Instructional work too. And, uh, and really for him to be able to flip back and forth between those, um, you know, personal adventures, uh, big days guiding, huge days guiding, uh, clients, um, to bring them to their, the peak of their adventure.
And then, uh, also just, you know, working with people that haven’t done very much of this stuff and, and, uh, having that realization that they’re, um, first timers.
[00:55:15] Chris Kaipio: Now let’s turn it over to you. The listen. What were your takeaways? You can share your thoughts, stories, or insights with us via our social media feeds or by emailing us.
You can find our contact information at deliveringadventure.com. We’ve also posted our contact information in the show notes as well as links to how you can find. Well, that’s it for this episode. Before you go though, please don’t forget to follow or subscribe to this podcast through your favorite streaming service.
This is how you can help to keep this podcast going so that Jordy and I can keep bringing you more content. Thanks for listening.