With heart-pounding descriptions of avalanches and treacherous ascents, Barry Blanchard chronicles his transformation from a poor Native American/white kid from the wrong side of the tracks to one of the most respected alpinists in the world. At thirteen, he learned to rappel when he joined the 1292 Lord Strathcone’s Horse Army Cadets. Soon kicked out for insubordination, he was already hooked on climbing and saw alpinism as a way to make his single mother proud and end his family’s cycle of poverty. He describes early climbs attempted with nothing to guide him but written trail descriptions and the cajones of youth. He slowly acquires the skills, equipment and partners necessary to tackle more and more difficult climbs, farther and farther afield: throughout the Canadian Rockies, into Alaska and the French Alps and on to Everest, Peru, and the challenging mountains in Pakistan. From each he learns lessons that only nature and extreme endeavor can teach. This is the story of the culture of climbing in the days of punk rock, spurred on by the rhythm of adrenaline and the arrogance of youth. It is also a portrait of the power of the mountains to lift us physically, emotionally, intellectually,
Barry Blanchard is one of North America's top alpinists, noted for pushing the standards of highly technical, high-risk alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies and the Himalayas. Blanchard is a Patagonia Ambassador. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.
Table of Contents
1 The Rupal. Kevin Doyle, Ward Robinson, Marc Twight, and Barry Blanchard try to climb the biggest mountain wall in the world the Rupal- in pure alpine style. Their attempt is stuffed by avalanche and storm 14, 000 feet up, 1500 feet below the summit. Two climbing ropes are swept into the night, the team’s only ropes, their descent is miraculous.
2 Barry. How the mountains called to a wild young half-breed boy, and how he had the nascent good sense to listen.
3 Kevin. Kevin Doyle, the most naturally gifted and driven climber that I have ever climbed with. It was like God touched him at birth granting him a sense of balance that would take my 300 days of imitation to learn. At 21 we quit our jobs and took off to Chamonix in 1980 to climb until our money ran out. The next year was Yosemite, then the Cassin Ridge on Mt McKinley in 1982, and then the Karakorum in 1984.
4 David. I was a capable alpinist when I met David Cheesmond, but he was older and better. David mentored me: the first ascent of the Andromeda Strain in 1983, the first ascent of the East Face of Mt Fay in 1984, the North Ridge of Rakaposhi in 1984, the first ascent of the North Pillar of North Twin in 1985.
5 Ward. Ward Robinson is classic Canadiana. The son of an Air Canada pilot who died in a landing crash, Ward is the only one of four brothers not to be employed in aviation. Ward is a tree faller, he falls trees for a living. Enigmatic, tough, and determined, in an arena were the hard test themselves Ward is the hardest of all the hardmen that I’ve climbed with. The first ascent of the Wild Thing on Mt Chephren in 1987 and the first ascent of the North Face of Howse Peak in 1988.
6 Marc. The katabasis, we raced each other to the bottoming out of our lives. Black clothing, black music, black poetry. Long and late phone conversations between Chamonix and Canmore ending in the hour of the wolf’. My favorite alpinist in agony’, we stepped down into the basement of our psyches and stayed there awhile. Mt Everest in 1988, a first ascent on the Northwest Face of Les Droites in 1991 -the Richard Cranium Memorial Route (the dickhead route, neither of our marriages made it out the other end).
7 Catherine. I met Catherine Mulvihill at the Katmandu Airport. She was a member of our expedition to the Kangshung Face of Mt Everest. We fell in love in the high plains of Tibet, which not many people can say, unless they’re Tibetan. Catherine moved to Canmore for love me- and fell in love with ice climbing, an interesting journey for a woman who had been born dirt poor in North Carolina.
8 Steve. I’ve pursued my alpinism into the new millennium partnered with Steve House, a man destined to become one of the best alpinists in the world. The Emperor Face of Mt Robson, the first ascent of M-16 on Howse Peak in 1999, the South Face of Nuptse in 2002.
9 Rosemary and Eowyn. 2004 and 2007, Catherine and I have been blessed with two of the most fascinating souls I’ve ever met. The only real measure of wealth is biological.