There are still sports out there, ones tagged dismissively as “extreme”, that aren’t driven by overpaid athletes or dripping in gaudy sponsorship (though Red Bull is trying it’s best to change that). Alpinism, or climbing, is one of those sports—though perhaps ‘pursuit’ is more accurate. Though healthy competition most definitely thrives between climbers striving to put up new routes or shave minutes off of established lines, climbing’s heart is really man or woman versus themselves. It’s simply your guts and your gear, with everything on the line.
One of the sport’s most noble practitioners is Canada’s own Barry Blanchard, a gentleman climber and professional guide with decades of the world’s most perilous mountain ascents behind him. He’s seen Alpinism rise from the fringes, as something considered by most reasonable folks to be the domain of either the unbearably macho or innately suicidal, to a subject of public interest and admiration. He’s also been at the summit of Everest more times than I’ve been to a Tim Horton’s.
Mr. Blanchard has stories, a good chunk of which end up in his new memoir THE CALLING. He’ll be at the Toronto Patagonia store (500 King Street West) tomorrow, November the thirteenth at six-thirty P.M. to deliver a few of those adventure tales in person, as well as sign copies of his new book. If you’ve ever wondered about what it’s like to be suspended on a remote mountainside in the middle of a raging blizzard or how it feels to be slowly dying from oxygen deprivation at altitudes only inhabited by jetliners, come and check it out. Admission is free.