Book Review: The Calling: A Life Rocked By Mountains by Barry Blanchard
Barry Blanchard has written an instant classic. His superb storytelling abilities will leave every reader clinging to the pages as he takes you inside the world of alpine climbing. His passion is inspiring. Everyone from established mountaineers to celebrated armchair adventurers will love The Calling: A Life Rocked By Mountains.
For those that don’t know of Barry Blanchard, he is one of North America’s top alpinists. The Canadian is a mountain guide, Patagonia Ambassador, and elite alpine climber. He climbed some of the world’s hardest lines back when “sex was safe, and climbing was dangerous.”
His view of the mountains is one that any true mountain enthusiast will eagerly agree with – “Lastly to the mountains, they all point up into the sky and lift us up physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Climbing mountains is good for the soul.”
What made Blanchard unique is that he approached the world of climbing through alpinism, where he would “try to get up the greatest walls I could in partnerships of two, three, or four, two ropes, a rack, and the packs on our backs” (393). Using the alpine style he climbed and pioneered some of the hardest climbing lines in the world.
The Calling is Barry Blanchard’s story of the culture of climbing. Each chapter is armed with a recommended soundtrack (Will this playlist be available on iTunes?) to listen to as he delves into the lessons learnt, the adventures had, and the life he lived as a tried and true alpinist. Throughout the book’s 20 chapters, Blanchard is constantly pioneering routes, pushing the limits, and living the climbing lifestyle along with his friends and climbing partners like Kevin Doyle, Mark Twight, David Cheeseman, and Ward Robinson.
“It don’t gotta be fun to be fun.”
The adventures of Barry Blanchard take us from his home stomping ground of the Canadian Rockies to Alaska, the French Alps, Yosemite, Everest, Peru, Pakistan, and beyond as he pursues classic alpine climbs like the North Pillar on North Twin, Wild Thing on Mount Chephren, or the Rupal Face on Nanga Parbat. His adventures really are “pure action superhero shit.”
No topic is taboo as Blanchard holds nothing back. He explains how his hard-knock upbringing and die hard passion for climbing helped him evolve into one of the world’s most respected alpine climbers. His experiences include avalanches, untimely tragedies, unexpected high mountain bivies, the suffering of mountaineering, global expeditions, and so much more. He described his friend as a man who “climbed with the confidence of a matador who knows he can’t be gored” (328), but this description seems to fit Blanchard too. Blanchard and his accomplishments are things of legend.
The true beauty of this book is the way that it’s written. While sometimes a bit disjointed, Blanchard’s detailed descriptions will keep any reader coming back for more. The chapters and details are beautifully phrased and fueled with passion. His story rings true in every word and his descriptions bring you into the climbing world like no other book in the genre.
“If I could ever hold on to the jewel of inner calm as I walked through the valley of death I would be able to really climb.”
The Calling: A Life Rocked By Mountains is an inspiring autobiography. Pick up a copy today and read it. You’ll never look at the mountains the same again.
The book was first published on October 7, 2014 by Patagonia Books. It has 20 chapters and 440 pages. Every chapter features incredible black and white photos plus two sections of full color photos of Blanchard and his companions in action in the majestic mountains of the world.
Let’s go climbing.
Watch Patagonia’s Video Preview of The Calling: A Life Rocked By Mountains