Yamnuska Traverse
Don't look down: Team Outpost climbs Mount Yamnuska.

Canmore, City of Athletes

Dispatch by Lena Desmond

Photos by Sergio David Spadavecchia           

Paris can keep its title as the City of Lights—Canmore is a city of athletes.

It’s not every day you get to scramble with a man who’s scaled the most exposed, technical faces in the world. Everest, Nanga Parbat, Rakaposhi, an attempt on K2—Barry Blanchard is one of the world’s most renowned alpinists. From his resume you’d think he’d be a hard man, and I’m sure that part of him exists; he has, after all, survived the worst Mother Nature could throw at him, including an avalanche that lasted half an hour.

But the Barry we met spoke lovingly of his two daughters, yodelled at every sweeping vista, quoted Zoolander as if he wrote it and did a bang-on impression of another perpetual mountain dweller: Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

I had to work hard to keep my fan-girling to a minimum. I’d just finished his book, The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains, and was humbled to have the opportunity to meet and climb the Yamnuska Traverse with him and Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. He’d done so much and seen so much, I assumed that I’d surely be out of my league, but the beautiful thing about Barry is the genuine heart he puts into making every mountain experience a good one—both for himself and others.

Cara Brock, a prolific skier and climber, remarked on how focused everyone in town can be. Her friend Manu told us that he was originally planning on just passing through; nine years later, he never left.

Canmore Kananaskis is known to be a haven for some of North America’s most prolific outdoor athletes and Olympic alumni. Canadian skiers Chris Rubens and Eric Hjorleifson have spent a significant amount of time here, as has American climber Cory Richards. Even at Team Outpost’s current residence, the Alpine Club of Canada, outdoor sports are the primary motivator here. There are students staying for a mountaineering course and a solo traveller about to embark on a journey across the Canadian Rockies.

Cara Brock, a prolific skier and climber, remarked on how focused everyone in town can be, how driven to meet their training goals, how dedicated to their sport. Her friend Manu told us that he was originally planning on just passing through; nine years later, he never left.

I’m tempted to do the same. There’s an energy here I can’t quite put my finger on. An excitement. A drive.

trekking canmore kananaskis
Barry Blanchard leads Team Outpost up the Yamnuska Traverse.

It’s no wonder Canmore draws in professional athletes and adventurers like moths to a flame. They flock here. Yes, for the skiing and the alpine, but there’s also a community of seriously dedicated athletes here, like-minded mountain lovers who’d be hard to find in any other town.

For many, it’s a chance to not just rub shoulders with your idols, but also befriend them. Up until this point, so many local Canmore residents we’d met had told us to say hi to Barry when we saw him. This strikes me as indicative of Canmore’s culture, how tightly knit and friendly it is, how outdoor-goal driven.

Even on our hike, I overheard a couple of the climbing students put it best:

“Climbing is the only sport where you can get to know your heroes. It’s not like you’ll be playing basketball and Kobe Bryant will come play with you. But you could be climbing in Canmore and, you know, Barry Blanchard might sit on the patio table next to you.”

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Want to read more? Check out our full expedition to Canmore Kananaskis: 

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