Published: 20/11/2015 12:11 - Updated: 25/11/2015 17:31

Andy's on top form

Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick


by Margaret Chrystall

IT’S a surprise when the man called "the Ranulph Fiennes of the climbing world" with many global feats of big wall climbing in extreme conditions turns out to be talking to you from his bed.

He climbs in some of the most inhospitable places in the world, from Greenland to Alaska, Patagonia to Antarctica and uniquely is also a natural stage performer and the UK’s only "stand up mountaineer".

But though Andy Kirkpatrick likes hanging off big cliff faces like El Capitan in Yosemite – he’s done it 19 times, controversially in 2012 with his 13-year-old daughter for the BBC – his latest event tour is taking its toll.

Cold Mountain takes in 22 dates across the UK – and with 90 minutes followed by another hour of chat, laughs, life lessons and audio-visuals – maybe it’s only Andy who might be surprised three in a row has left him feeling in need of a lie-in.

He laughed: "Maybe I’m getting old. I guess I’m putting quite a lot of energy into it.

"And I think with the show, I’m never satisfied. I’m always trying to tweak it and make it better."

Andy, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Picture: Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Picture: Andy Kirkpatrick

He admits that leaving the stage to talk to people afterwards and sign his two Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature winners, Psychovertical and Cold Wars, can be a weird feeling.

"One minute, you’re there on the stage – and it’s easy to be flippant or share things when you are up there.

"But I probably get an amazing email once a day where people share their deepest darkest secrets.

"I’ve just had a story from someone who came to a show and has a phobia that left her too scared to have children.

"But she said watching my slide show she found herself thinking ‘I’m stupid to think I can’t overcome it’.

"The show is a bit like when you are writing books, you are only giving half the story and then people bring their own life experience to that."

Andy has previously funded his expeditions by working as a film and TV stunt safety adviser, most notably with Johnny Depp on Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Andy on Reticent wall on El Capitan in Yosemite, USA. Picture: Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy on Reticent wall on El Capitan in Yosemite, USA. Picture: Andy Kirkpatrick

He guided One Show TV presenter Alex Jones up the Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park to raise money for Sports Relief, raising £1.9 million.

This year Andy has been back to El Capitan in Yosemite to scale the Sea Of Dreams.

"I did that in June and I was meant to be on that for 10 days, but I ended up on that for 14 days, so I ended up with a shortfall of food and water," he tells you casually. "If you look on YouTube Andy Kirkpatrick, you can see me when I got to the top, absolutely b*****ed. Then I had another month in America before my kids came over.

"We were doing a programme for the BBC and there’s going to be another soon for the One Show about skiing in Norway – in the footsteps of the Telemark heroes."

Constantly looking for inspiration and motivation, Andy is crowdfunding his shows, looking at going to the Eiger next year and also considering horizontal challenges such as walking across a continent with his partner Vanessa.

"And I’m closing this show with a poem," he laughed.

So how does he see what he does?

"Someone said I was a philosopher and I have more of a leftfield view on things.What does Alan Partridge have on his business card? ‘Thinking out of the box’ or ‘Rule breaker’ or something like that.

"I have been described as "a high-functioning narcissist". My son said ‘You’re such a narcissist’ and I have to acknowledge that I am.

"But my job is being me, in a way.

"I did used to say that I was someone who wanted to do a job where I was paid just to be me, when I was having to scrabble around to find work.

"I am never satisfied and I worry about the value of what I do.

"I was talking to Vanessa and for most of my life I thought I had low self-esteem.

"She said ‘You don’t have low self-esteem!. You stand on a stage in front of all these people, you’ve got loads of self-esteem’.

"What I do think is that with what I do it is a bit of an illusion – a lot of people pretend to be confident and maybe I’m just a bit more honest that I’m not!"

So what’s the first word to describe him – mountaineer, writer?

He laughs: "Trouble!"

Andy Kirkpatrick: Cold Mountain is at Eden Court on Monday at 7.30pm. For more – including Andy’s blog: Follow him on Twitter: @psychovertical

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