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Cold Wars: Climbing the Fine Line Between Risk and Reality [Paperback]

Andy Kirkpatrick
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Mar 2013
Winner of the 2012 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. I was aware that I was cold beyond cold. I was a lump of meat left for too long in a freezer, a body trapped beneath the ice, sinking down into the dark. I was freezing to death. In this brilliant sequel to his award-winning debut Psychovertical, mountaineering stand-up Andy Kirkpatrick has achieved his life s ambition to become one of the world s leading climbers. Pushing himself to new extremes, he embarks on his toughest climbs yet on big walls in the Alps and Patagonia in the depths of winter. Kirkpatrick has more success, but the savagery and danger of these encounters comes at huge personal cost. Questioning his commitment to his chosen craft, Kirkpatrick is torn between family life and the dangerous path he has chosen. Written with his trademark wit and honesty, Cold Wars is a gripping account of modern adventure.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing; Paperback edition (21 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906148465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906148461
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The US magazine Climbing once described Andy as a climber with a "strange penchant for the long, the cold and the difficult", with a reputation "for seeking out routes where the danger is real, and the return is questionable, pushing himself on some of the hardest walls and faces in the Alps and beyond, sometimes with partners and sometimes alone."

More succinctly, Metro magazine claims that he "makes Ray Mears look like Paris Hilton".

Andy's speciality is big wall climbing and winter expeditions, which involves pitting himself against a vertical climbs of over 1000 metres (that's two and a half world trade centres), often in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees. Andy has scaled Yosemite's El Capitan - one of the hardest walls in America - over ten times, including two solo ascents. One of these ascents was a 12 day solo of the Reticent Wall, viewed at the time as perhaps the hardest climb of its type in the world.

In 2002 he undertook one of the hardest climbs in Europe: a 15 day winter ascent of the West face of the Dru. This 1000 metre pillar pushed him and his partner to their limits and was featured in the award winning film 'Cold Haul'.

Andy has also taken part in three winter expeditions to Patagonia. The stories that Andy has brought back from these expeditions have become modern classics in the climbing world and have brought new meaning to the words 'epic' and 'cold'...

" I haven't climbed Everest, skied to the poles, nor sailed single handed around the world. The goals I set out to accomplish aren't easily measured or quantified by world records or 'firsts'. The reasons I climb, and the climbs I do, are about more than distance or altitude, they are about breaking barriers within myself ".

It is perhaps Andy's journey from remedial student to successful climber, writer and speaker that interests his audience most. Brought up on a council estate in one of Britain's flattest cities, Hull-born Andy suffered from severe dyslexia which went undiagnosed until he was 19. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to talk about his life and his climbs in a way that is totally accessible to the non-climber and allows the audience to experience the risk and tension of big wall climbing.

Andy also works in film and TV, as a stunt safety advisor and this plays a part in many of his talks, which take you from the heights of Patagonia to the chocolaty depths of Charlie and the Chocolate factory!

Product Description


"A book which celebrates all that is best in mountaineering literature and the Boardman Tasker Award in particular." (Bernard Newman, Boardman Tasker Prize 2012). "The book is often as varied as it is textured, and with every break I looked forward to returning ... a book that is both hilarious and haunting." (Alison Osius, Rock & Ice Magazine). "This is Andy Kirkpatrick at his best." (Tom Richardson, Climb Magazine). "The rarest of things, a mountaineering book that really matters." (John Horscroft, Climber Magazine). "Kirkpatrick's wry sarcasm, his deft character sketches of his climbing partners, and the often ridiculous situations of the game of big-wall climbing lead to many laugh-out-loud moments. The portrayal of Kirkpatrick's developing insight into his motivation and his growing realisation of the importance of life outside climbing make this a climbing autobiography on a par with Steve House's Beyond the Mountain, only with more jokes about poo and Johnny Depp." (John Chivall, TGO Magazine). "Brilliantly written, painfully thoughtful and yet still an incredibly easy and gripping read. Human and brilliant at the same time." (Jon Doran, "A good second book from one of the the UK's best climbing showmen which will hopefully open the door for a third, as this man surely has more mountain stories to tell." (Jack Geldard, "It's laugh-out-loud funny at times, and amazingly honest at others. Read it - but then you would have done anyway." (Rosie Fuller, Adventure Travel Magazine). "Cold Wars is a funny, poignant read and I enjoyed it very much." (Alastair Humphreys, "A hugely entertaining and moving book, which will appeal to mountaineers and non-mountaineers alike, and no doubt will become one of the modern classics." (Ken Applegate, Scottish Mountaineer). "The book weaves an impressive line between man and mountaineer ... and manages to break out of an over-worked genre by dint of the author's honesty and vulnerability." (John Appleby, To Hatch A Crow). "A superbly written insight into the life of a world class performer torn by internal battles, never satisfied because to stand still is to go backwards and infuriatingly not recognising that he doesn't need to be be measured against anyone." (Dave Mycroft, "A book that is moving, powerful and hugely entertaining, often within a single chapter, Cold Wars joins Psychovertical as one of the new classics of mountaineering literature." (Nicola Underdown, "Cold Wars is a superb book. For those like me who don't climb, it is a fantastic insight into a specialised world with pithy comment on the difficulties faced by those who inhabit it. For those who climb big walls in winter, you may well be in it. Regardless of who you are, go and read it." (British Army Rumour Service). --British Army Rumour Service

About the Author

Andy Kirkpatrick has a reputation for seeking out routes where the danger is real, and the return is questionable, pushing himself on some of the hardest walls and faces in the Alps and beyond. He was born and raised on a council estate in Hull, one of the UK s flattest cities, and suffered from severe dyslexia, which went undiagnosed until he was 19. Thriving on this apparent adversity, Andy transformed himself into one of the world s most driven and accomplished climbers, and an award-winning writer. In 2001 he undertook an eleven-day solo ascent of the Reticent Wall on El Capitan, one of the hardest solo climbs in the world. This climb was the central theme of his first book Psychovertical, which won the 2008 Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. Cold Wars, which also won the Boardman Tasker Prize in 2012, is his second book. Andy lives in Sheffield with his two children.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good one 18 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
More excellent work, the author having a humorous and engaging style that makes for easy and compulsive reading. I think Kirkpatrick and Joe Simpson are perhaps the only mountaineering authors that I will happily order anything they publish, which is saying something. I thoroughly recommend reading the earlier "Psychovertical" as well.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotive & Exciting 17 Oct 2011
By Coops
I wasn't sure what to expect after reading the tagline of Andy's 2nd book ("At what cost do we climb?"). An emotional discussion of death & loss perhaps? The futility of existence? I couldn't imagine that fitting Andy's style of writing. However my uncertainty was put to one side as I was quickly engrossed.

It must have been a hard book to write. The emotional frankness is surprising, I had to double-check on a few occasions that his descriptions were of people still alive, and of events only a few years ago. The level of emotion conveyed would be more expected in a book published decades later, looking back at events of a lifetime ago. This honesty produces a very engaging narrative.

The climax of the book isn't the summit of a high mountain (like Psychovertical was), instead it's a culmination of all the emotional turmoil brought about from the extremes of hard mountaineering.

You shouldn't expect a direct answer to the original question posed ("at what cost?"), instead it's better to come back to it at points as the book evolves, especially in the closing pages. Each step forward the book takes, the reader is lead closer towards understanding Andy's struggle, and importantly the associated unquantifiable personal costs of trying to fulfil his instinctive desire to climb harder.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly good book 4 Oct 2011
I finished Cold Wars last night at 11.30. It was a thoroughly good book Im somewhat surprised to say. I read Psychovertical (his first book) and was a little disappointed. Ive seen Andy on stage and in the flesh enough times to know that Psychovertical just wasnt funny enough. I also didnt care too much for the structure, alternating chapters between his ascent of Reticent Wall and his background life-story. Others loved it. I wasnt as convinced. Cold Wars, whilst still dark and sometimes pretty depressing, is an altogether different beast. Its funny throughout, each chapter is a story I its own right, simply excerpts from Andys life told in chronological order, but most importantly the writing is better. Psychovertical was by no means bad, especially for a first book, but Cold Wars is very good indeed. Its often difficult switching from reading a James Ellroy or a David Mithchell best-seller to a climbers autobiography. They are just not in the same league when it comes to actually writing. Of course, Im not putting Andy in the same class as Ellroy (who, interestingly, he refers to in the book) or Mitchell, but hes definitely proved himself as a capable writer.

Cold Wars is 266 pages long, comprising 19 chapters, mostly about climbs in the mountains in winter, the rest about his life when not climbing. He spends a great deal of time discussing his family, most of all his kids, to whom the book is dedicated. Unfortunately for Andy it appears that despite loving his family, he struggles to find the balance between family life and climbing life, between responsibility and irresponsibility, drawing parallels with his own absent father during childhood, and his absences from his own kids and wife.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cold wars 13 Oct 2011
A brilliant read, thoroughly enjoyed
reading it. it is funny, sad but always
gripping! I found it hard to put down .
Reading just made want to go out
Climbing . I recommend 100%.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Chris
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Andy Kirkpatrick has done a splendid job at first-person narration of his adventures and misadventures scaling mountains, both physical and mental. Far from glorifying his and his comrades' exploits, he's honest about both the bright as well as dark sides of climbing (well, mostly a certain style of heavy-laden mixed alpine climbing) and the price paid for this passion. To me it seems that this book does a great job at walking the line between different audiences: the general (non-climbing) public, and passionate mountaineers who live the lingo. As part of the global climbing community (albeit amateur) myself, I salute his work and am glad that he allows non-climbers to get a glimpse into both the pleasure and pain of this addictive sport :)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Second book from author I have read. It is equally as compelling and facinating and honest insight into the man and experiences he has climbing around the world (successes and failures). Clearly, Andy is passionate about climbing but it is interesting to understand his fears/risks/ challenges and battle with demons that try to undermine him achieving his goals. Writing style is easy to read and is a real page turner. I would recommend this book as a great read for climbers and non climbers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passion, Fear,love, loss and climbing 28 Jan 2012
I have seen Andy a few times, at his talks. He is always engaging, blunt and hilarious. He makes it known that you will enjoy his talks, whether you are a climber or not. He is always sure to include action-packed, climbing specific details for those who delve into the climbing scene and emotional, hilarious antics for those who don't climb, but enjoy reading about exploration and life of those who live on the edge.

'Cold Wars' was nothing short of phenomenal. Having met Kirkpatrick, and spoken to him briefly, he is a very outgoing and bluntly spoken man. This can either make you love or hate his story telling (though i find it would be hard to hate). Throughout the book you can feel this part of Andy coming out. He throws in lines and quick stories about the people he met and the chances he took. All of which have lovely and hilarious anecdotes to keep you hooked.

His words make you a part of the journey. his attention to detail gives you all the background you need to be with him on his trips. Whether he is on Troll wall, attempting another big wall solo, or in the Alps, having a go at one of the 1st winter ascent routes, he paints a picture of what he sees and experiences, with conversations, jokes and details of his partners (whether about their lives, backgrounds, experience or what he thinks of them). The stories are built up and you BECOME Andy. This is not even the best part. For the first time, Andy grabs you with something deeper. Something one wouldn't expect to actually hear from a professional climber/ risk taker. He tells you about his feelings. For the first time you see epics and journeys through the eyes of a man who seems real. He talks about fear and loss. He is in a constant battle of choices, between career and family; life and death.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Was it worth another book? How did this win Boardman Tasker when Peak...
Much of the same really... he's a good climber, he's good live... not sure it all warranted another book to be honest, nothing really legendary happened, its just a climber going... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Blake
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
A compulsive read. As a climber I felt every move, cold bivvy, pain, elation, anger, sadness. I can't wait for more books
Published 2 months ago by R. L. Hore
4.0 out of 5 stars a great read
Cold wars is interesting both technically and in the emotional sense, without going over the top. He comes across as honest and self deprecating which almost gives a false... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Mr. Je Hill
5.0 out of 5 stars Just great
The sense of suffering that Andy describes in this book is staggering yet I still manage s to explain we people climb. Top read well worth while.
Published 12 months ago by Andrew Bottrill
4.0 out of 5 stars If you are a climber or have been,you will like this.
You often feel you are on the climb with him.

You get the impression that it is a wonder he has survived so long! Read more
Published 13 months ago by Scotty Inglis
4.0 out of 5 stars Great follow up title for fitzpatrick
After reading Andy's first book psychological, I'm pleased to say that his second effort doesn't disappoint. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Simon Partington
5.0 out of 5 stars honesty is the best policy
I wanted an entertaining read about climbing having been an armchair climber since lopping off an E3 in a quarry and hitting the deck some twenty odd years ago. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ian F
4.0 out of 5 stars great sequel
As an accomplished armchair mountaineer, I read it shortly after his first book. More adventures but starting to question how long he can keep going. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Dave
4.0 out of 5 stars superb writing; gripping and funny
more outstanding writing from Kirkpatrick but reads best as the 2nd instalment of a triology, read Physcovertical first. Cant wait to see what happens next.
Published 17 months ago by P. C. Haigh
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book.
I liked this book as much as his first. It was interesting, not so interesting writing as the first, but easier to read because of it. The subject matter was just as good. Read more
Published 18 months ago by C.*.B
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