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Learning To Breathe Paperback – 2 Mar 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (2 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009947266X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099472667
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hello there,

I hope you enjoy the books. After a bit of a rest from writing the cogs in my head are beginning to turn, so who knows there maybe a third book at some point...

I guess writing is a bit like mountaineering, you descend from the summit and after a while you forget all the difficult scary bits and remember the fun bits and think to yourself 'I fancy doing that again'.

There's a bit more about what I have been up to on my website...


Best wishes,


Product Description


"A tale of split lives fused into one extraordinary story of adventure, laughter, tears and joy" (Joe Simpson)

"A brilliant book, well-written, gripping, honest and very moving" (Chris Bonington)

"Andy Cave's compelling autobiography is, like Joe Simpson's Touching the Void, a gripping book on mountaineering that will appeal even to those who didn't know they were interested in climbing ... Fascinating" (Observer)

"Enthralling ... Cave's elegant writing draws on the congruence between mining and climbing, the black humour, the danger, the camaraderie ... Excellent" (Independent on Sunday)

"The story of Andy Cave's transition from Yorkshire coal miner into one of Britain's best climbers echoes the heroic tones of Don Whillans or Joe Brown ... Thoughtful and often gripping ... Cave explains what it actually feels like to climb the kind of exceptionally dangerous routes that the rest of us, climbers or not, find unimaginable. There are few other climbers with the writing skills to be able to pull this off. There are fewer still who have led such an interesting and varied life as Cave" (Scotland on Sunday)

Book Description

Joint Winner of the Boardman Tasker Prize 2005 and Winner of the Adventure Travel Award - Banff Festival 2005

The extraordinary autobiography of a brilliant young climber who began life as one of the last generation of British miners.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Dave Hume on 19 Jun 2005
Format: Hardcover
Andy Cave has a good story to tell and he tells it really well. In a straightforward style, he doesn't mess with the essence of this gripping account of how he came up for air from the gritty life of a Yorkshire miner in the Thatcher era and found his purpose in rock climbing and later extreme alpinism at the top end of the sport. I couldn't imagine taking this book on a Himalayan expedition though - you'd want to finish it too quickly! The pictures he paints of how focussed, how skilled and how lucky you have to be to tackle climbs on Gasherbrum IV and Changabang and come back again make for a great read. Besides the climbing, his self effacing writing and his generosity towards the people who appear in his life, make this, for me at least, one of the best climbing autobiographies published in recent years.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Julie on 28 Nov 2005
Format: Hardcover
Most of us will never venture into the high mountains nor into the pits. This beautifully written book gives a clear and honest picture of life in the collieries in the 1980s and Andy Cave's escape from it via climbing to the roof of the world. I found the description of his family sensitive and moving and I found myself revisiting my own memories of the coalstrike. I have to admit it made me feel uncomfortable but it helped me to understand things more clearly too.What I also liked very much about this book was Andy's honesty about his fears in the mountains as well as his passion for them. It rang familiar bells and made it much easier to feel with him the pain and anguish he must have felt at the death of Brendan Murphy.This is an important book and a great contribution to mountaineering literature. Andy's style is easy to read, often witty and always engaging. His descriptions of the mountains are often elegiac and I loved that.Read this book and listen to the message.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By MR STEPHEN BARNES on 25 Mar 2006
Format: Hardcover
Having tried to read several mountaineering books, by experienced mountaineers, I have realised that there understanding of what makes a good read, is not the same as their undoubted mountaineering talent, there are sometimes, too many references which detract from the story.
Having read, and enjoyed all of Joe Simpsons excellent books, I spotted Andy Caves book. I was as much drawn to his background, as I live only 15 miles from where he was raised, as I was by his exploits. Andys writing talent is superb. I was unable to put the book down, and look forward in hope to reading more of his work, either fiction or non-fiction. Well recommended even if you have no interest in mountaineering or climbing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Carr on 28 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is rare in the climbing genre, in that the description of the climbing largely takes second place to Caves growing up in Yorkshire, which is referred to frequently throughout the book. The book is split into two distinct halves, the first concerning his growing up and working in the mines, the second his climbing career. My father is from the same area as Cave, and I have therefore heard as many mining stories as I ever wish to, but the narrative is excellent and engaging. The growing up from a somewhat insecure teenager to young man is actually the best part of the book, and reads almost like a growing pains story at some times. This doesn't detract from how good the mining part of the book is though. You begin to feel true empathy for the plight of the miners, and Caves support of their strike is so deep running that he loses a friend over it, and can barely bring himself to speak to him years later.

The second half deals more with his mountaineering, as he leaves the pit and follows his increasing love of rock climbing into the World's mountain ranges. The climbing part is somewhat underwhelming and only covers 3 major expeditions, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, Gasherbrum IV (which is essentially a chapter on the boredoms of sitting out bad weather at base camp) and Changabang. His climbing of the North Face of the Eiger merits a sentence (he was the youngest Brit to do it, which he doesn't even mention) and ascents of world-famous peaks such as Ama Dablam are totally overlooked.

In many ways the story would have been better split into two books. The mining part is so engaging and could have taken up a book alone, while he covers a tiny percentage of his ascents, and I feel he doesn't give himself enough credit as a climber.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Elliott TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback
As a rock-climber Andy Cave plays in the premier league, and as a mountaineer he has performed on some of the most exacting of Alpine and Himalayan routes. His book will be welcomed by those wishing to read of cutting edge exploits, but it does more than recount experiences and record achievements. He has a passion for striving higher, yet at age sixteen years it was downwards to the coal face that he followed the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Adopting a forthright approach Andy Cave provides a parallel portrayal of his early life with limited prospects, but an expanding future when he quit his job as a miner to devote himself to mountain activities and to pursue his education.

At weekends Andy Cave escaped the pit, first to nearby rock outcrops, then further afield to the greater mountain ranges. `Learning to Breathe' traces the evolution of a skinny youth, attracting the nickname `Rickets', into one of Britain's foremost climber-mountaineers, and it does so in four main sections. The first `Dust' covers from schooldays, into the mining industry, and out into the light. Along with many anecdotes the second section describes some magnificent routes including Divine Providence on Mont Blanc and Gasherbrum IV in the Himalaya, laced with comment on companions' relationships ranging from `scab' miner enemies to instructor or guide friends. A major section `Space' details his epic on Changabang in 1997. The final section `Ash' pulls together the hardships and tragedies of coal mining and mountain climbing with a single chapter headed `The Cost'.

What may be viewed as a high point on the North Face of Changabang was also a lifetime low with disaster whilst descending the South Face.
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