WINNER OF THE BOARDMAN TASKER PRIZE 2008. Metro magazine recently wrote that Andy Kirkpatrick makes Ray Mears look like Paris Hilton. Words like boldness, adventure and risk were surely coined especially for him. As one of the world's most accomplished mountaineers and big-wall climbers, he goes vertically where other climbers (to say nothing of the general public) fear to tread. For the first time, this cult hero of vertical rock has written a book, in which his thirteen-day ascent of Reticent Wall on El Capitan in California - the hardest big-wall climb ever soloed by a Briton - frames a challenging autobiography. From childhood on a grim inner-city housing estate in Hull, the story moves through horrific encounters and unique athletic achievements at the extremes of the earth. As he writes, 'Climbs like this make no sense ...the chances of dying on the route are high.' Yet Andy, in his thirties with young children, has everything to live for. This is the paradox at the heart of the story. This book - by turns gut-wrenching, entertaining and challenging - appeals to the adventurer in all of us.
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!