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Psychovertical [Hardcover]

Andy Kirkpatrick
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Sep 2008
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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson (18 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091920965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091920968
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 14.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 449,627 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


Entertaining, funny and a bit mental -- Zoo

Powerful ... well written, sometimes brilliantly so... The descriptions of climbing are among the best I've ever read
-- Ed Douglas, Climber

Thrilling ... Most compelling are his psychological battles, as self-belief and a dry sense of humour ultimately propel him to the top -- Financial Times


Thrilling ... Most compelling are his psychological battles, as self-belief and a dry sense of humour ultimately propel him to the top

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychovertical 8 Oct 2008
Pyschovertical is a an ambitious debut for Andy K, attempting to interweave autobiography with descriptions of alpine and big-wall climbing while presenting a honest explanation of his deep seated compulsive reliance on undertaking these stupendously dangerous expeditions. The book is at its best in the terse descriptions of climbing specific pitches on his deranged solo of the Reticent wall, which form a broken narrative running throughout the book. These passages are so vividly sketched that I feel I know how it feels to leave the safety of a ledge half way up El Cap and commit to hanging your body weight from friable wafer thin flakes, expecting a sudden fatal fall to the valley thousands of feet below. This backbone is interspersed with more fully fleshed out descriptions of Andys' climbs, many solo, in the Alps, Patagonia and other Yosemite walls. Each of these chapters is raised above the genres ubiquitous plodding trip reports by laugh out loud black humour, and the clever use of split narratives. An example of the humour is found in two photo captions, the first of Andy eating gruel from a pan captioned; "Alpinists are only in it for the food and the sex"; the second, of Andy lying next to his nervous looking climbing partner; "By day 5 the food had run out". Surprisingly, given the quality of some of Andys' photos on the web, the two photomontage insets are a little disappointing. Many of the portraits convey the extremes of fatigue that Andy and his climbing partners endure, but the small image size and cluttered layout masks their impact, you want to be able to clearly see the blood shot eyes and battered bodies for the message to sink home. Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychovertical - Brilliant 14 Sep 2008
By T. Maud
The book illustrates the capabilities and determination of a person from an ordinary background that has a vision and a will to do something not for the glory but to give meaning to their life.
The climbing represents a metaphor for the struggle in overcoming family break up, dyslexia and the choices made as a husband and father.
This struggle is communicated in a way that will have you crying half way through a paragraph only to find yourself laughing as you reach the end of it!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reticent and Revealing 27 Nov 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Though far from conventional it is pleasing, after a couple of years with conceptual winners, to have the 2008 Boardman Tasker Award presented to an uncomplicated climbing book telling terrifying tales of epics in the mountains. `Psychovertical' is a welcome addition to the ever expanding legacy of literature left by leading climbers. It is a gripping read with perhaps the only disappointment being its high proportion coverage of aid climbing.

Andy Kirkpatrick covers what is expected in an autobiography, embracing literally his birth in 1971, his deprived childhood, his early climbs initially with more failures than successes, and some of his world class exploits in the Alps and Patagonia, and particularly in Yosemite - all with continuing failures amongst many magnificent achievements. Difficulties when growing up were not helped by dyslexia not being addressed until Andy's schooldays were over; yet within a few years he set himself to write a story on his first escapades. He aspired to match the quality of writings by the likes of Joe Simpson and Jim Perrin - he hasn't! However Andy Kirkpatrick seems able to inveigle readers into sharing his moments of doubt - but then to support his `up-or-off' commitment as positive rather than recognise anything as insane or suicidal. Though his raw writing style may be limited and his storyline includes minor mistakes and some repetition, Andy Kirkpatrick's descriptions are graphic, his sense of humour shines through, his mood is self-effacing, and any shortcomings are offset by an innovative approach.

As an author Andy interweaves sections of `my life' with `my climbs', and within these he uses italics to insert queries, to construct commentaries, to deliver homilies, and to direct the reader to specific issues.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a way 26 Mar 2012
I'd been wanting to read this book for quite some time, but haven't because I didn't want to be disappointed following such high praise. I wasn't!

For someone who really didn't have a very good start in life Andy Kirkpatrick has gone on to do some amazing things - not just climbing, but also writing such a compelling book. I gather he's good on the lecture circuit too. Now on to Cold Wars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biased 25 Aug 2009
I climb, i read this in a day, i recommended it to a friend who didn't climb,they didn't enjoy it, Andy Kirkpatrick is a climber, he will always be a climber...this book looks into that psyche & at times it terrified me, a man of many abilities, three of which are climbing, writing & placing himself in ridiculously dangerous situations........a lovable nutter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 23 Oct 2008
If you are a fan of mountaineering literature, especially writers of the class of Simpson, Krakauer or Mark Jenkins, then you will enjoy this. Kirkpatrick successfully manages to convey both the thrill and the terror of climbing, in an easily accessible style. As noted in other reviews, some parts of this have been published before, but that should not deter you from getting hold of a copy. Kirkpatrick comes across as a highly driven individual, but also one with whom you would want to share a pint or two down the local, after a long day in the hills. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read.
Published 2 hours ago by Kaz
5.0 out of 5 stars simply inspiring
Loved a birds eye view of a climbers all climbers Andy has tales to tell......his are just better. You inspire us all even us late starters
Published 1 day ago by Qwidge
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and very funny
What a breath of fresh air! Climbing literature often has little appeal to non-climbers - unless it's a K2/Everest disaster-fest - but this is probably the only climbing book I own... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Fellrunner
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 29 days ago by Bof
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved the keen observations in the book about childhood
I have just finished reading Psychovertical. It is a raw piece of writing full of very personal observations about climbing and life. Can you be successful in both? Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert N
5.0 out of 5 stars UNPUTDOWNABLE
Brilliant - Every climb was so well described that I felt that I was with Andy on every step of each approach and every foot of every climb.
Published 5 months ago by Corrie Man
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book for climbers
The author gets up to some pretty crazy exploits, I enjoyed the book although I am a climber and I am not sure if non climbers would understand.
Published 9 months ago by Mountain Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Buy!
Great book by a climbing virtuoso. I love it and wish it was longer because I read it so quickly!
Published 9 months ago by Birdman
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought it for my husband (ex - Mountain Rescue man) ... he can't put...
My husband has ALL the climbing books, The White Spider, Rock and a Hard Place, you name it. A bloomin' shelf full!!!!!!!! But he can't put this down. Read more
Published 11 months ago by May Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars really well written
great writing, good mix of excitement and emotion. Andy shows how a lack of experience can get you into trouble but how drive and determination can get you through it.
Published 13 months ago by Justine Curgenven
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