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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breathtaking stuff
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...
Published on 19 Jun 2005 by Dave Hume

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not brilliant.
Not wishing to be harsh, this is good read, but not outstanding. Cave might be a great mountaineer but he's no Joe Simpson in terms of his ability to tell the story. Also I learned more about mining and the miners strike than I did about mountaineering. An autobiographical work, you have to patient and wait to the very end to get the best mountaineering story, and I (...
Published on 11 Mar 2011 by Mr. S. C. Hamnett


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breathtaking stuff, 19 Jun 2005
This review is from: Learning to Breathe (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
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Account, 28 Nov 2005
By 
Julie (Oxford United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Learning to Breathe (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 25 Mar 2006
This review is from: Learning to Breathe (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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up there with "Touching the Void", 17 Aug 2005
By 
J. McLaughlin (Derry, Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Learning to Breathe (Hardcover)
This is a stunning debut which ranks along with Joe Simpson. The development of Cave's climbing career is desribed in an engaging, self-effacing way until the reader is drawn into the climax of the ordeal on Changabang, which forms the last section of the book. This section grabs you and won't let go until you have finished.
The unexpected bonus is the author's description of his brief career as a miner in the early 1980s, which is told alongside the mountain adventures, and, far from detracting from the high-altitude horrors, these chapters are breathtaking, every bit as horrifying.
I have read all of the classics: Boardman, Tasker, Simpson, Harrer and more, and Andy Cave's name is a worthy addition to the list.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to a mountaineering library, 28 May 2009
By 
J. Carr "jackcarr7" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Learning To Breathe (Paperback)
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. I have noticed that Cave has a new book out which I hope will feature more of his mountaineering career.

Worth it for the first half alone (I am recommending it to my father based on this) but if you're looking for a book totally about climbing, this probably isn't it. If you're looking for a fantastic autobiography about a boy, then man, rising from the depths to the heights, quite literally, then look no further.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 31 Dec 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Learning to Breathe (Hardcover)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is definitely one of the best I've read in 2005. Andy has a very keen ear for dialogue and tells his stories extremely well. I hope that this is not the last book he writes.
I am slightly surprised that the book has not had a higher profile. Perhaps there is too much coal-mining for the mountaineers and too much mountaineering for those interested in coal mining?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From pits to peaks, 1 Aug 2008
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Learning To Breathe (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. Andy Cave treats the expedition with the same thoughtfulness as for sensitive family issues, and the same clear insight as for horrific features of the mining industry, and the same openness when revealing outrageous and gripping episodes in the mountains; all told with integrity whether describing disagreements with fellow miners or explaining unfair feelings towards climbing partners.

From family ties, feelings of guilt, and broken friendships in the pits there are honest comparisons with the fears he exposes in his climbing. It is this intertwining of contrasting worlds that gives `Learning to Breathe' a different if not unique twist, and the non-mountaineering element strengthens what is essentially a mountaineer's autobiography. After Changabang Andy Cave returned to his mining background to research into language variety and identity among former miners. His PhD in socio-linguistics has paid off with a keen ear for dialogue and an ability to share and reflect on delight and distress in his life, but it is obvious that Andy Cave has always been and continues as a natural raconteur. With enthusiasm and humour he pitches his tales in an attractive self-effacing style that is easy to read and completely engaging.

There is nothing dewy-eyed about `Learning to Breathe' and any fears may be dispelled with regard to fashioning of Andy Cave and mountaineering as a sentimental story like Billy Elliot and ballet. However the book encompasses a dramatic transformation, and perhaps the publisher's dust wrapper statement says it all: "From the depths of the pit to the roof of the world - an extraordinary odyssey".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to breathe - FANTASTIC!, 18 Aug 2008
By 
Mr. R. F. Buxton (Rugby, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Learning To Breathe (Paperback)
My mother-in-law recommended this book and I was a bit sceptical. However it is absolutely brilliant! I laughed & cried. A really honest account. I couldn't put the book down. I hope one day I'm lucky enough to meet the guy because he seems like a top chap. I climb a little bit myself although nothing like Andy Cave's level. It reassuring to see that in his early years he was just as scared on Stanage as I am today - so maybe there is hope for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to Breathe., 17 Mar 2013
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I've read this book several times and I'll read the book again in the future. One of the best books written by an exceptional climber. You don't need to be a climber to enjoy this book, the story is brilliant, especially if you like Chamonix.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learning to Breathe, 8 Nov 2012
Excellent book, well written, interesting and exciting.

Cave explains his life as a miner and and climber with inspiring detail that enables the reader to emerge themselves in the book and feel engrossed.
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Learning To Breathe
Learning To Breathe by Andy Cave (Paperback - 2 Mar 2006)
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