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Cold Wars: Climbing the fine line between risk and reality Kindle Edition
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The book describes Andy's wonderful adventures with Ian Parnell. He had found a kindred spirit, he had found a brother, someone he considered was as daft as himself, someone who possessed an uncompromising and scary determination to succeed. Andy and Ian would climb the hardest routes on the hardest mountains during the most difficult times of the year. They quickly became the masters of the mishap. While climbing on the Dru they dropped their portaledge but went on to achieve an unlikely ascent of the Lafaille route. They travelled to Patagonia to attempt the Devil's Dihedral on Fitzroy only to find that their enormous bag of karabiners and nuts had somehow disappeared! For most climbers that would be the end of the adventure but not for our heroes. They journeyed on and managed to borrow virtually nothing, but in their eternal optimism they considered that at least virtually nothing weighed little and would not slow them down. Ian had brought along an amazing camera kit consisting of three cameras and much more. He aimed to sell many photographs from the trip. They reached the glacier safely and dug a snow cave which would protect them against the storms. Ian had already lost one camera. It was soaked in water and refused to work. He took his second to capture a magnificent view but the shutter was frozen and it broke, and then there was only one! Ian led but the climbing was very slow. Andy became unsure about what they were trying to do. Did he actually really want this? By midnight they had retreated and were back in the snow cave. They decided to try Andy Parkin's route on Mermoz instead. They started to climb. Ian took the batteries out of his third camera to keep them warm and ... dropped them! And that was that. Ian said some strong words and Andy let him borrow his compact camera for the rest of the trip. It worked fine until Andy got it home, and then it never worked again. They reached the summit but the concern that all was not well in his climbing world continued to fester in Andy. He was questioning what he was doing. He was questioning if it was all really worthwhile.
Cold Wars delves deeply and honestly into Andy's relationship with his children. When he was at home he felt like his emotions were being kicked about like a battered football. He loved sharing adventures with his children and he writes about these times wonderfully. There was the camping trip to Scarborough with Ella and Ewen and their friends Phoebe and Harry. Andy forgot to bring almost everything! They took a democratic vote whether to stay or go home. The children voted to go home so Andy said he had lost the car key! They had no torches at night so Andy made lanterns out of tin cans and candles. Soon all the other children in the camp were torturing their parents to make lanterns too. That night they slept under the stars in sleeping bags, all the five children together. It was a night they never forgot. But there would always come the times when he would leave to climb, and these became harder and harder. Ella would cry. She would become distraught. Andy felt her pain. He remembered his father being away on long trips and how he had felt 'ill with want.' Perhaps his time on long trips was coming to an end. Andy had idolised his father. He wondered if his children idolised him? His father had left their family and Andy had always wondered why. Now he had perhaps experienced some of the things his father had, and had some understanding of the feelings he had felt. Andy explains how he had taught himself that in life when people had gone and not come back he would put them in boxes and close the lids. This had sometimes kept him sane and safe. He thought that perhaps his family should have put him in a box, but they had not, and as a result he felt they had paid quite a price.
At last in 2005 Andy had enough money to spend a season in the Alps. He had worked as a safety officer on the film Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and been paid well. He went while the rest of the family moved home! He climbed with Paul Ramsden reaching the East summit of Les Droites. Then Mandy, Ella and Ewen arrived. The two sides of his life were back together. They did family things. They all went skiing which involved lots of crashing and wonderful hot chocolate.
Andy wondered if climbing was merely a superhero mask that he wore, and if the superhero had at last lost his powers. He was truly alive with Ella. He told her she could do the impossible by doing one bit at a time until something became possible. His family made him so proud.
Cold Wars has an endearing honesty about it. Some things are so crystal clear to Andy while others plague him as he struggles for answers that always seem to elude him. He must be the best to share a mountain with but the hardest to share reality with. He is the eternal optimist on rock and a terrible pessimist on life! He searches for answers to questions he has not yet thought of. He races through good times and dwells on things he perceives to be weaknesses. And so Andy continues to search for the last great climb which probably does not exist, to dream the most fantastic dreams, and to juggle climbing with family life.
Andy writes that it was time to go home. It was the best part of the adventure. The end. The climbing was over again. Andy felt human again, and once again life was magic.
Between exciting and exhilarating tales on some of the most fantastically severe mountain routes in the Alps, Norway, Patagonia and America it alternates with mundane family reality in the likes of Hull and Sheffield. Andy questions why mountaineers run unquestionable risks! At one stage he actually comments: "I didn't really care if I died up there. I guess not caring is what it's all about". In open manner `Cold Wars' tells of failures and retreats as well as successful ascents on iconic peaks like the Dru, Troll Wall, Fitz Roy etc., and it endorses mountaineering as a war of attrition with big wall climbing being a bodily grind - but also mountaineering as a selfish activity. It is therefore entirely fitting that Andy includes information on his children, wife, parents and siblings together with climbing companions. He may choose to risk his own neck but in the event of a fatal or disabling accident it will be relatives and friends who are left to grieve. When considering the outcome for oneself it is not hard for committed mountaineers to overlook the worrying thoughts and fearful feelings of others.
Andy correctly acknowledges mountaineering as being about belief in oneself embracing comparative and competitive elements with others, plus a willingness to have a go. He presents telling descriptions of his thoughts on various characters and numerous amusing asides on what they likely thought about him. It is relatively self-evident how mountaineers climb to be alive, but it is much more difficult to appreciate what drives them into danger and possible death. Andy pronounces on an episode with: "a group of superstar alpinists" discussing achievements, future trips, sponsorship, marriage, responsibilities etc. and ends with commenting: "within a few years half the people round the table would be dead". Yet being a mountaineer - he still carries on! The focus of `Cold Wars' is on the irrationality whereby to some degree all mountaineers harbour a state of mind that fails to prevent them proceeding to disaster when reasoning and experience should warn this to be reckless. With final observations on both mountaineering and domestic life Andy Kirkpatrick recognizes the price some have to pay.
This book like the previous has a great literary style passing between the constant imminent danger on winter climbs to time spent with family. The book explores the guilt felt at leaving children to pursue a selfish hobby (even if it is a career!) and the resentment felt at being home with family when your climbing peers are out, carefree, setting their sights on new routes around the world.
Dispute these heavy themes the book is well constructed and an easy, whilst thought provoking read. The book is also interspersed with Andy's trademark humour. If you ever get a chance to see the author speak on tour you should, it's like stand up comedy for anyone who likes the great outdoors!
Many climbing books require the reader to have an intimate knowledge of climbing, the greater mountain ranges or both. This book is kept deliberately simple for the reader to enjoy the drama and not get bogged down by technical descriptions of what gear is being used where.
Unlike many climbing books this has a novelistic feel with a plot, and sub plot, differing themes of family and adventure and seems much less linear than many adventure books. The author is self deprecating, doubting his abiliity as both a climber and a writer always describing his peers as being better. I doubt there is any better combination of both. Andy you may be Hulls second best climber; you may well be the worlds greatest climber:writer. Top stuff.
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