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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Cold Wars: Climbing the Fine Line Between Risk and Reality
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An enjoyable read but for me lacked the emotional grit of Psycho Vertical. Which maybe reflects the author's progress too. Still a good read tho and plenty to relate to
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on 4 October 2011
I finished Cold Wars last night at 11.30. It was a thoroughly good book Im somewhat surprised to say. I read Psychovertical (his first book) and was a little disappointed. Ive seen Andy on stage and in the flesh enough times to know that Psychovertical just wasnt funny enough. I also didnt care too much for the structure, alternating chapters between his ascent of Reticent Wall and his background life-story. Others loved it. I wasnt as convinced. Cold Wars, whilst still dark and sometimes pretty depressing, is an altogether different beast. Its funny throughout, each chapter is a story I its own right, simply excerpts from Andys life told in chronological order, but most importantly the writing is better. Psychovertical was by no means bad, especially for a first book, but Cold Wars is very good indeed. Its often difficult switching from reading a James Ellroy or a David Mithchell best-seller to a climbers autobiography. They are just not in the same league when it comes to actually writing. Of course, Im not putting Andy in the same class as Ellroy (who, interestingly, he refers to in the book) or Mitchell, but hes definitely proved himself as a capable writer.

Cold Wars is 266 pages long, comprising 19 chapters, mostly about climbs in the mountains in winter, the rest about his life when not climbing. He spends a great deal of time discussing his family, most of all his kids, to whom the book is dedicated. Unfortunately for Andy it appears that despite loving his family, he struggles to find the balance between family life and climbing life, between responsibility and irresponsibility, drawing parallels with his own absent father during childhood, and his absences from his own kids and wife. Its easy to sit and judge somebody based on their actions, but their actions will virtually always only tell a part of the story. In Cold Wars Andy has attempted to tell the rest of the story. Its almost a book of excuses for his failings, and will no doubt have been painful to some of those closest to him.

His family arent the only ones in the spotlight. Ian Parnell and Paul Ramsden are two of his closest climbing partners and between them, account for the lions share of the action-based chapters. In describing his partners he is often fairly disparaging, jealous of their lifestyles free of ties, and their actual climbing ability, but any derogatory comments are far outweighed by his own ridiculing, and equal amounts of praise for the same partners. So much so that you cant help feeling that the master story-teller is perhaps exaggerating things just a bit. How can he be as rubbish as he claims, yet do the things that he does? That said, Ive seen it first hand, at a lecture Id organised for him to give at Swansea Climbing Wall. The morning after the lecture I bumped into him in the car park rooting around in the back of his car for a toothbrush. Anybody else would have kept theirs in a wash bag. Andy found 4 of them, all equally covered in dust and rubbish, in the boot along with what looked to be his life-on-the-road. Here was a stand-up genius who had entertained a hundred people the night before, who couldnt even look after his own teeth.

As with most books on climbing I tent to enjoy the non-climbing chapters best, learning about the interesting stuff that doesnt make it into the magazines or onto the websites. Like working on the set for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory or a visit to see his dad in Llanrwst. The climbing chapters too, managed to retain my interest largely as a result of Andys ability to create tension through words. The dialogue was sometimes a little forced theres no way one can remember what was said word for word in so many conversations so there has to be an element of artistic licence but by and large flowed well and kept me wanting to read more.

Perhaps what made reading the book a little more memorable was the fact that whilst I was reading it, Andy was out in Norway attempting to solo Troll Wall again and was blogging about it daily. His blog posts mirrored the chapters in the book. Epic and difficult, yet bumbling and lucky to be alive at the end of it. The fact that he didnt make it to the top again but was alive and happy, was pretty much reflected in the final chapter of the book which ends on a kind of high and low note at the same time. I wont give any details as that would ruin it for you, suffice to say that its not always an easy read, but one that appears to be very honest.

Vertebrate seem to have a knack of picking good books to publish and theyve done it again.
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on 17 October 2011
I wasn't sure what to expect after reading the tagline of Andy's 2nd book ("At what cost do we climb?"). An emotional discussion of death & loss perhaps? The futility of existence? I couldn't imagine that fitting Andy's style of writing. However my uncertainty was put to one side as I was quickly engrossed.

It must have been a hard book to write. The emotional frankness is surprising, I had to double-check on a few occasions that his descriptions were of people still alive, and of events only a few years ago. The level of emotion conveyed would be more expected in a book published decades later, looking back at events of a lifetime ago. This honesty produces a very engaging narrative.

The climax of the book isn't the summit of a high mountain (like Psychovertical was), instead it's a culmination of all the emotional turmoil brought about from the extremes of hard mountaineering.

You shouldn't expect a direct answer to the original question posed ("at what cost?"), instead it's better to come back to it at points as the book evolves, especially in the closing pages. Each step forward the book takes, the reader is lead closer towards understanding Andy's struggle, and importantly the associated unquantifiable personal costs of trying to fulfil his instinctive desire to climb harder.
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on 16 April 2015
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on 6 January 2015
Cold Wars picks up the story of Andy Kirkpatrick as he continues to balance and come to terms with his life as a climber and as a father. The climbing bit he sort of understood. He knew he was good at climbing, many people had told him he was good, and it was an important part of his life. The father bit was strange. Andy found this continually confusing and it provoked powerful emotions within him. He was not always sure that he was good at being a dad and that scared him. The Reticent Wall had asked more questions than it answered and Andy decided to leave quite a comfortable life at the Outside Shop to concentrate on his climbing.
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.
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on 18 October 2011
More excellent work, the author having a humorous and engaging style that makes for easy and compulsive reading. I think Kirkpatrick and Joe Simpson are perhaps the only mountaineering authors that I will happily order anything they publish, which is saying something. I thoroughly recommend reading the earlier "Psychovertical" as well.
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on 28 January 2012
I have seen Andy a few times, at his talks. He is always engaging, blunt and hilarious. He makes it known that you will enjoy his talks, whether you are a climber or not. He is always sure to include action-packed, climbing specific details for those who delve into the climbing scene and emotional, hilarious antics for those who don't climb, but enjoy reading about exploration and life of those who live on the edge.

'Cold Wars' was nothing short of phenomenal. Having met Kirkpatrick, and spoken to him briefly, he is a very outgoing and bluntly spoken man. This can either make you love or hate his story telling (though i find it would be hard to hate). Throughout the book you can feel this part of Andy coming out. He throws in lines and quick stories about the people he met and the chances he took. All of which have lovely and hilarious anecdotes to keep you hooked.

His words make you a part of the journey. his attention to detail gives you all the background you need to be with him on his trips. Whether he is on Troll wall, attempting another big wall solo, or in the Alps, having a go at one of the 1st winter ascent routes, he paints a picture of what he sees and experiences, with conversations, jokes and details of his partners (whether about their lives, backgrounds, experience or what he thinks of them). The stories are built up and you BECOME Andy. This is not even the best part. For the first time, Andy grabs you with something deeper. Something one wouldn't expect to actually hear from a professional climber/ risk taker. He tells you about his feelings. For the first time you see epics and journeys through the eyes of a man who seems real. He talks about fear and loss. He is in a constant battle of choices, between career and family; life and death. You see through the eyes of a climber, that everything is not just about 'unjustifiable risk.' Climbers are pulled to the mountains, by a passion stronger than most think emotionally possible. It fills your mind, day and night, making you struggle to engage with anything else, but is it worth risking everything to climb?

Would you confront your fears, toil with your emotions of passion, family, love and life itself to climb? Kirkpatrick gives you a glimpse of what it's like to do just that.

Well worth the read for anyone who enjoys adventure, whether outdoors or in the heart!
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on 20 January 2012
Being a climber and fan of Andy Kirkpatrick i couldnt wait untill this sequal to his previous book (Psychovertical) came out. However you dont have to be a climber to understand this book, due to Andys brilliant writing style, and helpful guide for non climbers in the last chapeter. From the start you are drawn into his world where it appears the mental battle between life at home and danger on the wall is just as hard as getting to the top of the climb.

The book starts off a few moments after his previous book finishes, and then goes onto describe how climbing has had such a profound effect on all aspects of his life. The story follows some of his biggest successes and epics (climbing talk for when things go wrong and then some!) and from start to finish you are given a rare insight into how climbing really feels to someone at the edge and pushing what can be done.

I found this book to be written with the usual blutness and honesty that is the quality of Andy Kirkpatricks personality that people love, writting more as conversation in a pub i feel this book can relate to anyone, climber and not, and you will be left with a feeling that he is letting you in to some very personal aspects of his life.

A brilliant read full of dry humor, honestly and alot of adventures that will make your hands sweat and hair stand up on end while reading.

Very highly reccomended to anyone, climber or not.
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on 2 January 2012
As the heading suggests this is a step up from the already excellent Psychovertical. As a climber myself I found myself sympathising with many of the thoughts and feelings described in the only way possible - the Andy Kirkpatrick style. The fact that Cold Wars contains a lot of mountaineering is almost incidental, this is not a book about mountaineering - it's a book about a man, told with an honesty and openness that's almost as painful as some of the positions he's got himself into. That the book stands on its mountaineering content is a bonus but it's the internal struggle between his profession and his family that sets it apart. As a book about mountaineering it's average, as a book from the heart about what drives a man in the dangerous world Andy Kirkpatrick inhabits it's immense.
If you're looking for a read full of adventure and epics you'll get your fill as Andy Kirkpatrick takes on almost suicidal lines up walls from Norway to South America. What you'll also get with Cold Wars a superbly written insight into the life of a world class performer torn by internal battles, never satisfied because to stand still is to go backwards and infuriatingly not recognising that he doesn't need to be be measured against anyone
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on 13 October 2011
A brilliant read, thoroughly enjoyed
reading it. it is funny, sad but always
gripping! I found it hard to put down .
Reading just made want to go out
Climbing . I recommend 100%.
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