Climb any mountain, aim high for laughs

Andy Kirkpatrick
Andy Kirkpatrick

On his website, Andy Kirkpatrick bills himself as “Climber. Author. Stand up.”

Spend an evening in his audience and you find he is far more than the sum of those already interesting parts.

It’s a world away from traditional stand up, although funny. Kirkpatrick simply wanders on without razzmatazz and begins talking about his life, illustrating with film clips and heartstopping stills of him and others clinging like bluebottles to sheer rockfaces.

Think a cross between your dad’s holiday slides and a Powerpoint presentation on extreme mountaineering.

Inappropriate Climbing opens with his son being diagnosed with ADHD and Kirkpatrick having to absorb the fact he almost certainly has the same condition, since “it’s hereditary, you know.”

Among the official list of symptoms noted by teachers which led to son Alex’s diagnosis is a penchant for the titular “inappropriate climbing”.

But, as Kirkpatrick reflects, “That’s my whole (expletive deleted) life!”

Kirkpatrick specialises in, basically, throwing himself up the world’s largest lumps of rock, the more crumbly and dangerous the better.

He is so self deprecating you only gradually come to understand how extraordinary a climber he is.

He tackles not only tough climbs like the North Face of the Eiger, Norway’s epic Troll Wall or Yosemite’s El Capitan, he drags everyone, from his teenage daughter to TV presenter Alex Jones along with him compensating for their weakness by driving himself even harder.

Metro said Kirkpatrick “makes Ray Mears look like Paris Hilton” but his show has nothing of the self serving derring do of most climbing biographies. Instead, it brings bellylaughs aplenty, a no frills view of a world of extreme banter you’ll never see unless you have the guts to sleep sandwiched between two other men halfway up a sheer cliffs on a tiny nylon shelf.

Is ADHD fundamental to the way he hurls himself up mountains, allowing him to remain oddly detached from the consequences while reaching some fascinating and highly original conclusions about the nature of achievement?

Kirkpatrick, right, offers more than an entertaining night out. This is an education in climbing impossible mountains – both real and imagined.

Judith Dornan