"The new show I’m doing is partly based on my son Ewen being told he had ADHD and then I was told I had it as well. One of the criteria was ‘inappropriate climbing’ and I was, like, ‘Well, that’s my whole life’!“
Andy Kirkpatrick is one of the UK’s most accomplished mountaineers, a world-renowned expert on mountaineering gear, an award-winning and best-selling author and, probably, the world’s only ‘stand-up mountaineer’, having made a name for himself doing theatre shows with jokes and hilarious stories about his expeditions and adventures.
Since his last UK tour in 2011, Andy has been up to an awful lot, giving him an assortment of new stories to tell in Inappropriate Climbing.
In 2012, the maverick climber risked controversy by taking his then 13-year-old daughter Ella up Yosemite’s vertical 3,000ft El Capitan wall, making her the youngest girl ever to do so, which was filmed for Children’s BBC’s My Life series.
He has revisited Norway’s Troll Wall, been on another winter expedition to attempt the North Face of the Eiger, went to Antarctica in 2013, and led BBC One’s The One Show presenter Alex Jones up El Capitan for Sport Relief earlier this year.
“She did amazingly well,“ says Andy of the Welsh TV personality. “She didn’t get as much training as you’d normally need. We had a very short amount of time to climb it and we had to finish it live at 11 o’clock at night, it was totally crazy. She struggled, she found it really difficult, but I had a lot of respect for her, she really pushed beyond what she thought was possible.“
People have told Andy that, watching Alex Jones on television since the experience, a real change is noticeable in her persona, and Andy says that it was the same for his daughter Ella.
“Anybody who’s climbed something like that is never really the same again, it’s a transformational experience. I think kids need a kind of rite of passage like that in their lives – for Ella, that was it. Other cultures in the world have them, but we’ve removed them.
“And I think it’s perhaps the same thing, with my son having ADHD. In other cultures, they just see it as you being very active, very outdoorsy, doing all these things, but in our society it’s like ‘Sit down, be quiet, listen’.“
Andy, who is severely dyslexic, recognised most of the typical symptoms of ADHD in himself.
“My perception of risk is different to other people’s, and that’s kind of my whole life – doing these really dangerous things. They say it’s not being able to concentrate, but you can concentrate really well, but only on things you’re interested in.
“I think if you put a ‘syndrome’ on it, or call it a disability, it changes your relationship with who you are. I’m not disabled, I’m profoundly dyslexic, but I make a living writing books. Just because you have trouble spelling or forming words, it doesn’t matter, there’s always somebody who can help you with that. It doesn’t stop you having great ideas.“
- Andy Kirkpatrick: Inappropriate Climbing is at the Radlett Centre, Aldenham Avenue, Radlett, on Wednesday, April 16 at 8pm. Details: 01923 859291, radlettcentre.co.uk