Last night I went to a talk by climber, writer and comedian Andy Kirkpatrick, which was entitled “Inappropriate Climbing”. I’ve been following him for a while on Twitter and he seemed like an interesting kind of person who’s had some pretty mad, not to mention hardcore, adventures on mountains. He also talked a lot about attitudes to life and to the obstacles that are thrown at us, and it reinforced my beliefs about making your own happiness. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t really see the pictures and videos very well, but it led to some comedic moments in my head when I struggled to identify some of the images: “Wait, was that a picture of a big yellow chicken on skis?” Not only did the talk definitely cure any possible grumpiness, as he had the audience in stitches for the whole 3 hours, but nestled amongst the humour (and bad language) he had some very serious messages to get across.
- There are appropriate and inappropriate times to be inappropriate. His talk focused on all the rather mad and, in many cases dangerous, trips he’d been on. But underneath it all, he’s not totally reckless. And he does have the ability to know when it’s really time to quit. The reason many climbers and adventurers die is because they don’t know when to quit, but the fact that he’s still alive while some of his friends aren’t, is proof that he does. Combined with a bit of luck, of course.
- Quitting is always an option. But quitting doesn’t make you a quitter. You just have to know when the right time to quit is. Sometimes it’s a mental issue, in which case you can always defeat it. And sometimes physical conditions just make it stupid and reckless to carry on.
- Whingeing is for wimps. Andy told us many stories about inspirational people who’d lost their sight or various body parts but who’d refused to stop climbing and had found a way to continue. Actually, his stories made me rather ashamed of the way I’ve talked in some of my blog posts about the difficulties I’ve encountered on my various trips due to blindness, diabetes and other ailments. I could hear Andy’s voice saying “you’re only walking. How hard can it be? It’s not like you’re dicing with death.” Well actually, I dice with death pretty much every hour of the day, whether it’s when I hurtle down a hill on my mountain bike not being able to see anything, missing the huge hole in the floor of the bridge 200m up, nearly walking off a cliff, or simply having to deal with low blood sugar. But his point is still valid. It’s nothing compared to what some of these guys put themselves through.
- Weaknesses can be strengths. He talked a lot about ADHD, which both he and his son suffer from, and his refusal to put his son on Ritalin even though it might help him at school. It turns out that while Andy doesn’t have much in the way of intellectual qualifications, and while the constant stream of babble that comes out of his mouth can be a little irritating (not to mention the fact that he can’t remain still for a second – something I can empathise completely with), his incredible energy and determination is a huge positive. He’s been on trips with guys who haven’t had anything like the necessary technical skills they should have, or even common sense in some cases, it seems, but who have always brought something to the party, whether it’s their sunny disposition, their determination to succeed, their supply of whisky, or just their ability to find humour in every situation (a much underrated skill when you’re sharing a very small tent for several days, if not weeks).