The Empire Theatre
YOU have to wonder if BBC presenter Alex Jones from The One Show has ever seen mountain man Andy Kirkpatrick’s theatre show.
And if she did, how would the novice climber feel about entrusting him with her safety on her three day charity climb to the top of a 1500 foot cliff in Utah later this month?
Sometime Inverness resident Kirkpatrick cheerfully owned up to being willing to climb with anybody — though I’m guessing from certain remarks over the course of the evening that he might draw the line at TV adventurer Bear Grylls — while also showing a marked preference for climbing on his own, free of the company of "boring" climbers.
His reputation for — his words — climbing with numpties has made him the go to guy for sharing rockface adventures with climbers who you might generously say are less than experienced.
That might set some of Ms Jones’ worries at rest, though the fact the "stand-up mountaineer" has called his latest tour "Inappropriate Climbing" might give her pause for thought.
The title comes from his son’s diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). To mental health professionals, inappropriate climbing is a tell-tale symptom of ADHD. To Kirkpatrick: "that’s my life".
The big, unanswered question of the night is if Kirkpatrick, who had similar issues to his son growing up, had been offered the same medication his sin was offered, would he do the things he does now? Things like climbing the supposedly hardest mountain in the world in Antarctica or Norway’s frightening Troll Wall.
With his rapid, near stream of consciousness delivery and digressions off-topic, Kirkpatrick did come across as slightly hyper and with a knack for saying the wrong things — apparently Wagon Wheels are not the snack to request in a posh BBC Green Room.
But he had some fascinating tales to tell and a neat turn of phrase such as when he urged even the non-climbers in the audience to visit California’s Yosemite Valley because "it’s like Disneyworld for people who prefer real things."
Film clips and photographs of Kirkpatrick’s exploits, which were vertigo-inducing enough on a big screen in the comfort of Eden Court, added excitement to the evening with Kirkpatrick’s irreverent commentary sometimes confounding expectations. It turns out that Steve, the guy pictured early on scaling Yosemite’s El Capitan in Yosemite, had bigger issues to overcome than being ginger.
A large section of the opening half was devoted to another trip Kirkpatrick made to El Cap, one made with his 13-year old daughter Ella with a BBC film crew recording their often painful progress up the sheer face of the granite monolith. A film that appeared to have been greenlit without anyone at the Beeb apparently realising that El Cap is a 3000 foot high cliff.
"There was lots of Jimmy Savile style back-pedalling," he revealed. "Lots of people going: ‘Who signed off on this?’"
More than the achievement itself, what impressed was Ella’s matter of fact bravery and reluctance to whinge despite the agonising physical challenge of climbing the mountain and sleeping on a vulnerable looking canopy hundreds of feet above ground level.
Though Kirkpatrick put her easy-going approach down to being the daughter of a climber — "and anything your dad does is boring" — it was still impressive, life enhancing stuff.
There was more to come in the second half as Kirkpatrick returned to the Troll Wall, this time in the company of a pair of whisky loving Norwegians who turned out to be considerably better skiers than climbers, though it was telling that Kirkpatrick revealed more satisfaction in nearly, but not quite, getting to the top of a mountain than in getting to the rather dull summit.
There were laughs, but there were also gasps at what Kirkpatrick does — the sort of reaction you would expect from a blockbuster movie. Except this is real life with no GCI and no stand-ins.