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Andy Kirkpatrick

18 October 2014

Letter from a (non) Coffee Wanker

Hi andy

Interesting posts as always - and as usual its you as the narrator thats interesting more so than the subject (be careful of that, maybe invent an alter ego to keep it fun).

So, you seem hung on the end of a windblown rope; connected but distant. thats cool. i have the solution.


I know you drink the stuff (you are more definite in the cafe you sit in than the routes you’re on), so as a fellow addict i offer an insight you may be overlooking.
forget climbing as an agent to self discovery and growth, its good, but coffee is better. coffee deals straight with the chemicals in your brain, climbing is a bit haphazard. too many chemicals to choose from.

Coffee is a better thread thru life. as punctuation to your day and a navigator thru memories its far superior. great climbing events are a blur of feeling, images and thoughts, stacked weirdly. coffee moments are crystal clear by nature. theres a reason Alex Lowe stayed high on the stuff.

So the point is; climb to drink coffee.

yeah yeah, a hit in the early AM. the magic happens when you make it up high on a hanging stove. and not toy drip coffee. get an espresso pot and make the real shit. like a junkie its amazing where you can get it on. finding the most outlandish places becomes the new game. your body and brain adjusts to the new buzz.

you notice too you become a better person. seriously. a new purpose comes to climbing that is acceptable. the sport no longer is about selfish risk taking and obscure childhood worries - its about an addiction that makes sense to all. it makes people smile. theres a link to the coffee moment in everyones lives, you connect at a chemical level and in the end that solves half your issues.

and another thing; the coffee itself changes. you start to analyse it like you do cams, crampons and rigging. maybe more so, as the effects are immediate and quantifiable. part of the brain taken up by the (geeky, unsociable) gear element goes to coffee. theres no other agent that does this so well.

You open a new wing to your brain. climbing doesn’t have to take over the whole house, and yeah, coffee is different at altitude (boil temps etc). and again, not drip or instant - the real stuff.

To show I’m for real I’m just back from tibet. we got to 5350m on a peak with no name, in a range with no name, that no ones ever tried to climb. the nearest climbed peak is 300km away. the climbing was hard, the approach was hard, the weather often terrible. we knew nothing of the entire range so getting to the base of the route was as big a deal as getting up it.
we didn’t summit, but we had the best coffee of our lives. we got to 4 pitches of the top, via a gully if thin ice that twisted out of view - twice. on both tries storms hit. on another face we got nailed by falling rocks.

but now I’m home and each morning at 5am i make coffee while my daughter laughs at me using the hand grinder and it ALL connects. the chemicals are the same. theres a thread to otherwise meaningless and disparate events, and a thread thats real enough to do things with.

in your posts you sound strung out and it may be chemicals - but simple chemicals that are easy to fix. you’re not mad or depressed, just need coffee, in the right place at the right time to navigate by.

Ed Hannam
Full Metal Alpinist


A Snicker's bar costs 60p. Were these words worth as much?

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