Andy Parkin - ?A Life in Adaptation?

© Andy Parkin
Andy Parkin
© Andy Parkin

A new film is due for release which looks at the life of the Sheffield lad who found himself naturally drawn to the nearby moorland crags. There he encountered his first 'real' rock climbers. Inspired, he dedicated all of his attention to climbing, funding what became a nomadic existence through a variety of climbing-related jobs, anything that would get him to the crags.

This took him the length and breadth of the British Isles before he struck out for wider horizons. First to the USA, then the Alps and soon into the bigger ranges. The period at the end of the seventies into the early eighties found him training to become a mountain guide.

Summer 1984 saw Andy's life take a dramatic turn. Aged 29, during his mountain-guide training, while taking a client on a climb in the Swiss Alps, the rock he was climbing broke. Andy fell without any protection, smashing into the belay ledge. He sustained horrific injuries. Told by the doctors he was dying, his family flew to his bedside in order to say their final farewells. For days Andy's life hung in the balance. Through exceptional fitness and his belligerent determination, he fought against the odds and survived. There followed a long period of rehabilitation.

Unable to climb, Andy rediscovered and rekindled his love of painting and sketching. However, again quite miraculously, Andy gradually rediscovered the ability for cutting edge climbing. Despite permanent disabilities he fought through finally reaching wider recognition in 1994 by winning the Piolet d'Or with Francois Marsigny for his epic climb in Patagonia on Cerro Torre – one of the greatest survival stories of modern mountaineering and a testament to his unquenchable spirit.

Still climbing, he continues to pursue the purest, most aesthetic and risky of styles –solo. His climbing and art have now matured into a wide, diverse creative practise touching many subjects and themes. Andy's media vary from painting to sculpture and site-specific installation, depicting places, people and ecosystems under threat. Major sculptural commissions and solo exhibitions indicate his mature creative voice, one of the most authoritative in his field.

Andy says:"Having witnessed the ingenuity of people less fortunate and their ability to reuse items which we would cast aside has reinforced my philosophy towards the use of found objects in my sculpting. Climbing and life, I believe, are not about conquering or dominating, but about adaptation."

One of Andy Parkin's sculptures
© Andy Parkin
Andy Parkin painting
© Andy Parkin
Andy Parkin at work on one of his sculptures
© Andy Parkin
Andy Parkin Wrapped up warm
© Andy Parkin

The new documentary film Andy Parkin - "A Life in Adaptation" aims to show how this philosophy is reflected in the vigorous life Andy pursues today.

Origins: Film makers and climbing enthusiasts, Pip Piper, Dominic Green and Dave Cawley first met Andy Parkin at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in 2006, whilst researching another project. Producer Pip Piper says: "As we talked to Andy, we realised here was one of life's truly unique characters and we decided to ask him if we could make a film about him."

The three got on so well with Andy that he agreed to the project. The team spent a week with him in Chamonix while they were making a short film about Gary Hemming. The Andy Parkin documentary took shape as they talked late into the night. When David Fair, a notable TV director, joined the team filming began in earnest.

The final production: The story follows Andy from his home and studio in Les Praz, Chamonix, back to his roots in Sheffield and his early days of climbing. It reflects on the effect the accident had on him when it forced him to rethink his future and adapt to the challenges his injuries brought about. The story then comes into the present with Andy's art becoming more and more sought after and his commissions more and more adventurous. In parallel, the film shows how his climbing still shows no sign of slowing down with Andy still making remarkable first ascents in the World's wild and remote places as well as in his adopted backyard - the French Alps.

Filming has so far taken place in Chamonix, in Switzerland and in Sheffield and is due for completion in July 2008. The finished film will travel to various film festivals autumn 08 and will then be released on DVD and download.

Andy Parkin - "A Life in Adaptation" is produced with the support of PARAMO.

Media partners: - Climbing - Urban Climber -

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27 Jun, 2008
Looking forward to that, Andy is a really great guy, setting his mountaineering achievements to one side, he deserves huge respect for his art.
27 Jun, 2008
good article but could you check the formatting ? I don't usually have to scroll horizontally to read items on UKC
27 Jun, 2008
...and someone nice and patient enough to listen to my nonstop chatting for one hour in a Zermatt pub last year - an ordeal worse than any Himalayan epic!!!!
3 Jul, 2008
Sounds great and am looking forward to seeing it as he seems such an interesting and inspiring character. On another note - can you provide any further info on the short film about Gary Hemming? Would really, really love to see that - such an enigmatic character if what I read in the Tendorini book and other places is anything to go by.
3 Jul, 2008
I look forward to this. Andy Parkin is for me one of a few especially inspiring people in mountaineering. Here's hoping it does him justice. Stuart
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