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Punk in the Gym

 

Punk in the Gym

Written by Andy Pollitt

ISBN 978-1910240694

Published by Vertebrate Publishing
Reviewed by
Steve Crowe

 

 

50 Shades of Pink

Punk in the Gym is the story of a teenage dirt bag from North Wales and his quest to make the first repoint ascent of the hardest route in Australia.  That’s is perhaps too harsh because Andy Pollitt stood out from the crowd by holding down a number of jobs, he also took his role as a sponsored climber very seriously and repeated many of his hardest climbs “with the boundless enthusiasm of youth” to get photographs for his sponsors posters and many magazines covers. Andy’s good looks and choice of bright colourful clothing was “God’s gift to climbing photographers” according to Bernard Newman. A photo editor’s dream and he soon became the poster boy of the 1980’s. It was thanks to Andy Pollitt’s exposure that climbers up and down the country began wearing outrageous coloured tights.

It seems to me that there has been a glut of climber’s biography’s written recently and if you haven’t read any then you are certainly missing a treat. Andy Pollitt himself recommends that you read Jerry Moffatt’s Revelations before you get engrossed in Punk in the Gym. However personally I’d recommend you read Ron Fawcett’s Rock Athlete first, followed by …and One for the Crow by John Readhead before picking up Jerry’s Revelations. After Punk in the Gym you must read Johnny Dawes Full of Myself then Ben Moon’s Statement and finally to bring you right up to date look out for Steve McClure’s Beyond Limit’s. Because I’d already read the other books I thought I knew the story and it took me a while to pick up Punk in the Gym but once I did I found it easy to read and hard to put down.

It all began at his local crag Craig y Forwyn but the adventure soon spread across North Wales to Pen Trwyn, Tremadog and Gogarth. Mike Owen remembered a really young spotty face school kid who was pushing really hard “so hard that he didn’t really care for grades or traditions”.  VS’s soon became Extreme’s and then early repeats quickly turned into first ascents. The early days were all with his best friend Jerry Moffatt. The bold adventures on Gogarth were the highlight for me personally but the determination to achieve his ultimate goal was also thoroughly engaging. Commenting on Andy’s early repeat of The Cad on North Stack, “A cliff that would be very special for both of us” Mike Owen remembers “it was a fantastic effort”.

Chris Gore remembers that “Long nights of ciggies and ale didn’t appear affect Andy’s strong fingers, precise footwork and fluid movement” Andy was a true Rock Star throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s and lots of excellent action photos have been reprinted here including the controversial Berghaus “Red Point” advert. He often courted controversy like the hand placed peg on Knockin on Heavens Door, however this is certainly not just a long list of climbing achievements, the many other conquests and partnerships throughout his life get mentioned too. He shares not only his successes but also some troubled dark days. I’ll admit that at times I laughed out loud then, turning a page, I’d hide a tear or two as Andy describes the high and lows of his journey through the grades and through life itself.

Andy certainly played hard and partied hard and for 50 years he has enjoyed a colourful life. Andy candidly discusses his issues with bipolar disorder, perhaps Andy was the Hollow Man?  John Redhead admitted initially being irritated by the antics of this “playful, cheeky fuck” but this soon turned to respect when Andy used his “profound knowledge gained from years of negotiating the old rocks” and by “raiding his psyche” managed to make the first ascent of The Hollow Man “a superb direct finish up The Clown/Bells wall”.

Finally, Andy discusses in superb detail what drove him to spend 44 days over three years attempting to redpoint Punks in the Gym 32 (the world’s first 8b+) and he describes the controversy that caused him to repair the infamous “bird nest” hold with sika. Punk in the Gym is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging read and I'm left with the urge to visit Arapiles and wondering could I ever be good enough to climb Punks in the Gym?

 

Further reading (listening):

Listen to Andy discuss Punks in the Gym in his own words on You Tube