Years ago my friend Gregg handed me Jamie Andrew’s book, Life and Limb, about the mountaineering accident Jamie endured in the Alps, which took his friend’s life and resulted in quadruple amputation of his severely frostbitten limbs.
His writing pulled me from shock at the raw horror of the situation to amazement at his perseverance, both through his hospital recovery and then back home, as he returned to the mountains with prosthetics and took on unbelievable challenge after challenge. I read that book in a matter of days and later went to listen to Jamie deliver the headline talk at the Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival. That night he finished with a slide of two small, smiling faces, his twins, concluding that of all his adventures as a quadruple amputee, these two little people were by far the biggest challenge yet.
At the end of the day, Jamie is a normal guy - whatever that means – a family man, prioritising his wife and three children and getting out into the hills whenever he can around his commitments. I was over the moon when he kindly agreed to a conversation about his life, and yup, a little nervous too. Probably like many, I didn’t want to say the “wrong thing” and didn’t know if he would want to go into his accident for the thousandth time. But like most worries, they turned out to be baseless and I realised there was no “way to be”, just open to whatever the meeting and our conversation brought.
Jamie was a joy to talk to, and is about as down to earth as they come. Clearly not a limelight-chaser but a mountaineer who has learnt step by step, through trial and error, how to navigate hugely challenging situations, both mentally and physically. He has been taken so far out of his comfort zone into the inconceivable and learnt how to cope, so much so that he wouldn’t go back to a life with his hands and feet.
Since his amputations he has ski toured, snowboarded, run marathons, hiked munros and summited Ben Nevis, the Matterhorn and Kilimanjaro – and is raising his three kids at the same time, which I believe alone deserves a medal. We talked about his younger years, his memories from the accident, the process of working through the grief and loss, his very many adventures since and his feelings on being an inspiration and role model.
If you haven’t read Jamie’s book go add it to the top of your list, and keep an eye on his website for talks he’s giving. Jamie is an incredible public speaker and you can also book him for a work event.
And show notes below. As ever, if you rate this conversation please let me know through a five-star rating or review, it’ll help keep the mic warm.