Best known for being the first Briton to climb all 14 of the worlds highest mountains, Alan Hinkes OBE recently set a record for scaling all the highest peaks in the 39 English shire counties. Alan, who was awarded an OBE in 2006 in recognition of his mountaineering prowess, completed his latest challenge in just 7 days!
The climb began on Saturday 28thAugust and ended at the top of the final peak, Helvellyn at 4.15pm on the 4th Sept 2010. To complete the challenge, Alan enlisted the help of a helicopter to get him from one place to another for the final day. Travelling across England, navigating peaks from Cornwall to Northumberland, Alan was raising money and awareness for Mountain Rescue England & Wales. The organisation is something he is passionate about after being caught in an avalanche earlier this year. He spoke to Katy Dartford about the challenge and its highs and lows.
Katy: So you completed the challenge faster than you expected?
Alan: No, it was about the right time. Perhaps if I’d have more sleep deprivation I might have done it a bit quicker, but a week was about right.
Katy: Did you generally cover a couple of counties a day?
Alan: It varied. On the first day I did Northumberland, Yorkshire and Durham and they were big ones. Then the next day I did quite a few. I covered Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland and the next day I did the lowest high point – in Huntingtonshire- its called Boring fields.
Katy: What were the good and bad parts of the challenge?
Alan: Well, the lowest high point, Boring fields, wasn’t a low point adventure wise, it was great fun and I did it in the dark. Infact I did a few in the dark. When I got there I didn’t have the local ordinance survey map for the area, but I had a GPS and like all these electronic gadgets it took that moment to conk out. I usually fix things like lap tops by taking the battery out and putting it back in and that’s what I did here, but it didn’t work. Then this guy lent me his 1/25 thousand ordinance survey map, not that I needed it because there was a lot of farm tracks at this highest point in the Nebraska-like fields of Huntingtonshire. But he got most upset when I said to him it was known as ‘Boring Field.’ He said ‘I like this field, I find it really interesting and its got great views.’ Anyway it was an interesting spot in the moonlight, in an idiosyncratic way. You could see it was a little bit like Nebraska with its fields and that- so that’s sort of interesting.
Katy. What was the most memorable high point?
Alan: Mickle Fell, the highest point of Yorkshire was great- I’ve only done it once before and its usually got limited access because its on a MOD range. But we did it over the bank holiday when there was open access, and pretty grim weather. There was horizontal lashing rain so there was wind chill on the top and it was freezing. But I went up with a couple of lads from Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team which made it very memorable. Then after that the weather just got better and better, a big high settled in over the country in that last week of August so it was quite pleasant going to all the high points and visiting every county in England. But it was also a bit frustrating as I couldn’t go rock climbing I must say!
Katy: Were there any disappointing high spots?
Alan: Well, there was the highest point in Middlesex, which is a set of traffic lights in Bushey Heath, – that’s in Greater London now I believe! Bedfordshire was also a letdown. When I was a child I did the Dunstable Downs. I’ve got friends who live there and you could drive to the top and there are amazing views along the Chiltern Ridge. There is also the London gliding club there that’s very famous. But when I get there this time there’s a pay and display car park and a huge National Trust visitor centre, right there in the middle of the countryside. You used to be able to drive into this lovely downland and now you drive there and there this modern building steel and glass structure which rather urbanised what was a nice bit of Chiltern landscape and the highest point in Bedfordshire.
Katy: Any other bad moments?
Alan: There wasn’t really a worse one. There were lots of interesting little spots you go to. It was all quite good really. Im really pleased to have completed the challenge within the deadline I set myself. A few factors were against us such as traffic over the bank holiday but luckily the weather held out and with the help of a last minute chopper we were able to scale the final peak in good time.
More information on Alan and the challenge can be found at www.pro-trek.co.uk
The peaks scaled by Alan included:
Cold Overton Park
Brown Clee Hill
Old Man of Coniston