Not satisfied with being the first Briton to climb all 14 of the worlds highest mountains, or being awarded an OBE for his mountaineering prowess, Alan Hinkes is now attempting a new record to climb all of the tallest peaks in the 39 English shire counties. Whats more, he needs to do this in the fastest ever time just eight days. Alans expedition will help raise money for Mountain Rescue a service in England and Wales thats made up of highly trained life-savers and relies on 3,500 volunteers to help people in trouble. Katy Dartford spoke to him about his latest epic adventure which starts on the 27th of August.
Youve successfully completed some mammoth challenges but 39 counties in 8 days are you prepared?
Well, yes, Im very well prepared and really looking forward to getting to every county in England and knocking off the high points. But partly this challenge is about reminding people to get out there and enjoy the countryside and the hills, but to be safe and plan a bit and be prepared.
Youve already climbed 14 of the worlds highest mountains which is a British record and you were made an OBE for that and for your charity work. Thats pretty impressive, you must be pleased with all youve achieved?
Yes of course, there are only 14 mountains in the world over 8000 meters. Everest is the highest, K2 the second highest and I became the first Brit and the 12th person ever to do all 14- thats the same amount of people who have stood on the moon. Most people dont succeed in climbing the highest mountains of the world, people get killed doing it; no Frenchmans done it yet, no German, the first person to do it was an Italian, the second was Swiss – so I do feel privileged that Ive climbed the world highest mountains and been up there in the death zone. But now its great to be doing this challenge – and some of these peaks are challenging enough, with mountain rescue teams regularly working in areas like the north of England- but some will be fun like Leith Hill.
When you get to a certain point on a mountain and you feel like you just want to turn around and go home- how do you keep going?
If youre on a big mountain in the Himalaya, then you cant get rescue teams or helicopters because its too high for them and you have to keep going because youre going to die if you dont. You cant sit down and wait for someone to come and help you. But if an accident happens in the English hills you can sit down and a rescue team will come and help – but Im from the old school of trying to help yourself, so youve got to have that right mental attitude and keep going
So how should people prepare if they have no experience of hill walking or mountaineering – and would like to do something similar?Preparation is key- know how to use a map and compass, have the right footwear for what youre doing and to start out easy…And what would you say to people who would be put off when they hear horror stories in the news?Well, accidents can happen but for most people who go and enjoy the outdoors its a very small proportion so they should just get out there and enjoy itYou were helped by Mountain Rescue out in the Lake District recently when you were hit by an avalanche Thats not the kind of thing youd expect to happen in the Lake District? Well I DO expect it to happen- and am well aware it can. Most people are gobsmacked to find out it can happen in the Lakes, but he hills do go up to 3000 feet there and above 2000-3000 feet its like another world, its arctic, covered in snow in the winter. It was March when I was there and one of the snow slopes released on me and I was swept away in an avalanche. I somehow managed to get myself out of it with quick thinking and quick reactions but a little bit of luck too- but the rescue team was called and three teams came out and they were all happy I was safe and well- so you must never underestimate the British hills…”
And when you were caught in the avalanche how did you escape it did you have to dig yourself out of it? I managed to get out of it before I was buried- but infact in the British hills most people are not buried, they get killed by being swept down and being battered over the rocks and cliffs. The snow isnt soft fluffy stuff its full of big ice blocks the size of cars and you just get mashed to a pulp in an avalanche and so even if youre not buried youre usually badly injured if not killed. I managed to get myself out before I was swept 1000 of feet to my death. I was swept about 30 meters before I got out of it, if Id gone any further Id have gone over a cliff and down a 2000 foot mountain side- so it was a close shave.You paint an extreme picture of the peaks there, but its not all scary stuff- whats your itinerary for this trip?I set off on the 27th in North Yorkshire – thats where Im from – then head down the east side of the country down to surrey on the 30th for Leith hill then I go into Cornwall and Devon, backup the west side and finish in the lake district about the 4th of September. It would be great to meet people on the way- so check out the website to find out where I am- Ill be tweeting it too … but it all depends on road conditions and the weather as to exactly where I am Finally people that would like to climb with you- can they join you? yeah it would be great to meet people on route- its about raising awareness, about getting out and enjoying yourself after all- so check the website to see exactly where i am and we can have an ice cream together at the end.You can find out more and follow Alan at www.pro-trek.co.uk . You can also link to Mountain Rescue and donate to them there.
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