Interview With Alan Hinkes OBE

I have to admit I was a bit nervous about speaking to Alan Hinkes. An expert mountaineer who writes for Trail, who films documentaries, and who is also a  photographer, speaker, guide, walker, OBE owner, Yorkshire Man of the year and honorary Doctor, Citizen and Fellow, I wasn’t sure there was anything I could ask Alan that people don’t ask him everyday.

The first Briton to climb the world’s highest mountains, the 14 8000m peaks, all of which are in the ‘death zone’. With only another 12 people alive who have achieved this feat, Alan is part of a lucky few.

A straight talking Yorkshire man, I wanted to speak to Alan about the outdoors and what other activities he likes, as for a lifetime mountaineer, being outside and active is obviously something he loves.

So what have you been doing today as a typical day for Alan Hinkes OBE?

I was out in the hills today. Nice and grey, windy and I spent it scrambling. Now I’m back to Hawkshead just in time for the rain; last week was lovely and warm.

You’re still Yorkshire based then? (Alan grew up in Northallerton)

Yes still Yorkshire. I actually got awarded Yorkshire man of the year by Dalesman magazine this year which was very nice.

Did you get a statue you can keep in the loo to impress friends with?

Oh yes I got my ornament! I don’t keep it in the loo though!

 Your achievements are vast. Can you tell us about some of your recent achievements that people might not be aware of?

Most recently was last year when I did the highest point in all the counties in England, sponsored by Casio Pro-Trek for the charity Mountain Rescue. This was a great way to get out and whilst some of these aren’t particularly high, you get a sense that you are looking at some real beauty spots.

What’s your own preference then?

Oh definitely gnarly stuff. There are plenty of nice walks in the UK though. I think because I’m a Yorkshire man people expect me to say that it’s all about Yorkshire but actually, I find the lakes beautiful. Really nice. There’s also Wales. The Dales, the Moors. Plenty of great places.

Do you still get abroad?

Oh yes. I’m off to Nepal and Tibet soon and Bavaria for rock climbing, so yes, I still get out.

How did you get into the outdoors? Obviously we have the problem with obesity and so on, what would you say to that?

I started off at school and then it was a progression really to the Alps, the North Face of the Eiger, the Himalayas.

I think it’s really important to get kids outdoors. I was working with some PE students today with absolutely no experience of hill walking and all you need is a guide to get you out there at first. I’m a really big fan of walking. You don’t need to get out on 15 miles walks to get the health benefits, just a small walk at first. I think just being outside is beneficial.

I’m also involved in charitable work for Water Aid, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Mountain Rescue and stuff with the British Mountaineering Council, and any of these charities can help young people get involved.

What do you like to wear? Any brands?

I wear so much gear that I’m not really about brands in particular. You need to have a good waterproof, the right boots for the conditions really. Outdoor gear is so much better now than it has been. Of course there are the pieces that are made for fashion but the kit I wear is some of the best around.

Make sure you have the best kit you can afford – but don’t get bogged down by brands – best to spend time in the hills rather than shopping !

GO Activities is a way for people to book activities that they might not usually do. So what are your activities asides mountaineering?

Most of my activities are hill based – climbing, scrambling, Winter climbing/ice climbing, skiing, cycling/mountain biking, anything gnarly – well almost anything ! Potholing/caving and ghyll scrambling. Away from all that I’m also really keen on photography, I need to carry a camera most of the time  – to try and capture that elusive mountain image ! 

So what’s in the future for you?

Enjoying the hills – if you cut me in half it says mountaineer.

I spend time taking people out in the hills both adults and children. I often work with difficult young people, you can see how a hill experience can affect/help change their attitudes to society.  I’ve got a book coming out next year which is all about climbing the highest mountains  – the 14 8000m peaks.

We’ll be coming to your book signing then!

You’re more than welcome to.


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