Alan Hinkes answers YOUR questions

Over the last fortnight you've been putting your questions to one of the world's top climbers.

Alan Hinkes was the first Briton to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000m summits and to this day is one of only a handful of people to do so.

There was a great response on the forum and we're delighted to say Alan has now answered all your questions. 

The lines are now closed, so to speak, and here is what Alan had to say...



Hi Alan, May i ask you what your favourite Welsh mountain is?

I love Tryfan because it looks so impressive. When I first saw it, it looked really rocky compared to the Lakes. I also love Snowdon because of Crib Goch, Clogwyn Du'r Arddu climbing wall and the steam locomotive, because I'm a big fan of steam engines.




Do you go out and walk when you just fancy it or are all your walks planned in advance? If you have a few hours to spare and the weather looks ok, where do you walk?

Not all my walks are planned and I do go out regularly when I can, sometimes just for a couple of hours. I walk a lot in the northern Pennines, Swaledale, Teesdale, the Lakes and the North York Moors. I love Roseberry Topping, and Catbells is a brilliant little walk.





Hi, im normally seen walking in the Lakes and the Dales, however this year I'm considering a walking trip abroad, so where lives up to the hype? Where would you recommend?

The Everest trek is fabulous. You get magnificent views of all the mountains and it certainly lives up to the hype. I've heard people say it's dirty and with too many people, but I don't think so. It's a massive area and the people there are fantastic. The Matterhorn also lives up to the hype. You can't believe the view of it from Zermatt - far better than any picture of it.




Do you get in among the high mountains of the world anymore, or have you retired to the real ale festivals and hikes with Trail magazine?

I've been back to The Alps and I've been to the 6,000ers again, but don't intend on trying any of the 8,000ers again. I was lucky to survive all of them when I did them so I don't want to push my luck. 



In mountaineering terms, if you had your time all over again, would you do anything differently? And why?

Probably not. I'm still alive and if I did anything differently I might have got the chop!



Chris Ellyatt

How old were you when you realised that you had stopped being a hill walker and become a full mountaineer?

I felt like a mountaineer in my teens because like a lot of young people I overestimated my skills and experience. I climbed in Scotland in winter and then went to the Alps feeling I knew what to do and wanting to do more and more. But it's best to serve an apprenticeship before going on to greater things.



Have you suffered from frostbite to any part of your anatomy?

I've never had it. No mountain is worth a digit and I've still got all 21 of my sticky out bits. I've been close to frost bite though with heat aches that made me want to throw up.



What motivates you to get up and out on the hills and mountains?

If you cut me in half it says 'mountaineer'. I feel normal and alive in the hills - it's where I like to be. Even if it's just for two to three hours I feel rejuvenated. I'm hooked on it - it's like my drug.




Just who makes that lovely orange jacket you seem to wear so much?!

That was a test sample from WL Gore and I think it was made in Norway. I tested it for the people who make Gore Tex fabric so it's not branded and not for sale. It's still in pretty good shape but I could do with another one!


Pie Bear

Do you have any plans to bring out a book or books about your ventures?

Yes - I have a contract to do one. But I'm not doing bum to chair enough. I need to stop going out to play so much. The first one will be about the 14 8,000ers with a chapter dedicated to each mountain and I will do it as soon as possible.


Screaming Tree

Do you take the photo of your daughter & granddaughter everywhere or solely on high altitude expeditions?

If I ever did a high altitude trip I'd always carry a hard copy picture. I don't do this for all climbs but I always have pictures of my family on my phone and my camera, which I carry with me in the hills.



Hiya fellow Yorkshireman (Marske-by-sea) , have you wandered up your beloved Roseberry Topping lately, and if so, what do you think should be done with the *********s who have totally defaced the trig point? Always thought a brass info plate would look nice on there. 

I haven't been up there this year yet but generally there's a lot of black marker pen writing on the trig point and they have to keep white washing it. There's a lot of graffiti up there - some of it 100 years old - and I guess it does look a bit unsightly. It's a bit naughty and people should have more respect for the mountain. As for the brass info plate idea, I think we can just use Ordnance Survey maps instead.




Can I have that lovely orange jacket that you must be due a newly sponsored one by now......pwitty pweeze???

I could do with a newly sponsored one. maybe I could put it on e-bay and you could bid for it there.





What would you carry on a typical Lakes/British day walk in the hills in non winter conditions, pack size etc & would you agree our British mountain's are a bit underestimated compared to foreign ones, not in terms of height but in their ability to catch out the unwary/unprepared? Sorry that's 2 questions!

Sometimes I carry a big pack for trying to get fit. But normally I just have my day sack with no less than a litre of water in it, sandwiches, a banana, organic chocolate, a small Petzl torch, camera, woolly hat, a cap, sunglasses in summer, pen, paper, mobile phone, a jacket and a fleece depending on the weather. I would say never underestimate the power of the weather on the British hills - it's part of why I love them!





Can I film you doing a walk or climb in the Lakes Mr Hinkes? A mini-documentary of yourself with Trail out on the fells answering some of these questions?

That could be arranged for a big fat fee!... OK then, some decent cask ale!





So what do you do then?  

I'm a professional hedonist - full time.

How did you get into Mountaineering?

When I was at Northallerton Grammar School they used to take us out walking on the North York Moors and the Lakes. I knew this was for me and made it happen. I formed the school climbing club and continued from there.



Do you find that your tolerance to high altitude improves as you get older (unlike Ed Hillary), and how does yours compare with that of the Sherpas?

I think I've improved my ability to suffer. By that I mean the more I'm exposed to high altitude the more I understand what's going on in my body and that makes me less anxious. But I still feel it - you always do. I compare favourably to Sherpas who live in Kathmandu because they have to get used to the altitude again when they get up there. But the Sherpas living higher up are acclimatised which is what happens when you expose yourself to that altitude for a prolonged period. 



What was your worst experience climbing the world's highest peaks?

That's a difficult one. I've had many close shaves. I survived a rock avalanche on Nanga Parbat where I was engulfed for what seemed like ages and I should have been killed. Even if one rock had scraped my arm it would have torn it off and I would have died through loss of blood. On my last 8,000er, Kangchenjunga, I came down in the dark in a blizzard. I'd had a near death experience which was both the worst and the best experience.





When you're on a mountain or out walking, do you find that you get a tune/song in your head that sticks with you all day?  Is there any particular tune that keeps coming back?

I try to get rid of it if I possibly can because it's always something you don't really want - it can drive you mad!




You slipped a disc  on Nanga Parbat when flour from a chapatti got up your nose. Since hurting your back was caused by an involuntary sneeze - which is a rare event, usually indicating an existing or undiagnosed problem. Have you since been diagnosed with any other back complaints. And since aborting the climb and planning to do it all again must have cost a lot of money, do you still eat chapattis.

I'd actually strained my back earlier from lifting a 40kg load. The sneeze was the final straw and I still have a damaged disc in my back that bothers me from time to time. I've had a few acute episodes and I've had a lot of physio. Climbing helps, as does stretching. I still eat lots of fresh chapattis - it's good hill food.



Are you a toucher? (as in, do you touch cairns when you reach a summit?)

Not really. I don't really bother with all that... though the more I think about it now, I suppose I do. I guess you can't help it when it's just sitting there at the top.



Did you touch the trig/cairn/big lump of snow of the 8000m mountains you climbed?

There aren't any trigs on the 8,000ers - I'm usually thinking of how to descend because that's often very dangerous and the danger is never over until you reach base camp. I take a photo but that's it.




If you could climb with anyone who has ever lived who would it be?

Kylie Minogue and Robert Plant. Both could sing to me to keep me amused!



Do you carry anything special like a good luck charm/photo of your family? And do you have a favourite food that you always take with you, like an energy bar and whats your favourite sandwich for your walks? Do you still enjoy low level walks around the mountains?

I carry the picture of my family but don't have a good luck charm. As far as food is concerned I always try to take a banana. I take a sandwich with organic bread, good butter and perhaps unpasteurised British cheese with avocado, rocket or water cress. I like to take good organic chocolate - Valrhona chocolate is a particular favourite of mine. I also like a tangerine and some nuts. I love low level walks - I cycled the North Sea route in the Netherlands and it doesn't get more low level than that! I've just been doing presentations in the West Midlands and went to explore Wrens Nest Nature Reserve in Dudley, which I really liked.


Alan will be giving a talk at the Brewery Arts Centre, in Kendal, on Wednesday, March 18th. Click here to book tickets or call 01539 725133.