Latest from Al Hinkes as he prepares to attempt the world's third highest peak, Kangchenjunga, plus an example of Alan's under-rated primitive mountain art.
A quick update on Alan Hinkes and his attempt on Kangchenjunga,
the world's third highest peak after Everest and K2 and the
penultimate summit in his quest to become the first Brit' to climb
all 14 of the world's 8,000 metre peaks.
More significantly, we can at last bring you an example of Alan's
famed, avant garde, new wave of primitive mountain art... (right)
After flying out to Nepal at the tail end of last week, Al has
spent a few successful days in Kathmandu sorting out logistical
arrangements with his Nepalese logistic contact and friend, Vikram
Pandy and is about to set off on the long two-week walk in to base
He writes: "I have spent the past few days finalising
documentation and preparing my kit and have plenty to take with me to
base camp! I hope to begin the trek in on Friday April 3rd and this
should take me approximately 12 to 14 days depending on the weather
conditions, but I'll keep you all posted along the way."
More details direct from Alan as soon as we have them...
Alan's own press release in full:
ALAN'S AIM TO BE THE FIRST BRITON TO CLIMB ALL FOURTEEN
ONLY TWO ARE LEFT - DHAULAGIRI AND KANGCHENJUNGA
Imagine if a three minute mile was possible and only seven
or eight people had run it, none of them from these shores. There
would be quite a few people in training to be the first Brit to break
that three minute barrier. Challenge 8000 is my three minute mile and
I am on the final bend of the final lap, with only two big peaks left
to climb. However, it will be no sprint finish; pacing is essential,
while determination and stamina are pre-requisites.
No mountain is worth a life; for me returning is a success
and the summit is only a bonus. In fact I have been on 26 expeditions
to the 8000m peaks and made 12 summits, leaving only two Dhaulagiri
and Kangchenjunga, to climb.
So far seven people have succeded in summiting all 14, but
no Briton. To climb all 14 8000ers is a quantifiable challenge, just
as a four minute mile is a quantifiable record and the number of
people achieving that can be counted.
Challenge 8000 is now a personal quest, but I never really
set out to climb all 14 until I had summited eight and had only six
All of these giant mountains are in the death zone, an
unforgiving environment where the human body rapidly deteriorates and
it is not possible for human beings to survive more than a few days
at most. There are no rescue teams or helicopters for help. A
helicopter has an altitude ceiling of 6500m (21,000 feet), so you are
on your own - in fact you might as well be on the moon. Just to
survive takes tremendous effort. All water is frozen as snow and ice
so requires melting; breathing and movement is difficult and slow,
sleep is virtually impossible and the cold - often 40 below - can
freeze fingers and toes solid.
To climb one 8000'er is a privilege despite all the
objective dangers on such a mountain. I do not have a death with;
climbing enhances my life and I climb to live. To return safely to
base camp after tackling an 8000'er gives me an inner sense of
elation, well being and pleasure. On top of a peak I know I am in one
of the most dangerous places on earth, so I tend to have a feeling of
achievement tempered with anxiety and trepidation. Many mountaineers
die on the descent when exhaustion can lead to a slip or the weather
closes in. The climb is not over until I am back in base camp - that
is when I can really relax and let the ascent sink in, as I tuck into
a plate of egg and chips and chapattis, when a mug of hot milky tea.
Some of my ascents have been very traumatic and I have had a few
close shaves with death.
At 8046m, Shisha Pangma was my first 8000'er. In 1987 I
climbed a new route on the north face of the mountain in a two
person, lightweight, Alpine-style push. On the ascent we bivouacked
at 7800m with no tent - an experience I have not been eager to
repeat. My climbing partner Steve Untch suffered severe frostbite to
his feet and had several toes amputated. (Sadly he was killed on K2
My ascent of Shisha Pangma coincided with Polish mountaineer,
Jerzy Kukuczka's 14th. We were together on the same expedition, and
he was the second person to complete the Grand Slam of all 14. I
learnt a lot on this expedition - never underestimate the conditions,
spend time getting acclimatized and don't hang around too high too
long. I began to understand why extreme altitude is called. "The
Death Zone". Even though I saw the savage toll that extreme
altitude, frostbite and cold can exact on the human body none of this
deterred me and I continued high altitude mountaineering.
Since that first successful 8000m ascent in 1987, I have gone on
to climb another 10 8000'ers, including K2 ("The Savage Mountain"),
Nanga Parbat ("The Killer Mountain") and the world's highest
mountain, Everest. Of all of the 14 giants, perhaps the most
difficult to summit and survive is K2. Certainly for me this is the
first prize. Although Everest is the highest mountain I feel it is
only the second prize. K2 is nearly as high so has all the same
problems of extreme altitude, but it is a much more difficult climb.
It is steeper and more technical, has worse weather, more avalanche
and rock fall potential and is more remote and arduous to
Some people take a flag to the summit of mountain, while others
just take themselves. I carry a photograph of Fiona my daughter and
take it out when I reach the top. This remind me that no mountain is
worth a life. Fiona and I have a pact - I trust her to be there when
I get back and she trusts me to come home safely. This helps me to
focus on getting back down from the summit of each 8000'er, which is
often the most difficult part of an expedition.
I am often asked, "Why do you want to climb all of the 8000m
peaks?" It is a difficult question to answer. Can I reply, "Because
they are there" as Mallory did? Eric Shipton thought that it was
impossible to provide an entirely satisfactory explanation for any
recreation. That is perhaps even more so for mountaineering with its
My plan now is to complete Challenge 8000. Two summits left,
Dhaulagiri and Kangchenjunga, could take me two years depending on
conditions and weather. The best season to climb is the pre-Monsoon.
Leaving Britain in late march to trek in and acclimatize in April and
summit in May before the Monsoon hits in late May, early June.
This year I will be attempting Kangchenjunga to check out the
Berghaus website for updates during March, April and