Category Archives: Outdoors

Alan Hinkes OBE

On Tuesday I went to see An Evening With Alan Hinkes, and it was very well worth it! Alan HInkes is the top mountaineer in the UK; a Yorkshireman, he’s the first – and so far, the only – Brit to have climbed all 14 of the world’s mountains over 8,000m in height (the “8,000ers”), and returned without having lost even a finger. As Alan explained, with real depth and heart, achieving all 14 is hugely dangerous, and most people who try, die in the attempt.

Indeed, the first Italian to achieve this 8,000m incredible feat is now a millionaire and a household name in Italy, but for some reason, that’s not how it works in the UK, which is a real shame. I didn’t get a sense from Alan that he’s too particularly bothered, he just gets on with it, a true Yorkshireman, his slideshow of the Himalayas including pictures of the beloved North for comparison.

His talk was crammed full of jaw-dropping stuff, interspersed with good solid Yorkshire humour; at one point he showed a clip where he was filming his climbing partner up one of these thousand-metre cliff faces, when Alan slipped, the camera went all shonky, he fell but was caught by ropes and then the traditional Yorkshire curse – “Oh for fook’s sake!” and a clamber back up to where he had been stood.

That’s not online, but here he is on the summit of K2:

A lot of black humour too, as almost every person he spoke about was suffixed with “he’s dead now too” which really drove home just how incredibly dangerous the 8000ers are.

Now, I originally met Alan when he accompanied my dad (himself a bumbly climber of some renown) to visit us out on St Kilda when I was working there in June. Here we are, my colleague Jack, me, dad, and Alan, on top of Conachair, St Kilda’s highest peak. St Kilda is “a bit breezy” even in the middle of June, which explains why we look so weather beaten:

Alan’s a real lively man, one of those people who is absolutely fascinated in absolutely everything and an absolutely bloody good laugh! If you get the chance to hear him speak, I do recommend it.

Ben Macdui

I thought I’d take advantage of the weather and go climb Ben Macdui, the second highest hill in the UK after Ben Nevis. Also, thinking about it, also the second highest hill I’ve ever climbed, after Mount Olympos in Greece, which is more than twice the height!

For various reasons, I reached the car park at Linn of Dee way later than planned, so after a couple of hours walking through hot, muggy Glen Lui, I decided to camp on the shoulder of Sron Riach.

Camp.. in my new tent! A Wild Country Zephyros 2. Although quick and easy to put up in the rain, I struggled to get it really taut, so it would be a nightmare in a wind. The inside is very spacious, it’s a 2 person tent, but very light at 1.8kg.

Anyway, the other interesting thing is that I saw a Black Mountain Moth! They are spread throughout Europe, but only found above 600m.

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The next morning broke with a beautiful, clear dawn. I set off at 6ish to the summit of Ben Macdui, spotting a Ptarmigan on the way.

It was a long walk down, particularly the walk along Glen Derry, which was just a bit knackering. I couldn’t get my rucksack to sit right and as a result developed a very sore shoulder muscle on the descent, still with about 12 miles to go. Luckily the views were stunning and more than made up for it.

The weather really was perfect, but I think my next walk won’t have such an epic walk in, at least not until I’m feeling fitter and have remembered how to work my backpack.

If you’re really interested, I have uploaded this walk to ViewRanger, where you can have a look and download the gpx.

The Tiger’s Paw

Years and years ago, Argos released a range of tents under the brand name Pro-action. One of these, a one-man tent for £25, was called “the Tigerpaw” and was one of the greatest bargains ever created on earth ever anywhere any time ever.

Astonishingly, I managed to get one in about 2008, and I’ve used it in all my backpacking trips ever since, having just used it to camp on Skye last week. Weighing in at just under 2kg, packing down to 40cm by 16cm (not much bigger than a sleeping bag) (and I remind you it was made by Argos) it’s an absolute blinder of a backpackers tent.

Wild Camp site
Here it is on the banks of Loch Neldricken, in the Southern Uplands, one of the most unexpectedly beautiful hikes I’ve ever done.

Camp Site
This is me camping in it in 2009, halfway through an epic 30 mile hike from Bellingham to Otterburn in the Northumbrian hills, on the May bank holiday. Both of these hikes, despite being weekends in brilliant weather, I did not see a soul.

That’s a lie – near where I camped in Northumberland, there was a remote cottage, marked as a shieling on my map, so I expected it to be ruined. When I got there, I could see a little wind turbine, and walked a bit closer until someone started shouting at me.

At first I thought he was telling me to clear off, but no, he was asking if I fancied a cup of tea, so I ended up sitting and chatting with him. He’d been living out there for years, on his own, off the grid, having put up his own solar panels and wind turbines, and was in the slow, laborious process of building a barn across the yard; it was taking him ages as he was wheelchair bound, with a quad bike for getting around in. What a great guy.

Anyway. When I was on Skye, I did realise that my little Tigerpaws wasn’t all that great in a torrential downpour and two inches of standing water. So I am going to splash out on something similar, but that will probably cost five times as much, and won’t be as adorably cheap, cheerful and brilliant.