Sunday, October 23, 2005

Challenge 8000

Highs and lows of extreme altitude mountaineering

Alan Hinkes not only deserves a medal, but recognition as well, says Fergal MacErlean

The Death Zone is a place the unassuming extreme altitude British mountaineer Alan Hinkes knows inside out. The term refers to altitudes above 8,000 metres where the human body rapidly deteriorates, and includes the world’s 14 highest mountains. In May, Hinkes entered the record books as the first Briton – and one of only 13 men worldwide – to climb these snow-clad giants, found in Asia’s Himalaya and Karakoram ranges.

He says Yorkshire grit drove him to keep going on Challenge 8000, as it’s dubbed, which the 50-year-old former geography teacher began on Tibet’s Shisha Pangma, the lowest of the 8,000m peaks, back in 1987. That was the year after the 14 were first completed by Italian climbing legend Reinhold Messner. More >>