Grounded – virus puts mountaineer Alan's plans on hold
FOR a man who has spent the majority of his life outdoors, you might expect mountaineer Alan Hinkes to be climbing the walls during the ongoing period of coronavirus lockdown.
But you don’t become the first British climber to stand atop the world’s 14 highest peaks without maintaining a positive outlook.
“I have solo climbed for days and weeks and I once did a three-month solo expedition and when you are on a mountain on your own you are in danger all by yourself,” he says.
“This is a different kind of stress and pressure than I have been used to. It’s like being under house arrest. But like everything, you have got to be positive. You can’t do anything about it.”
Like everyone, normal life for Mr Hinkes came to a halt with the coronavirus lockdown.
He had recently returned to his home near Barnard Castle from climbing assignments in Spain and Norway.
“I had been rock climbing in Spain in January. I came back from that and was working out in Norway, climbing frozen waterfalls,” he said.
“I was aware of Covid-19 in Norway and I was physically distancing from people – no fist pumping or elbow pumping.
“The week before the announcement [of the lockdown] people were not taking it seriously with me. I had various appointments and people were still trying to shake hands.
“So I knew it was coming having followed what was happening in other countries.”
The previous few months had been particularly busy for Mr Hinkes.
Prior to his European climbing trips, and at the invitation of the Falklands Islands government, he visited the South Atlantic to publicise the walking and outdoor attractions of the far-flung UK outpost.
All that came to a sudden halt.
“The week before the lockdown, all my work was cancelled – I was going to be doing conferences, guiding and lectures. Everything is going to be cancelled until next year.”
Adventures planned for the summer had included a trip to Greece for some rock climbing, then a return to Spain and finally across to the Swiss Alps.
“Some of it was guiding and some was for my own pleasure,” he says.
“I was not particularly stressed at first, but obviously, it’s not that simple. However, I am very philosophical about it – you have to be.
“It’s going to be hard for everybody and really hard to keep positive. I don’t think people realise this could go on for possibly six months or more.”
In the meantime, he plans to keep busy writing for specialist mountaineering magazines and he has even been asked about producing podcasts.
And, of course, there is daily exercise.
“We are really fortunate to live in this area where you can get out for some fresh air. In a way, I have got my freedom – the fells.”