Climber sets out to conquer the Himalayan death zone

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The Independent Online
A mountaineer who has already conquered Everest and K2 plans to climb into the "death zone" six more times this year to achieve a world record. Alan Hinkes, 42, has so far climbed 8 of the 14 mountains over 8,000 metres, the altitude known as "the death zone" because the body burns energy faster than it can acquire it from the air.

He wants to climb the remaining six peaks by the end of October. If successful he will be the first person to have reached six "premier league" summits in a season.

"Some may see me as an eccentric madman but I just want to climb mountains," he said yesterday. "I know it's going to be tough, but after preparing for this challenge for 10 years, I'm physically and mentally ready for it.

"At every stage I'll remember my old maxim that success is returning and the summit is only a bonus. No mountain is worth a life."

His first target will be Lhotse in Nepal, at 8,501m the fourth highest mountain in the world, and in June he will set off for Makalu, 8,475m, the summit of which he has twice before failed to reach. His first attempt in 1988 ended near the summit, when he was forced to turn back to help a companion, who survived a 400m fall in an avalanche. He was ready for a second attempt two years ago but he never even made it to base camp after injuring a leg in a fall.

However, later that year Mr Hinkes was sufficiently recovered to climb K2, at 8,650m, the world's second highest - and most dangerous - mountain, in Pakistan. On his way down K2 in July 1995 he crossed paths with Alison Hargreaves, who was on her way up the mountain which would cost her life.

After Makalu, Mr Hinkes will try to reach the summit of Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak at 8,586m, Nanga Parbat, the ninth at 8,126m, Dhaulagiri, the sixth at 8,172m and finally Annapurna, the tenth highest at 8,078m in October.

Chris Bonington, non-executive director of Berghaus, which is sponsoring the pounds 70,000 challenge, said: "The odds, especially the weather, are against him but that will make his success all the greater," he said.

The first person to climb all 14 peaks was the Austrian Reinhold Messner in 1986.