Celebrated mountaineer and dalesman Alan Hinkes tells Jenny Needham why he's proud to be a 'dogsbody'

ALAN HINKES, was born and bred in Romanby, just outside Northallerton, but lives now in Teesdale. Well-known for his mountaineering feats, he is also an internationally qualified Mountain Guide, photographer, film maker, writer and outdoor equipment tester, as well as giving inspirational talks about his adventures climbing the world's highest peaks.

Alan is also a great supporter of Swaledale, Teesdale and Cleveland mountain rescue teams, raising money for the cause and taking photographs of training exercises to accompany the many articles he writes for various magazines. He has just been made patron of Mountain Rescue Search Dogs England (MRSDE), only the second person to hold the title. The honour comes as the charity, which trains dogs to search for missing people, celebrates its 50th anniversary. "I've quite often worked as a 'dogsbody', which entails heading off and letting the dogs find me," he says.

As most of the cost of training the dogs is covered by the handlers themselves, Alan urges people to support the charity through donations. Find out how to help at mountainrescuesearchdogsengland.org.uk

Alan Hinkes

Alan Hinkes

Where are your favourite spots in the region?

We are blessed with so much choice: the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and North Pennines. When I was younger and living in Northallerton, I would regularly visit Sheepwash, a popular picnic spot just north of Osmotherley. It was once a watering place on the ancient drovers' road over the moors to Yarm and the River Tees. I would also hike up Black Hambleton, a distinctive flat-topped hill on the western edge of the North York Moors, or climb on the crags in Scugdale above Swainby. Other times I might visit Wensleydale, Hawes and Semerwater.

What constitutes a perfect day out for you?

I often visit Upper Teesdale, Baldersdale with its reservoirs, and Weardale in the North Pennines. The area has a beguiling wildness about it. I'd probably take my own food, usually organic, from Piercebridge or Cross Lanes farm shops. The latter, on the A66 near Barnard Castle, is also excellent for a meal and does delicious home-made pizzas. For a good pint of real ale, I'd head to the Four Alls, at Ovington, a little gem run by Dave and Christine with superb home-cooked food.

Your favourite landmark in the region?

Roseberry Topping. I saw it often as a child, passing en route to the seaside. I would look up at the matchstick-sized people on the summit and be fascinated and want to climb up there. Now I go up several times a year. The 360 degree panorama from the summit is superlative – value for money after what is a relatively easy bimble to the top.

Alan Hinkes

Alan Hinkes

What are you reading at the moment?

I often have a couple of books on the go. I've just finished an Ian Rankin, and George Orwell's 1984, which I'd read a long time ago for O-level. It's a depressing novel with a lot of prescient analogies to this present situation – so I wouldn't recommend it. I've just started reading Becoming a Mountain by Stephen Alter and 1915: The Death of Innocence by Lyn Macdonald.

Your inspiration

My Grandma. She lived until she was 100, so there's hope for me yet. She had a hard life, but was always positive, resilient and happy. Born in 1900, a day out on a Sunday when she was a little girl was to walk the six miles from Brompton to Osmotherley and walk back again; sometimes she might use a horse and trap, or later, a charabanc. She loved a steam train trip to the coast – Redcar, Saltburn or Whitby. I still think of her when I visit these areas.

Your proudest achievement

Becoming the first and only Briton to climb the 14 highest peaks in the world – all over 8,000m – and surviving. Also, of course, my family – my daughter Fiona and grandchildren Jay, Mia and Seb.

What’s the best thing about living in the region

I love this northern part of Britain from North Yorkshire across to Cumbria and through County Durham to Northumberland. I have lived in each county and got to know the area – the ancient kingdom of Northumbria – well. For me, its joys include access to the fells and hills and open countryside, or even coastline if I want a sea air fix.

How did you manage during lockdown?

Hanging in – getting outside as much as possible, cycling, walking and climbing. I'm always happy in this North of England area. Once restrictions are lifted, though, it might be nice to have a hot rock climbing trip to Spain or Greece, or a cold ice climbing trip to Norway, scaling frozen waterfalls.