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In this book, renowned British mountaineer Alan Hinkes relates his experiences of climbing all 14 of the peaks over 8000m: the world's highest mountains. Alongside stunning photography, he describes his expeditions - many as Alpine-style ascents - capturing the beauty, harshness and danger of these mountains.
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To climb one 8000 metre peak is extraordinary. To conquer all 14 is an almost incomprehensible challenge. Only 14 men had ever completed the 8000ers, until 2005, when Alan Hinkes became the first Briton to climb his way into that rarefied club.
This book is the first autobiographical work by Hinkes, and chronicles his expeditions to the Himalaya in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet, and his climbs; from the first British ascent of Manaslu, to multiple 'Alpine style' ascents and the final test of snow-bound Kangchenjunga. High-altitude climbing is a dangerous business, but Hinkes balances nail-biting moments of avalanches, extreme cold and dealing with the 'Death Zone' with memories of great climbing companions, base-camp communities and the pleasure of a good cup of tea once the climb is done.
As well as being an exceptional mountaineer, Alan Hinkes is also a professional photographer. Taking great pictures at high-altitude is notoriously difficult, given the environmental dangers to both camera and cameraman. But Hinkes has collected together his most outstanding shots which capture the true nature of the world's highest mountains.
'No mountain is worth a life, coming back is a success and the summit is only a bonus.' This philosophy carried Hinkes over one of the harshest landscapes on Earth, and follows him into his book. Above all, Hinkes writes of his love of the mountains; his story is not one of cheating death, but of living life to its fullest, and highest extent.
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The Himalaya and Karakoram Mountains
Foreword by Brian Blessed
Jerzy Kukuczka & the Polish Climbers
Summit Flags & Fiona
Chapatti & Chips
The Death Zone
Mallory & Irvine
Coffee or Tea?
Photography & filming
Dealing with Death
Dressed to Survive
The Incident Pit
Shooting the Summits by Joe Cornish
1 The 8000m peaks and their first ascents
2 Alan Hinkes Expeditions
Snow was melting in a small pan over a mini gas burner. Steve Untch, my 6'5" American climbing mate, was doing his best to relax, despite being crammed into the little space remaining in our tiny bivvy tent. Close by in another tent, Jerzy ‘Jurek’ Kukuczka and Artur ‘Slon’ Hajzer were also brewing up. We were at around 6500m on Shisha Pangma and the purring stoves and steaming water heralded refreshment. I was in my element and where I wanted to be, in the Himalaya on an 8000m peak. As I contemplated the warm mug of tea, all thought of danger was washed to the back of my mind.
Abruptly, I was snapped out of this blissful reverie by an ominous, alarmingly loud thud and portentous rumble. Suddenly it was ‘action stations’. There was a great cacophony of yelling in both English and Polish, and I heard Artur and Jurek screaming, ‘Avalanche! Run! Get Out! Avalanche! Come On! Avalanche!’
I pushed the stove out of the door and the precious water spilled over the snowy ground as I frantically yanked my boots on.
In the ensuing chaotic melée I felt Steve clambering over me as he desperately tried to squeeze his huge body out of the constriction of the tent door at the same time as Jurek was gallantly trying to drag me out. It would have been comical if it had not been so terrifyingly serious. It felt like being ambushed and having to scramble and dive for cover, yet in a jubilant, mock-heroic way I was enjoying the drama. Gasping in the icy cold thin air, we tumbled down the easy-angled snow slope below the tent as the soft slab avalanche slithered down towards us.
Fortunately the avalanche ground to a halt before reaching our tents and we literally gulped sighs of relief in the rarefied air; it had been a near miss. When we had all recovered enough to stop blaspheming, I thanked Jurek for his selfless bravery in helping me out of my tent when he could have scurried away. It was a brutal baptism and a great revelation. I now clearly understood that I was not just out for a jolly jaunt with the mountaineering legend Jerzy Kukuczka. Escaping the avalanche heightened my senses and reminded me that I was in a highly hazardous, unforgiving environment. I learned a lot about how to stay alive in the Himalaya on this expedition, especially from Jurek and Artur, and it was to stand me in good stead on many future trips. Ironically, and to my great sadness, Jurek was killed only two years later on the South Face of Lhotse.
We had travelled out to Tibet – a mystical, elusive country – and Shisha Pangma seemed an obscure and enigmatic mountain. I was part of a post-monsoon Polish international expedition, organised by the Katowice Mountain Club. I had effectively served an ‘apprenticeship’ climbing and learning how to survive on 5000m and 6000m peaks in both the Andes and the Himalaya and was now embarking on an adventure to tackle this giant peak with some of the best high-altitude mountaineers in the world. The audacious plan was to attempt two 8000m peaks in succession – first a new route on Shisha Pangma and then the unclimbed South Face of Lhotse, a technical, steep Himalayan ‘big wall’.
We left Kathmandu in late August and headed up the Friendship Highway to Tibet, in the People’s Republic of China. As well as Jurek and Artur, other team members included Wanda Rutkiewicz (Poland), Christine de Colombel (France), Ramiro Navarette (Ecuador), Carlos Carsolio (Mexico) and my climbing partner Steve Untch.