Alan Hinkes with young climbersOne of Britain’s top mountaineers has become patron of the service he says helped launch his climbing career.

Alan Hinkes with young climbers

Alan Hinkes, the first Briton to top all the world’s 8,000m peaks, agreed to the post in recognition of the part played by North Yorkshire County Council’s outdoor education service in fostering his interest in climbing. His first taste of the outdoors was at the council’s Great Fryupdale centre in the North York Moors.

Hinkes, 54, who was awarded the OBE after conquering the 14 highest mountains in the world, paid tribute to the outdoor service, and in particular a schoolboy visit to the centre near Danby. He said: “I don’t think I would have ended up climbing the highest mountains if that hadn’t started me off.

“It was the first time I had been taken to an outdoor activities place and it made a huge impression on me.”

Hinkes says that, by becoming patron, he hopes to raise the profile of the outdoor centres and champion outdoor adventure, an aim backed by the Government’s recent Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom.

During his time teaching in the North-East, Hinkes frequently took his pupils on outdoor activities. He said: “It’s good for youngsters to be out in the hills, to have to sit and eat together, manage in teams, be with teachers in a different context than at school  

“The great thing about North Yorkshire’s outdoor education centres is that they are run by qualified, well-experienced staff who know about children and can take them through the whole process.”

North Yorkshire has four outdoor activity centres: Great Fryupdale, Bewerley Park in Nidderdale, East Barnby near Whitby and Humphrey Head on Morecambe Bay. The council encourages its schools to offer the opportunity of a residential stay at one of these centres at least once in every child’s school career.

Hinkes, who started his conquests of the 8,000m peaks in 1987, finally accomplished his feat in 2005 with the ascent of Kangchenjunga. He attended Northallerton College.

Councillor John Watson, executive member for schools said: “We are delighted that Alan Hinkes has become patron of our outdoor education service, of which we are very proud.  Outdoor education gives children real learning about the fundamentals of life.  What’s more, unless children have this experience of the outside environment first hand, it is much more difficult for them to appreciate its value.”

Ofsted applauding the ‘distinctive and valuable resource’ of its outdoor education service ‘for building the skills and confidence of young people’.