ONE of the world’s most respected mountaineers is the latest high-profile figure to support a North-East initiative to inspire a new generation of walkers.

Alan Hinkes, OBE, who lives in Northallerton, has praised new charity, The Walk & Talk Trust, for launching The Big Smile – a series of 50 fully-guided 20km fundraising walks through the beautiful countryside of the north.

The charity’s aim is to boost physical and mental wellbeing through the power of walking – and talking – and to raise money to provide thousands of children, and disadvantaged adults with free walking boots.

Alan is the first Briton to climb all of the world’s highest and most dangerous mountains. There are 14 8,000-metre peaks in what is known as the “death zone” and he is one of only 12 people to have achieved the feat.

He welcomed the launch of The Big Smile, which is being supported by The Northern Echo, and has the backing of other celebrities, including Sir Chris Bonington and Steve Cram.

Alan said: “I am delighted to hear about this great initiative, aimed at encouraging people to get out walking, connect to the glorious North-East countryside, and build new friendships out in the fresh air.

“The past 12 months have been incredibly difficult for everyone, with mental and physical health being adversely affected for many people during lockdown, so The Big Smile comes at just the right time.

“The end result will be children receiving a free pair of walking boots, and that’s a wonderful objective because it will help to inspire a new generation of walkers and lovers of the countryside. Congratulations to The Walk and Talk Trust for showing the way and I wish the charity every success.”

Alan began his mountaineering career whilst at Northallerton Grammar School, North Yorkshire. He progressed to the Alps with ascents of many difficult mountains, including the notorious North Face of the Eiger, eventually graduating to the Himalayas.

He works as an outdoor equipment technical consultant, author, motivational speaker, environmentalist, and mountain guide.

Alan was awarded the OBE in the 2006 New Year's Honours and is an Honorary Citizen of his home town of Northallerton. His charitable work involves supporting Water Aid, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, British Red Cross, and Mountain Rescue.

The first of The Big Smile walks starts from Raby Castle, near Staindrop, on June 21. For more details go to

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