The Times, still supposed the top people’s paper, recorded the other day the 65th birthday of Alan Hinkes, a man with a unique place among the nation’s high achievers.

In 2005 he became, remains, the only Britain to conquer all 14 Himalayan summits above 8,000 metres – the death zone, as brutally it’s known. More men had been on the moon, said The Observer at the time, than had done what he had.

He was appointed OBE, named Yorkshireman of the Year, has honorary doctorates or fellowships from Sunderland, Teesside and York universities and was made an honorary citizen of his home town, Northallerton.

Itself published in 2005, Fifty Yorkshire Greats – Bernard Ingham’s white rosary – included him alongside everyone from Guy Fawkes to St John Fisher, James Cook to Brian Clough, though J B Priestley and F S Trueman were alone identified initially.

But had Hinkes peaked too early? “I did feel that I’d done all that I set out to do but I knew there were plenty more challenges, plenty of unclimbed mountains in the world,” he says over a belated birthday lunch.

The birthday itself had been spent with his daughter and grandchildren in south Yorkshire – “I think I got a bottle of organic wine, we don’t make a fuss. Cats and dogs don’t have birthday parties and they’re quite happy” – the days afterwards with a bit of gentle rock wall climbing in Harrogate, lecturing, following the Tour de Yorkshire, cat sitting for a friend in the Lakes.

Hitting 65 these days by no means makes him the old man of the mountains, of course – summit and nowt, as they might almost say elsewhere. Nor is his thirst for adventure slaked.

The man who took extreme sport to extremes contemplates a return to the Himalayas next year – “I’d better go back before I seize up” – would like to conquer the highest peaks on all seven continents, still three to go, eyes climbs closer to home like Great Whernside. It’s saved, he insists, for a treat.

Onwards and upwards, then Al.

We meet at the Black Bull in Moulton, near Scotch Corner, for him a first-time visit to a long-renowned pub. Hinkes arrives on a lachrymose afternoon wearing woolly hat and fleece, the jacket never removed despite a bright blazing fire.

He retains all his fingers, less obviously but perhaps more surprisingly all his toes and (as he likes to it) his other bits, too.

Many interviews with him have been characterised by his twin watchwords that he climbs to live, not to die and that the summit is optional, returning mandatory.

This one ranges over different passions, from beer to bluebells, food to photography. Particularly he’s into food provenance – “I’m not a food fascist, I’m an aficionado”. Happily he supposes the souffle the best ever – “lovely bit of cheese.”

Forty-five years after the dark deed, he still also laments the 1974 Local Government Act which upped and offed with Mickle Fell, Yorkshire’s highest point, arbitrarily removing it to Co Durham. “Theft,” he says.

He also holds the record for the quickest ascent, seven days, of the highest point in all 39 traditional English shire counties – Mickle Fell larcenously included.

The lowest is in what was Huntingdonshire, a mere 260 feet above the sea – the bar stools at the Black Bull are more vertiginous than that – appropriately called Boring Field. “I asked a chap where it was and he got quite excited,” he recalls.

“To me it like a mini-prairie, a wheat field. There was a nearby railway embankment which was higher, but of course that’s not natural.”

It’s all greatly convivial. Cognitive dissonance gets a mention, too, but only one of us knows what he’s talking about.

His father was a plumber, his mother a nursing sister. He attended Northallerton Grammar School, developed his own black-and-white photographs in the school dark room, walked the dales and fells, made the Alps by he was 18, became a geography and PE teacher in Gateshead.

He never married – “I’d only have got divorced, what have I missed apart from a booze up?” – lives these days a bit nearer the Tees but definitely, definitively, in Yorkshire.

At school his other passion was train spotting – he prefers the term gricing – as main line steam died. “I remember the last day of steam, Saturday, August 3 1968, though there was still a little bit on the Sunday.”

Thereafter he’d tour the Durham and Northumberland coalfields with his cameras, searching for steam’s last embers. Much more recently travelled to China on a similar mission. “Seeing steam in China is like seeing wild animals in the Serengeti, completely different from a zoo.

“People are a bit malign about train spotting, it’s not as if we’re paedophiles,” he says. “It’s very educational, you can learn a lot.

“The term now is experiental, and train spotting’s a lot more experiental than sitting playing with your phone. It’s the real world, heritage railways are wonderful.”

In 1984 he was refused leave of absence to join an Everest expedition, resigning with the intention of taking up supply teaching later. Instead he became a professional mountaineer.

Completing what climbers may or may not call the Himalayan set involved 26 attempted ascents over 21 years. Kanchenjunga was third time lucky, 27 hours continuous climbing, having broken his arm after a fall on an earlier attempt.

No mishap is better remembered, however, than the occasion on which he suffered a prolapsed disc after a violent sneezing fit from inhaling a sherpa’s chapati flour. Rescue took ten days. “Oh yes,” he says, “no matter what I’ve done, that’s the one people still talk about.”

He acts as a mountain guide, gives talks, does charity work, goes pot holing, cycles, runs, writes for everything from the mountain rescue magazine to the Campaign for Real Ale, looks inevitably to the hills.

“I had to give up a few things to do what I’ve done and I haven’t retired on a fat pension. The first person to climb all 14 was an Italian, he’s still alive and now a multi-millionaire. The second was a Polish chap and he did pretty well, too.

“I’m not a millionaire but I have intellectual capital. When I get into the hills my demeanour changes, I can listen to the lambs and the skylarks, really appreciate the beauty especially at this time of year. I sometimes get recognised up there, too, and that’s quite nice.”

Manifestly he remains super-fit, more fat on his souffle. “I’m not quite as sprightly coming down as I used to be, but I can still go up. You have to be careful about slowing down because you can be slowed down a long time.

“More and more I’m coming to terms philosophically and psychologically with how lucky I am to be alive. A lot of people who go where I’ve been aren’t.

“I’m very lucky to be alive and I’m very glad to be. I haven’t a death wish, I’ve a life wish. Sixty-five is nothing. I don’t know that I’ve have done anything differently, I’m pretty happy, but there’s a lot more I want to do yet.”