Mission accomplished

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A 60-year-old Queenstown teacher this Saturday completes an amazingly single-minded – and quirky – physical feat. 

Mark Douglas will finish his 12-year mission to climb Queenstown’s 1748-metre Ben Lomond peak on all 366 days of the leap calendar year. 

Douglas – who’ll mark his 61st birthday the day after – has invited friends along to celebrate the milestone. 

According to his meticulous records, he commenced his challenge on June 30, 1999, when he realised he’d already run or walked 27 times to the summit of Ben Lomond. 

After averaging 25 climbs a year, Douglas upped that to about 40 a few years ago. 

“I was going to be 65 when I finished but now I’m four years ahead. I sped up because I just wanted to get it over.” 

Douglas says running downhill has got harder with age, and he credits local physio Allan Garrard for keeping his “wrecked” lower back under control. 

“There is no prize but there is the satisfaction of doing something quite unusual, and the beauty is I’ve had to do it on certain dates whatever the weather – sometimes it’s been snowing when I’ve left home.” 

Amazingly, Douglas says he’s only pulled out twice due to bad weather. 

“It’s not boring, it’s always different. 

“I’ve got an enormous feeling of satisfaction out of the ones that have been particularly challenging. 

“And at night-time, when you see the lights of Queenstown, and you realise you’re miles away from anywhere, it is an amazing experience.” 

Douglas has taught at Queenstown Primary for 31 years. 

And he says he hopes his feat inspires others. 

“I say to the children, have a goal in life. 

“This has been a long-term one for me.” 

Douglas is also happy to reel off a few other goals he’s still striving for: 

  • Saturday will mark the 145th successive month he’s climbed Ben Lomond and he’s aiming for at least 150
  • He’s climbed nearby Bowen Peak 43 times and is aiming for 50
  • He’s doing his 17th Kepler Challenge, near Te Anau, in December, and is aiming for 20
  •  He’s done all eight Routeburn Classics “and I want to keep doing that till I drop.”