Tenacious Mark Douglas completes his Ben Lomond challenge

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There are those who have summited Queenstown’s Ben Lomond, those who haven’t – and then there’s Mark Douglas. 

The veteran local primary school teacher last Saturday completed his “crazy” 12-year-long mission to climb the 1748-metre peak on all 366 days of the leap calendar year. 

Twenty-four people who accompanied him on Saturday’s difficult climb through treacherous soft snow and mud marvelled at his feat. 

“I must admit, looking back, that [the challenge] was a bit crazy, really,” says Douglas, who turned 61 the day after. 

“I didn’t realise just how interesting it was going to become. 

“But because I was focused so much on doing it, you just overcome the difficulties and say, ‘well, stuff it, I just have to do it’. 

“I guess I’ve got a basic fitness most people my age wouldn’t have, but a lot of the really class athletes will say that a lot of fitness is mental.” 

Douglas admits to mixed feelings after Saturday’s climb: “I’m pretty satisfied but in some ways a little disappointed that it’s all over – it’s been a real focus for a long time.” 

However Douglas still plans a monthly Ben Lomond climb to extend a sequence that’s now reached 145 months. 

“The problem now is motivation – it’s going to be a lot harder because I won’t have a specific date that I have to do, whatever.” 

But he says he’ll now have more time to take friends on other local climbs such as Cecil Peak and Mt Earnslaw. 

“I’m not allowed to be selfish any more, I have to start taking a few mates on some of these other interesting ones.”