Easy runner: James Harcombe on the Routeburn Track during last month's 'vertical metres' mission

Queenstown ultra-runner James Harcombe’s motto could be ‘climb every mountain’.

In what’s thought to be a first, the 54-year-old last month conquered every peak on the ridgelines surrounding the Wakatipu Basin in one stretch.

He accomplished his lofty goal in 35-and-a-half hours, notching 159 kilometres by hiking and scrambling the ups, jogging the downs and running the flats.

Harcombe undertook the weekend mission during his successful bid to rack up 30,500 vertical metres, or 100,000 feet, in one calendar month – he notched up 8020 vertical metres in this mission alone.

The challenge was inspired by his Wanaka mate Mal Law’s quest, over the course of this year, to notch up 305,000 vertical metres, or one million feet.

For his ‘around the basin’ assault, Harcombe set off from his Queenstown home, ran the Frankton Track, then, in an anti-clockwise direction, reached landmarks like the Remarkables, Ben Cruachan, Gibbston, Arrowtown, Crown Peak, Mt Dewar, Big Hill, Arthurs Point, Moonlight and Bowen Peak, before returning home.

For one long stretch of about 80km, from 8pm till early the following afternoon – the night run coinciding with heavy rain – he was joined by fellow local ultra-runner Becky Nixon.

Harcombe says 35-and-a-half hours is his longest-continuous run/power-hike, but only just he’s taken 29 and 32 hours over two Northburn 100 Milers (161km), near Cromwell.

As part of his month-long challenge, he also took just over 12 hours to make four ascents/descents of Ben Lomond and also ran the Routeburn and summited Mt Dick, near Kingston.

Crowning achievement: Mal Law, left, Becky Nixon and James Harcombe on a separate conquest of Crown Peak last month

Harcombe, like Law, has also used his vertical metres challenge to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, raising about $1600 to date.

His biggest feat, however, came two years ago when he circumnavigated Wales, running 1742km in 25 days.

Asked how he manages such colossal missions, he replies: “You can always do a lot more than you think you can do, if you put your mind to it.”