If climbing the treacherous, ice-coated, crevasse-laced slopes and faces of Mt Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain – is out of reach, what’s the next best option? Climbing the second highest mountain? The third? The fiftieth? None of these seemed quite right. But then one morning, an idea emerged, a seed was sewn. It was one of those ideas which wasn’t supposed to stick; a fool’s errand that should have been brushed aside without a thought. But Kristy and I were both too stubborn to let it go once it the thought had taken root. And so it came to be that we began our ascent of Mt Cook… inside a month… at the indoor climbing wall.  

Climbing 3742 vertical metres indoors, on plastic holds. A month of pumped arms, chalky fingers and aching muscles. Why would anyone do something so silly? Well, for fun, of course. For the challenge. Precisely because it’s such a bad idea. To test our stamina, push ourselves physically, and find out what we can do. To get stronger and climb better. To pay homage to Aoraki Mt Cook, that majestic peak, atop whose angular frame I will never stand. And to raise some money for charity: as an extra incentive, for every 500m I climb, I am going to donate $20 to the Canterbury West Coast Air Rescue.


The pink line is a project I’ve been battling for months (grade 18). Project 50: Frances 0.

Each climb at our gym is around 8-10m in height, so we’re looking at about 420 climbs over the month. My normal number of climbs per session is 10-12, and I go twice a week. If we doubled the climbs and doubled the visits, we should make it to the summit, we calculated. And so we got started. On belay! 

On day 1 we managed 200m in two hours, and celebrated with high fives before collapsing into a car. On day 2 things started to feel a bit daunting. Kristy and I had both been working on the maths, which we had been too tired to make sense of the night before. Kirsty was faster than me to realise that we had miscalculated. Because of the other plans we have this month – skiing (maybe), tramping, holidaying and, er, work – it turns out to achieve our goal we will have to triple rather than double what we can climb in an evening.

This has all started to get a little bit serious. 

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