Aspiring Northland Mount Everest climbers contained in New Zealand have the chance this weekend to climb the equivalent locally for a good cause.
Pilgrim Bandits NZ is holding a 24-hour event called the Caleb Jennings Everest Challenge where adventurous participants can "climb" Mount Parihaka up to 36 times while raising funds for injured New Zealand military and first responders.
The aim is to ascend and descend the equivalent of Mt Everest's 8848m height – that's 36 cycles of Mt Parihaka's 241m - either as a team or individually for the really fit and adventurous.
Pilgrim Bandits was originally set up in the UK by Special Forces personnel to support injured - either mental (PTSD, anxiety, etc) or physical (amputation, pain, etc) - military veterans and emergency services staff using their unique training and backgrounds to inspire these individuals to embrace life. The charity raises funds to enable extreme expeditions around the world pushing them "always a little further", as their motto goes.
Ex-army medic, St John paramedic and now Northland DHB service manager for the department of medicine and renal services Ben Lockie has been affiliated with the NZ branch of Pilgrim Bandits for the past year and wanted to hold an event in his hometown, seeing it as a good opportunity to bring people north.
"I'm always looking for opportunities to run events that are a little bit more extreme and I love Parihaka," he said, adding that when he worked at St John as a paramedic, climbing the mountain was part of their fitness test.
Previously a medic in the NZ Army, Lockie then worked as an intensive care flight paramedic and territory manager for St John. In his early 30s in 2012 he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, severe clinical depression and bipolar disorder. He credits the support of his family and friends pushing him toward more positive action for why he is here today.
Lockie also attributes exercise and said it is an integral part of maintaining his wellbeing. He now believes that everyone can come back from the brink and hopes that by working with Pilgrim Bandits, he can combine his experiences and passion for fitness to help others have the courage to ask for help or give those struggling some much-needed hope.
The keen cross fitter is taking part in the event himself as part of a relay team. Teams can have a maximum of four members. The event has attracted teams from as far afield as Christchurch, including nurses and doctors, cross fitters and one brave individual.
There are various challenge heights to suit abilities ranging from the "Who Dares Wins" category comprising one or more cycles, to "The Summit" - the full 36 cycles, with fees ranging from a koha to $100 per team.
Base camp will be in Mair Park with tents set up or participants can bring their own shelters and sleeping bags. The event will start at 10am at the footbridge, continuing until 10am the following day. Participants are encouraged to bring head torches for the overnight adventure.
"At base camp, you can catch up with like-minded individuals, meet defence force veterans and emergency services personnel, spin a few yarns and have a few laughs," said Lockie.
The first person or team to complete the challenge in the 24-hour time slot will receive the Caleb Jennings Summit Trophy which is clipped with one of Jennings' carabiners, gifted by his parents.
Caleb Jennings was an elite New Zealand mountaineer with extensive experience gained worldwide and member of the New Zealand Defence Force who was killed in an avalanche in Arthurs Pass in 2018, aged 31. At the time of his death, he was training to become a mountain guide while still instructing and guiding part-time for the military.
Extreme fitness events such as the Caleb Jennings Everest Challenge offer people from all walks of life the chance to challenge themselves in physically and mentally demanding situations. In turn, these events raise funds towards extreme expeditions for injured military and first responders.
Participants can sign up and pay on the day. For further information, go to: www.pilgrimbandits.co.nz or email email@example.com.
Where to go for help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. If you or someone else is in danger call police immediately on 111. To talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: 09 376 4155