90-year-old scaling mountains for charity

David Baker is proof age is just a number.

Instead of sitting at home enjoying the quiet life, the 90-year-old retiree from Ngatea, a small town southwest of Thames, is conquering some of the country’s top climbing and tramping spots — all in the name of charity.

"I lived on the slope [of Mt Taranaki] and I climbed it on my 70th and for my 80th and so I as a joke I said ‘oh, I’ll climb it for my 90th’," Mr Baker said.

"I decided some some six months, nine months ago ... This is probably the oldest man ever to do it.

"Why don’t we do it for charity as extra motivation?

"This is what we decided and we’ve now accomplished it.

"Believe it or not, there’s a lot of charitable organisations out there fundraising for all sorts of things, buildings, helicopters."

But being "so fit and well at my age and doing all these things without any problem" made him "think of the children" that were suffering.

"I thought they’re more important than anything else and that’s why I chose Starship."

Mr Baker started on January 26 — his 90th birthday — by scaling Mt Taranaki and has now added South Island summits Roys Peak near Wānaka and the Mueller Hut near Aoraki/Mt Cook to his list of conquests.

While in the South Island, Mr Baker and his wife Helen decided to do some "fairly strenuous climbs" where he hoped to be recorded as the oldest person to achieve them — but also hoped others older than him would attempt them.

"Maybe there will be someone 92 or 95 will challenge me and and do it. You never know."

They completed the Mueller Hut tramp in one day, following up with the Wānaka hot spot a few days later.

Watching the sunrise from the Roys Peak — a bucket-list summit he achieved in three hours and 15 minutes — was "spectacular", he said.

"We had a glorious day — the sunrise and the view is spectacular.

"It’s not what I expected ... just seeing the the lights of Wānaka in the town below. It is quite spectacular."

While no small achievements on their own, he has also raised $14,700 for Starship Children’s Hospital along the way.

"[On] Roys Peak, I gathered $270 ... just accosting people," he joked.

"I say ‘I’m not doing this for fun. I’m doing this for a fundraiser.’ And they said ‘what for?’.

"I told them and one lady, a doctor from Wales, immediately gave us $100. It was incredible how generous people can be."

Despite his age, his body was holding up well with the climbs, but the descent from the Mueller Hut was more challenging than expected.

"I have no qualms, no niggles, I’ve never had a joint problem.

"But coming down from Mueller — wow — coming down the steps, my legs got quite wobbly ... those steps, they are a killer."

The couple are travelling the South Island for another six weeks and while he does not have any more climbs planned, Mr Baker said there was still time.

"I’ve been thinking about it — I haven’t got anything in mind at the moment, but yeah, something will turn up."

To support Mr Baker and his climbs for Starship head to www.fundraiseforstarship.org.nz/david-baker

shannon.thomson@odt.co.nz

 

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