Climber has lofty goals

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013
African peak

GOING: David Williams in the midst of a 14-day journey to the top of the highest peak in Africa.

David Williams
GOING: The Edgewater College teacher sets off from sea level on his mission to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro.

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Most people would be happy to tick one mountain ascent off their bucket list.

Not David Williams - he wants to climb the highest peak in each continent.

But that is not all.

He wants to be the first person to climb the seven mountains from sea level.

And the 28-year-old has already got two of them under his belt.

The Edgewater College teacher decided to breathe life into the dream in March 2012.

"It felt like the only time I was going into the outdoors was when I was teaching and I felt like I needed to get out there and do my own adventure," he says.

So he started running from the sea to the base of mountains and then he just kept climbing to the top.

He has just returned to New Zealand after a year-long trip spent preparing and tackling three summits from the nearest most feasible coastline.

And every step he has taken towards reaching his own goal has also been a step for men's mental health.

"I knew I wanted to go on a big epic adventure. I found the adventure first and then I was trying to figure out a cause to relate it to," he says. "Then a couple of my friends sadly lost their battle with depression in the months leading up to me leaving and that made me realise that male mental health in New Zealand is such a problem."

Mr Williams says he has seen students silently struggle with depression.

"It's that slight taboo subject that everyone just thinks ‘dig deep, you'll be right, get involved in sport'."

"They don't see it as an actual illness where it makes you ostracise yourself and not want to get involved in things and it just gets you darker and deeper."

He says having a cause behind the project helps push him that extra mile.

"Selfish reasons only get you so far and then, once you put those aside and your ego aside, it really comes down to things like the cause which keep you going," he says.

He knows first-hand that no success is without its struggles.

The first of the seven peaks he attempted was Mt Aconcagua, high among the clouds at 6961 metres in the Andes in Argentina.

The Takanini man had to face a harsh reality on the final day of his month-long journey.

"I had to turn away on my summit climb from Mt Aconcagua because of a storm - 27 days into the mission on my final day I had to turn around."

He says that crushing blow made his successful climb of Mt Kilimanjaro that much sweeter.

The verdict is still out on whether he will have to complete the entire Mt Aconcagua run or just the summit part of the journey.

After Tanzania he went to Australia and completed a rewarding ascent to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, 2228 metres.

But the big dream of conquering all seven mountains has ground to a halt. Mr Williams says the money has run out.

He funded the first three climbs largely on his own and all the money raised went to charity.

So now he is looking for a corporate sponsor to help fulfil his dream and continue raising awareness for men's mental health.

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The other four mountains on his list are: Mt Everest, Asia. Mt McKinley, North America. Mt Elbrus, Europe. Mt Vinson, Antarctica.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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