Brothers aim high for parrot

STANDING TALL: Nigel Watson and his brother, Nathan, plan to climb 21 peaks in 21 days, raising money for the endangered kea in the process.
STANDING TALL: Nigel Watson and his brother, Nathan, plan to climb 21 peaks in 21 days, raising money for the endangered kea in the process.

Nigel and Nathan Watson are set to embark on an adventure of a lifetime this summer. Their mission: To "summit" the 21 named peaks over 2000m in Nelson Lakes National Park in 21 days.

Departing in mid-February the "planned-to-the-metre" 220km expedition will see the siblings slinging themselves along razor-backed ridges, tackling dizzying descents and tricky terrain as they walk up to 10 hours a day - most of it above the bushline, exposed to the elements and days from civilisation.

The brothers' love of the bush was instilled from a young age by their parents and that spirit of adventure also shows in their occupations - Nigel, 25, is a Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic and Christchurch-based older brother Nathan, 27, is New Zealand Girl Guiding's national outdoor programme co-ordinator.

Nigel says several factors will make the journey "extremely challenging".

"The long duration, the remoteness, a significant number of days above the bushline, the demanding nature of the terrain, being at the mercy of New Zealand's harsh mountain weather, and the need to summit every day."

Nigel reckons "sharp and defined" Faerie Queene (2236m) and "incredibly steep" Mt Travers (2338m) are the two most daunting peaks, while Nathan is more worried about 2278m Mt Hopeless: "That's going to be a tricky one. The access is a nasty, scrambly creek and we'll be near the end of the trip facing fatigue."

They'll be equipped with satellite phones and locator beacons but isolation means the pair will need to be self-sufficient, even with the backing of a three-person support team who will meet them at resupply points when their nine-day food rations run out.

"With such a tight timeframe there is little room for delays. We will need to be very wary of our daily progress, constantly evaluating the situation and thinking ahead," Nigel says.

"Alterations to the route, particularly changes to planned campsites, will need to be considered and factored in as we move."

The brothers are already training to become "pack-fit" by building muscle and endurance for the slated February 15 start.

The expedition is not just about adventure, however, but raising awareness - and cash - for the endangered kea, which once thrived in the Nelson Lakes area.

Expedition sponsor Bivouac Outdoor has signed up and the mission has been shortlisted for the Sport NZ Hillary Expedition grant - now the pair hope businesses, individuals and organisations will "sponsor a mountain".

Sponsors will contribute the same number of dollars as the height of the mountain in metres - for example, Mt Franklin is 2340m so the sponsor will contribute $2340.

If they can secure backers for each mountain they could raise up to $46,295 - all of which would go to the Kea Conservation Trust.

Contact the brothers: or

The Nelson Mail