At 96, Logan Campbell resident Russell Parrish has achieved an incredible feat - ‘knocking off’ the summit of One Tree Hill 30 times over 30 consecutive days - and all for a great cause!
Every single day of September, come rain, shine or blustering gale, Russell set off from his home at Ryman Healthcare’s Greenlane village to walk to the top of the iconic mountain set in the heart of Cornwall Park.
The idea coincided with Ryman Healthcare’s annual Walking for Wellness challenge, which this year aptly had an Everest theme. Residents could walk either 64.4km to Everest Basecamp, or the return trip, with the aim of completing it by 30th September.
With September also being Alzheimer’s Awareness month, it was also a chance for Russell to remember his beloved wife Mary who passed away in the village’s dementia unit last year and perhaps support others living with dementia.
He is currently $74 short of reaching his $1000 target.
Thoughts of Mary sustained him throughout his challenge, Russell said.
“I think of her every day. We lived all of our lives in and around One Tree Hill,” he said.
“I also want to acknowledge the [Logan Campbell] village and my family, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Russell's number one fan, Village Manager Rebecca McMillan, gives him a congratulatory hug.
It was a dramatic turnaround for Russell, with ambitious walking challenges being the furthest from his mind in August.
“When they asked me if I wanted to join this year I was in the middle of isolation with Covid so I said no. When I recovered I said if I can still join up I will and I rashly said I will try and walk to the top of One Tree Hill every day in September.
“I was just showing off I suppose!”
Russell typically would set off around 8am each day, and marvelled at the sights along the way.
“I made a bunch of friends. A few people stopped to walk with me for a short distance.”
The weather didn’t put him off either - for his 30th and final walk he was accompanied by Village Manager Rebecca McMillan, his daughter Carol and son-in-law John and a number of residents who supported him along the way – on this occasion literally!
“It was very windy, but it wasn’t the windiest day. That day I took my daughter Carol and my son Murray with me to assist. I called them Sherpa 1 and Sherpa 2!
“I think it’s so turbulent because of the shape of the mountain. One minute it’s on the right and the next minute it’s on the left and at 96 that gets a bit hard to cope with!”
Russell with daughter Carol and son-in-law John (above) and supported by fellow Logan Campbell resident Bruce Lochead (below).
He also gave a special shoutout to fellow resident Bruce Lochead who shadowed Russell on the tricky final steps to the top.
“He was very good,” said Russell.
“I have been amazed by the support it’s got and the interest it got. It’s heartening how kind people are,” said Russell.
“This seems to have given some of my fellow residents an interest and seemed to be an enjoyment. It was fun!” he added.
While at the top of One Tree Hill, Russell shared the story of how he and trainee nurse Mary had gone to a ball and missed the curfew in the nurses’ home so they had cuddled up in a kumara pit in Cornwall Park all night, wrapped up in Mary’s ankle-length Astrakhan wool coat in order to avoid the wrath of the matron.
The next morning she strode in, the same coat hiding her ballgown, and declared it had been a perfect day for an early morning walk.
“That coat was very useful, it saved our lives!” Russell laughed.
Russell at his beloved Auckland City YMCA, where he is a life member.
As well as raising five children, Russell’s partnership with Mary included staying fit together, with the pair jogging for miles and miles and Russell proudly boasts a lifetime membership to the YMCA in Auckland City after attending gym sessions for over 50 years.
Being an only child and someone who always looked young for his age, he credits his relationship with Mary with giving him more confidence, so much so that he can set ambitious challenges such as this.
“For the first time in my life I have had the confidence to show off a little bit.
“You can sit in your room and look at the view or the wall or you can get out and do something. I’m lucky that I can and I have that choice,” he said.
A windy but wonderful way to end a very ambitious challenge. Russell with his village support crew on the 30th consecutive climb of One Tree Hill.
For more about Russell's amazing story, watch the video below:
*Russell has nearly reached his target of raising $1000 for Move for Dementia. Can you help him reach his goal?