Iles, now chief information officer of Carter Holt Harvey, was in his 20s then and the trek he is describing was part of his training as a member of the British Army.
In November, Iles joins a group of ICT colleagues walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing four times, a 77-kilometre journey.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is rated as one of the better day tramps in the world. It spans the length of Mt Tongariro (19.4 kilometres) and takes about seven to nine hours to complete.
They aim to raise at least $30,000 for the Kia Timata Ano (KTA) Trust, a women’s refuge in Auckland.
He will be joined by Pat O’Connell, CIO of Rank Group and Glenda Godfrey, account executive of Tango Group.
They will attempt to finish the challenge in 24 hours, but will not run the route. “It is an Alpine terrain where there is a lot of climbing, it is very rough,” explains Iles. “We are going to be moving as swiftly as we can.”
“We have to phase it,” says Iles, recalling his experience in the British military. “[If it’s] Too fast in the beginning, we will blow our legs and we won’t be able to finish it.”
It is not the first time the three have taken on an endurance challenge to raise funds for the women’s refuge, of which Godfrey is a trustee.
Last year, they formed the “Three Blind Mice” team and scaled the four highest peaks in the North Island - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu and Taranaki mountains. They raised more than $23,000 from Tango Group and an online campaign.
This year’s challenge - apart from a different route and terrain - will be different because they will be joined by volunteers or “Mouseketeers” who can walk one or more of the four tracks they will traverse. Each ‘Mouseketeer’ is committed to raise $1000.
“What I really like about the way we are doing it this year is the involvement of other people,” says Iles. “It is not just the ‘Three Blind Mice’ doing it and asking for donations. It is involving the wider IT community, like other CIOs. It is just fantastic to have them on board.”Air New Zealand CIO Julia Raue has confirmed she will walk one of the tracks as a “Mouseketeer”. Delta Software has signed up as a platinum sponsor so the team is now called “Delta’s Three Blind Mice”. Oxygen Business Solutions has joined as a gold sponsor.
Another sponsor, Datacom, is joining them in an “innovative” way, says Iles. Datacom ‘Mouseketeers’ - Tom Jacob, Gary Elmes, Jonathan Sinclair, Mike Porteous and Chad Basham - will walk at least one track each.
“They are not passive sponsors, they are very active,” says Iles.
Asked why the group decided to do another challenge, Iles quips, “We can not remember the pain [from] the last time.”
“When you turn all your efforts into doing something as tangible as that, it is difficult not to do it again,” he adds.
The group has started preparing for the trek, working out in the Waitakeres and in the streets of Auckland.
“Mentally it is going to be very tough because we are going to be very tired,” says Iles, and visibility may be difficult at night. “Our target is 24 hours, no sleep in between.”
For Godfrey, the experience is about “the lesson of setting the goal and achieving it.”
Last year, she set what she calls a “big, hairy audacious goal” to scale the four mountain peaks. After completing the task, she says, “I am a bit bullet proof now and I can do anything.”
For the group, however, it is all about “IT giving to the community”.
“Who said IT is a sedentary job?” says Iles. “We have had so much interest in this. It’s great to see people in our industry making time to help others and to take up a challenge like this at the same time.”
O’Connell is encouraging other CIOs and ICT colleagues to join them. He and Iles are organising a team from Carter Holt Harvey and its parent company Rank Group. Two CHH staff have joined the team, Denver Simpson and Deon Snyders. David McKellar of Brother has also signed up as Mouseketeer.
“For me, to do this despite the fact that we burn the candle both ends at work is really enjoyable,” says Iles. “It gives you a different dimension rather than focusing on business all the time.”
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