There’s a mountain behind my house. At 445m it’s more accurate to call it a hill, but it’s got ‘mountain’ in its name – Mt Kaukau – and it sounds far cooler to say that I run up a mountain once a week.

Kaukau looms over Wellington. The highest point in the city and home to a hundred-and-something metres of transmitting tower, pumping a television fast-food diet into the capital city’s homes.

And it’s steep. The local primary school organised a fund-raising race up Mt Kaukau several years ago. I hesitate to call it a fun run, and that’s probably the reason the annual event no longer takes place.

Unlike many geographical landmarks with only a few well-marked footpaths and climbs, Mt Kaukau has no ‘North Face‘, like Mt Everest, or summer-only routes because of ice and snow. It does have its own Hillary Step, though – a sheep fence and stile that someone has labelled as such.

It’s a bit of cliché, but reaching the top really does feel like you’ve got the world at your feet. On a clear day you can see for miles; on appalling days there’s something fantastic about being at the mercy of the horizontal rain and howling winds. Mt Kaukau recorded New Zealand’s strongest wind in 2013 – a literally hair-raising 202kph!

So, why climb a mountain in your own backyard? Because it’s there, of course! There’s a need in us to achieve something or conquer something. And there are several ways and reasons to go up a hill: a ‘rubbish day at school’; need for a ‘burst of fresh air after being cooped up inside’; the ‘going to get fit’ climb; the run to the top; to go in search of time alone; to appreciate our amazing New Zealand surroundings.

But a mountain or hill doesn’t have to be a real hill or mountain. A mountain could represent a lot of things that you want to achieve or conquer. Is it different for everyone. What is it for you?

Article written by Ben Egerton

Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. Without sharing with anyone, what – for you – is something that you want to conquer or achieve?

2. The use of ‘climbing a mountain’ at the end of this article is a metaphor. A metaphor is when an object, idea, person or animal is used to represent something else – in this case the idea of climbing a mountain is used to represent achieving or mastering something important.

Why do writers use metaphors to explain or describe something else?

Can you think of other examples of metaphors that you might have heard, read or used yourself?

Practical Tasks:

1. Some people run, swim or train for triathlons, play in netball or rugby teams, or take part in other activities. Explore why they do this. Is it for a sense of achievement or for more than that? Talk to your friends and teachers and sports coaches about why they are all involved. Find a way to record the information you discover.

2. Write a short story or poem about you (or someone else) overcoming something or achieving something. If you can, use the idea of a metaphor – e.g. taming a dragon, conquering a mountain, scoring a goal – to represent your achievement.






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