You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Mountaineer Graeme Dingle earns knighthood

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 4/06/2017 Ben Leahy

Kiwi mountaineer Graeme Dingle learned the impossible is possible if you have a good plan.

The 71-year-old has achieved more than 200 adventuring firsts, including the first ascent of all classic European Alps north faces in one season in 1968, first ascents in the Himalayas and Andes, and a two-stage 28,000km circuit of the Arctic.

But having spent more than 40 years using the same philosophy to also improve Kiwi kids' lives, he now has yet another distinction to add to his name: a knighthood.

The title was bestowed in this year's Queen's Birthday honours and he says he felt like a "stunned mullet" at hearing he was to be known as Sir Graeme, despite having jokingly called his wife "Lady Diane" for many years.

Yet he hopes the recognition adds to the work of the Graeme Dingle Foundation.

It uses wilderness trips and a series of school-aged programmes to encourage Kiwi kids to chase their goals.

"We have 25,000 kids in our programmes each year, but that has to grow to 100,000 and then the next part of the mission is to make New Zealand the best place in the world for kids," he says.

He says there is still much to do because many statistics about child welfare in New Zealand have improved little since 1994.

It was then that he outlined his vision for the Graeme Dingle Foundation at a meeting on Auckland's One Tree Hill with prominent Kiwis, including Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Paul Reeves.

"I could see at that time too many young people in New Zealand were completely giving up hope of a decent future," he says of the One Tree Hill meeting.

"I'm afraid in the intervening years, it hasn't improved that much."

"We've still got the highest youth suicide rate in the world, which is probably the best indicator of the hopelessness that some young people feel."

Yet he remains optimistic. New Zealand is a "great little country", he says.

More than 150,000 Kiwi kids have also taken part in his foundation's programmes, which work with school children, aged from five-to-18, to tackle topics such as bullying, leadership and setting career goals.

Other programmes use wilderness trips to help youth with low self esteem or those who have committed criminal offences.

He says the trips have proven if you take people outside their comfort zone and into the outdoors for at least 20 days, you can indeed transform their behaviour.

"The outdoors are a very good teacher," he says.

"Kids have to dig in, they have to work together, they have to learn to be self reliant, they need to learn to understand that you are a part of the team."

The outdoors also foster determination and that's why Sir Graeme says he won't be resting on his laurels anytime soon.

"No, there is much more to come from me," he says.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon