A geography teacher will be climbing 50,000 metres throughout this year to celebrate his 50th birthday.
Jim MacGregor will be using the opportunity to raise money for charity Search and Rescue Dogs Association (Isle of Man), for which he is chairman.
Known as SARDA’s ‘resident fundraiser’, Jim is no stranger to a challenge having completed the Parish Walk in a dog suit for the charity, and climbing mountains such as Mont Blanc and the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
However, he says this will be his biggest challenge yet.
‘I’m ahead of schedule at the moment but I’m climbing 1,000 metres every week,’ Jim said. ‘That’s the equivalent of Snowdon, or one and a half Snaefells.
‘To do it every week for the whole year will be difficult.
‘A friend of mine who is a fell runner and does it a lot, having a look at his stats, he did 38,000 metres last year. I’m suddenly thinking 50,000 might be quite challenging but we’ll see.
‘It’s all about the journey anyway.’
The 49-year-old, who works at St Ninian’s High School and turns 50 in November, will be taking on the climbs with friends and family.
He said: ‘It’s not just the physical challenge but it’s the chance to do different things with family and friends as well as people in the search dogs.
‘It’s just going to be nice to meet up with a lot of old colleagues and friends and try new things.
‘I’ve got a few trips to particular mountains set throughout the year and I’ll meet up with people for each.’
Jim, who lives in Laxey, used to do a lot of fell running before he underwent knee surgery last year following an injury, so he wanted to find something that would challenge him but wouldn’t detriment his health.
‘I guess it’s in my DNA to want to do these things because I’ve grown up doing these sorts of challenges,’ he added.
Asked which climbs he was most looking forward to, Jim said: ‘We’re doing Mount Toubkal in Morocco which I’m looking forward to.
‘I think it’ll be amazing experiencing a bit of Africa.
‘In TT, I’ll be doing the Cuillin Ridge in the Isle of Skye with Mal, who is a navigator with the dogs at SARDA.
‘It’s quite a severe rock climb and scramble and it’s really a two-day thing. We’ll have to sleep up high.
‘I’ve never really been a major rock climber, I’ve done bits of rock climbing but that’s certainly going to be a challenge.
‘Only about 10% of groups that go to do it complete it, usually due to the weather.
‘What I wanted to do is things that are quite accessible. I didn’t want to do the typical Kilimanjaro and Everest. There’s plenty in the UK.’
‘I’m also doing another one with some friends from Civil Defence. We’re going over to the Yorkshire Dales and doing the three peaks.
‘I’ve got some good friends in the search dogs in Wales too, one of which will come with me for my Wales trip.
‘We’ll be doing the Welsh 3000s, which is 15 peaks over 3,000 feet, so I’ll be doing that with a dog handler over in Wales as well.’
Trips away won’t cover the full 50,000m Jim is aiming for so he will be finding ways of pushing the number up in the Isle of Man.
‘I’ll have to do Snaefell a good few times as it’s the only mountain in the island but I’ll get walks up North Barrule and such as well,’ Jim said.
‘It’s not going to be possible to do it just through the trips off the island.’
SARDA provides search dogs to look for lost and missing people, such as children, people with dementia, those struggling with mental health, and following traffic collisions.
Jim feels the charity is vital for the island, saying: ‘SARDA is something that is definitely needed.
‘We’re going through a bit of a transition at the moment with four new dogs currently being trained.
‘We’ve never had that many come through at once so as soon as they qualify you’ve suddenly got insurances, travel off island to train with other organisations, so costs will increase all the time.
‘It’s a vital resource and I know the police value us highly. We have to keep it going as we are a completely self funded charity.’
The challenge has already begun for Jim as he completed a 1,200m climb in the Ischgl ski resort in Austria last week.
You can donate to Jim’s JustGiving page by searching ‘Jim’s fifty at 50’.