Most children who turn seven receive a new toy or gadget to celebrate their milestone, but for Mike Allsop's kids, it's marked with a trek over the sky-scraping Himalayas!
The Auckland airline pilot and Everest mountaineer took each of his three youngsters for a one-on-one 100km hike over the ranges, and the adventure didn't stop there.
Mike's daughter Maya, 14, now holds the record for the world's highest stand-up paddle board on Lake Pumori in Nepal, while Ethan, 16, conquered altitude sickness to reach the summit of East Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro last year. There, he played the world's highest game of Guess Who?
Youngest son Dylan, 13, is still deciding where to go with his doting dad, who proves thrillseeking doesn't end when you become a parent!
"A lot of guys shy away from getting married and think life's over when you do – I know I did," admits Mike, 49, who welcomed his firstborn in 2002, before marrying paediatric nurse Wendy, 44, the following year. "But really it's the beginning and it's exciting, especially with kids."
Pre-parenthood, Mike's life was a juggle of part-time adventuring and full-time piloting. From a single parent home, he watched his mum raise three kids alone while working as a psychiatrist nurse and studying psychotherapy.
"Mum's amazing and taught me the philosophy, 'If you believe you can, you will,'" tells Mike, who dreamt of being a pilot as a kid and helped open Great Barrier Airlines aged just 22.
Now flying for a national airline, Mike's adventures include knocking off Kilimanjaro, narrowly escaping an avalanche in Peru, running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, and returning a replica of a stolen Yeti hand to a monastery in Nepal.
But not all of Mike's stories are fun to tell his children. At 24, he was lucky to survive a plane crash 241km off the coast of Hawaii, after a fuel malfunction caused the aircraft he was co-piloting to plunge into the sea.
"The impact was so fierce, it shredded my clothes and the aircraft was practically disintegrating around me," he tells.
"After about 45 seconds, I couldn't hold my breath any more and a calm thought came that if I took a big breath of water, I'd be at peace."
But when the aircraft miraculously bobbed upwards, Mike put his lips to the ceiling for air. A coastguard ship came and Mike learnt they were the first people to ever survive a plane crash there.
Over a year later, Mike met Wendy at a party on Great Barrier Island. She heard all about his dreams to scale the world's highest mountain.
"When we had kids, I thought I couldn't climb any more, but Wendy said she wouldn't stop me," he recalls.
At 37, Mike summited Mount Everest unguided and was offered a paid opportunity to return afterwards, but turned it down for the sake of his family.
"I always worried about being a good dad because I never had one, so I went to a parenting course and the thing that stuck out was building family traditions," recalls Mike, author of High Adventure: The Adventure Doesn't Stop When You Become a Dad.
With Wendy's blessing, he decided to take each child to Everest when they turned seven.
"Kids spell love as 'time', and when you're in Nepal for weeks with just them, you're captivated without any distractions," he explains.
"During the 100km, Ethan did times tables and with Maya, we sang Justin Bieber songs. Dylan wanted to hear stories about Sherpa and yeti."
Mike let the kids choose another adventure at 14 and says, "It had to be outside the limits, have Wendy's approval and be good for somebody else."
Maya asked to strap on a paddle board and hike to a freezing lake in Nepal, where they donated sheets of roofing iron to widows who lost husbands and sons in the mountains. Next she plans on helping Mike guide a group up to Everest Base Camp.
Ethan raised money for Auckland City Mission when he climbed Kilimanjaro.
Although Mike jokes he's a zero-star traveller and Wendy's a five star, the family stayed together in the Nepalese village of Panboche four years ago, leaving 24 hours before a catastrophic earthquake struck, killing nearly 9000 people and injuring 22,000.
Mike's kids are grateful for their dad's extreme parenting style, which they agree will lead to a lifetime of adventures.
"I love seeing my kids achieve things that are important to them – big or small," asserts Mike.
"Seeing them not afraid to give things a go gives me a real buzz."
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