Lungs put to the test for charity

Oamaru Volunteer Fire Brigade firefighters (from left) Ricky Whyte, Taylor Banks and Brad...
Oamaru Volunteer Fire Brigade firefighters (from left) Ricky Whyte, Taylor Banks and Brad McIntosh catch their breath after completing the Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge last weekend. PHOTO: WYATT RYDER
Battered lungs, overheated bodies and mental fatigue.

Those are just some of the effects five local firefighters faced after taking on the Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge last weekend to raise thousands for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

They and others from across the country ascended the 1103 stairs up Auckland’s Sky Tower in their kit, including heavy jackets, air tanks and breathing apparatus.

Alice Perry and Bernie Miller, of the Weston Volunteer Fire Brigade, hit the steps at 8.30am.

Ms Perry said climbing with the equipment put huge strain on the lungs and now both of them were battling coughs.

Having the first climb of the day was good as it meant there was little time for nerves, but it meant there was not much time for breakfast.

She limited her intake to a banana and some energy gel, but just before the climb the pair realised they had forgotten to use their gel.

They slurped it down quickly, but it was probably too late for it to have made any difference, she said.

The strain on their muscles was not too bad, but what really got to her was the heat and the strained breathing.

Once the firefighters hit the top they had people to help take off all the equipment and cool them down, she said.

She completed the climb in 15min 13sec and Mr Miller finished in 14min 6sec.

For Brad McIntosh, of the Oamaru Volunteer Fire Brigade, the pain in his lungs was less of a challenge than his own thoughts.

He climbed alongside Ricky Whyte and first-time climber Taylor Banks later in the day.

He said that when coming up to the starting line he met some previous champions, who all gave him advice on how to tackle it.

"Instead of doing what I had prepared to do, I changed it at the last second."

Altering the strategy at the last second was a bad move and he ended up overwhelmed, he said.

He ended up adding about 20 seconds to his previous record.

"My head just wasn’t in the right place.

"Next year I’m just going to put my headphones in and block it all out."

He was fortunate to win a raffle for a stair-climbing machine and would be "training hard-out on that" for next time.

He completed the climb in 15min 1sec, Mr Whyte in 19min 35sec and Mr Banks in 24min 52sec.

Oamaru raised about $1600 and Weston about $5000.

In total the event raised $1,935,314.