Tower heroes raise big funds
Firefighters take the challenge
Frankton and Queenstown volunteer firefighter Gabbie Ernst was the standout Central Otago performer at the Firefighters Sky Tower Challenge on the weekend.
The 29-year-old bank worker blitzed the 51 flights of stairs in 14 minutes and 29 seconds laden with 25kg of equipment and breathing apparatus to be the fastest female firefighter in the open women’s category to reach the top of the famous Auckland landmark.
‘‘It felt like I was breathing through a straw and my chest was about to explode,’’ she said afterwards. She was not the only one. Wanaka’s Glen Thurston led a strong performance from his brigade (5th team overall) finishing 5th in the open men’s category with a time of 10 minutes and 18 seconds.
The seven members made up the largest team to travel from Wanaka. Three were first timers and the others all ran personal bests and were vowing to return next year, he said.
‘‘It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s painfully addictive. I love it. You get to the top and you’re just about dying.’’
They were among 35 fire fighters from brigades in Central Otago Area competing: Alexandra, Cromwell, Frankton, Lawrence, Omakau, Queenstown, Waitahuna and Wanaka.
The teams raised more than $38,000 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand with Daniel Wark from Waitahuna Volunteer Fire Brigade earning the second place award for an individual fund raiser raising $7414 from the surrounding Waitahuna community of less than 400 people.
In total there were 700 firefighters – including several from Australia and the United States – who raced up the tower steps in full kit at the weekend.
Ernst, who finished second overall behind Sandra Hearn, of Melbourne, who competed in the Masters section said running up and down the peaks surrounding Lake Wakatipu provided a head start but climbing the Sky Tower in full kit was ‘‘really different’’ and the challenge was as much mental as physical.
Next year she will take a break, instead taking part in a 100km race in Sydney, but plans to tackle the Sky Tower again.
‘‘I will be back. I want to break the record.’’
Into it: Painfully addictive . . .Wanaka’s Glen Thurston at the finish line of the Firefighters Sky Tower Challenge at the weekend.
Big day: Central Otago firefighters raised $38,000 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand with their weekend race up the Auckland Sky Tower in full fire fighting equipment at the weekend.
Victory: Queenstown volunteer firefighter Gabbie Ernst holds up the medals she earned at the weekend for being the fastest female firefighter in the open women’s category to climb 1103 steps in the Firefighters Sky Tower Challenge.