Climbing Mauao is a popular way to exercise but not many do it wearing 20kg of firefighting gear.
Members of the Waihi Mine Rescue Team donned their full firefighting kit and climbed the mountain as training for the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge.
Climbing the 232-metre-tall Mauao isn’t quite the same as scaling the 51 flights of stairs of the 328m Sky Tower, in 15 minutes. But it’s good preparation for the team of six.
They have raised $13,000 so far for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand and Shay Perkinson has raised $10,000 of that.
He’s done the challenge twice before and says it’s “horrible” but he does it to support the cause.
“It's just super hot, you can't really breathe. It's just intense.
“You’ve got to try shut your mind off as much as possible and not look at the numbers of the flights of stairs.”
Participants wear a full firefighting kit that weighs more than 20kg and the mine rescue team have it harder than other firefighters.
They wear long duration closed circuit breathing apparatus which means the air is recycled, so it gets hotter as they run.
Shay says the challenge is like any other rescue they may do, because you need to be able to push yourself to the limit.
He and the team have been training daily. Shay does at least 30 minutes on a step machine, others also run up the mine pits wearing weighted vests and do the trig walk at Waihi Beach.
OceanaGold Waihi Mine Rescue Team captain Jed Moriarty isn’t doing the challenge this year but he’s the support person so will be there as the guys ascend 1103 individual steps.
He says Shay is the benchmark of a good rescuer because he puts in extra time and effort and also raises more each year for the challenge.
Having done the challenge twice before Jed understands what the team will be going through.
“Eventually you'll just hit a wall where you just have to get it done. So you're just plodding along each step at a time, helping yourself up on the handrails, knowing that you're still, probably only halfway up there.”
Despite “plodding along” Jed still managed to do the challenge in 14 minutes and 20 seconds last year.
There is healthy competition within the Waihi mine rescue team, the guys try to get the fastest time and there’s a trophy for the winner.
Despite the competition the guys don’t lose sight of why they’re doing it.
“The best thing for us is knowing that it's not all about us. It's cool to fundraise, to do all the training, but it's really to help people in need,” says Jed.
“How fortunate we are that we can actually be physically able enough to run up the Sky Tower.”
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