2014 Sky Tower Stair Challenge

Phil Glen with Tait Biolink harness

Phil Glen being fitted with the Tait Biolink harness

On Saturday, May 17, more than 700 fire fighters from New Zealand, Australia and the USA climbed the 1,103 steps to the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower in full fire fighting kit weighing 25kg.

This was the 10th anniversary of the event and to mark the occasion, the fire fighters set themselves the challenge of raising $1M for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer (LBC).

All across New Zealand, fire fighters did amazing things to raise money for their cause. The Auckland Airport fire fighters climbed the equivalent of Mt Everest (8,848 metres) on a stair machine. Twelve fire fighters from the Birkenhead Fire Brigade walked the 283.5km from Waitangi to the Sky Tower in their full fire fighting kit.

Together, the fire fighters have so far raised more than $870,000. That is about double the figure raised last year, so it really has been a mammoth effort by everyone involved.

As one of three sponsors, we had the opportunity to demonstrate Tait BioLink at the event. Three fire fighters taking part in the Sky Tower Stair Challenge, including an elite team member and a first-time participant, wore Tait BioLink as they climbed the tower. From the tower base, our engineers were able to keep an eye on their heart rate, movement and core temperature to make sure they stayed within the safe range as they gave it everything to reach the top of the tower.

Tait Biolink Product Champion, Tanmay Bhola says that BioLink is designed specifically for this type of situation where first responders are pushing themselves to the limit.

“When fire fighters are out there fighting blazes and protecting our communities, they’re focused on the task at hand and not necessarily on the physiological stress that they’re under themselves. Even in routine situations, this can be the case. BioLink can automatically detect when an emergency responder is under physiological stress so that the necessary action can be taken to keep them safe.”

Heart rates in excess of 195 beats per minute and core temperatures up to 39.8°C were recorded by BioLink during the event. So why would you put yourself under such intense physiological stress?

Fire fighters competing in the event are motivated by the challenge of completing in what is the ultimate test both physically and mentally. The camaraderie built among their colleagues and friends and the people they get to know along the way who are affected by leukaemia and other blood cancers means they keep coming back year after year.

Station Officer at Rolleston Fire Station in Canterbury, Phil Glen, has completed the challenge four times and has also competed at similar events in the Sydney Tower, Rialto in Melbourne, the Eureka Tower (88 floors) in Melbourne, as well as towers in Las Vegas, Seattle and Los Angeles.

He says, “I originally decided to climb the Sky Tower just for the sheer challenge. However, after the first time, I became hooked on the buzz of completing such a gruelling challenge. Hence the reason I started competing internationally. From there my focus has switched completely to the fundraising side of the event and raising money for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer.”

23 year-old full time fire fighter, Joel McNickle, completed the Sky Tower Stair Challenge for the first time this year. Joel says, “I did this climb in memory of a close family member who passed away recently. And it was a good way to really challenge myself and at the same time enjoy some healthy competition with my colleagues.”

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