Stepping up: Queenstown volunteer firefighters, from left, Lee Winter, Chris Lindop and Jamie Dunn

Another whopping contingent of Whakatipu firefighters is taking on the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland today.

The Queenstown station’s has a dozen taking part, Arrowtown has six and Frankton five.

Among the Queenstown crew are Chris Lindop and Jamie Dunn, who are making their debuts, and Lee Winter, who’s having a third crack at carrying 25kg of kit up 51 flights of stairs.

Lindop says there’s no pressure on fireys to take part, rather it’s an event many want to give a go because of the great war stories they hear from their colleagues.

Dunn says the enthusiasm of those who’ve done it before is “infectious”.

He first arrived at the station just after the stair climb was held three years ago, when everyone was still buzzing and showing off their photos.

“I felt like I’d missed out.”

The opportunity to raise money for a great cause is also a “massive” drawcard, he says.

More than $1.25 million had been raised for the event’s charity, Leukaemia & Blood Cancer NZ, by yesterday.

Winter says part of the enjoyment is catching up with fireys from around the country he’s done training courses with.

While there’s “friendly banter” between fellow brigade members and other local brigades, on the day it’s a case of “you versus the Tower”.

As the legs burn and breathing the dry, bottled air becomes increasingly uncomfortable, the mental side becomes crucial in the later stages of what’s usually a 12-minute effort, he says.

Everyone takes their own approach to training.

Many are regular gym-goers anyway, while Queenstown Hill and the gondola tracks are popular training grounds in the weeks leading up to the climb.

To simulate conditions on the day, most have been donning their breathing apparatus or wearing weight vests.

The event was held last November after Covid-19 forced its postponement, but only about 300 firefighters took part.

It’s back to full noise today, with about 950 registered.

Queenstown Airport comms supremo Sara Irvine says its crew are not entering this year, but will “definitely be back”.