Queenstown volunteer firefighter Jamie Harris is a serial stair climber.
Today’s Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland — a huge fundraiser for Leukemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand — is estimated to be the 41st time he’s raced up a sky tower, always with heavy breathing apparatus on his back.
The 49-year-old’s competed in this particular fundraiser since 2009.
However, he’s also run up the same steps for the annual Memorial Firefighter Stair Climb since 2015 — double ascents, each time, in honour of firefighters who died in the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks in New York and NZ firefighters who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty.
Harris has also notched up stair climbs in New York and Seattle — four apiece — and in Sydney, Melbourne and Eureka, Victoria, and in 2020 he also started his own family-oriented ‘March March’ climb up Queenstown Hill.
He says he originally got into the Auckland stair climb as he liked to be responsible for his own performance rather than competing in firefighter team challenges.
He also enjoys the camaraderie of the event, but for a five-year period the cause was also quite personal as a workmate’s grandson had
leukemia, which he’s now recovered from.
Harris estimates he’s raised more than $60,000 for the cause, mainly through rattling tins at local pubs — especially Frankton Arm
His fastest Auckland Sky Tower climb was 13 minutes 56 seconds.
Today he’ll again be in the ‘firefighter of steel’ category, lugging a heavy steel container all the way to the 60th floor, and he’ll be happy beating 25 minutes.
He admits it gets harder as he gets older, particularly because he enjoys the liquid amber.
‘‘I divvy it out the wrong way — I drink too much and I don’t train as much.’’