To just about anyone, the idea of climbing 98 storeys of the Sydney Tower in full firefighter apparatus sounds like a herculean challenge.
But to a handful of daring local firies, it's nothing compared to the challenges faced by those living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
'Firies Climb for MND' was started in 2015 by NSW firefighter Matt Pridham after his best friend, Adam Regal, was diagnosed with MND. Sadly, Adam lost the fight against MND in August last year. He continues to be an inspiration to firies who come from all over Australia and New Zealand to tackle the climb.
The Mudgee Guardian spoke with Paul Cavalier, who, as part of a team of Gulgong firies including; Amanda Chetcuti, Michael Butt, Travis McCall and Reece Bennett, are climbing Sydney Tower on November 9 and fundraising for MND research at Macquarie University.
"It's 98 storeys and 1504 steps. But I tell you, it feels like 980. It's so hard, you're wearing your BA set on your back and you're wearing all of your structural firefighting gear which is about 21-22 kgs," Paul said.
"It's tough, but it's nothing compared to what people with MND go through every day. you have to keep reminding yourself that."
Last year Paul's team raised $16,000 which made them one of the top-performing teams when it came to fundraising. This year Paul said they want to crank it up a level.
it's so hard. I honestly didn't realise. I got up to about the tenth storey last year and thought I was going to die.Paul Cavalier
"Our team in Gulgong were one of the top teams in Australia and New Zealand for fundraising [last year] and we're trying to beat that this year. We hatched up this plan to raffle a $25,000 buggy. I think if we sell all the tickets we should raise over $75,000.," Paul said.
It isn't just Gulgong firies doing the climb either, volunteers from Mudgee and Kandos are heading to Sydney to tackle the tower as well.
Sam Price and the newly-promoted Ashley Mackie from Mudgee Fire Station and James Manners from the Rural Fire Service are also taking part in November and doing their own preparation and fundraising.
The climb itself is a gruelling task, but it will be even harder this year, with Paul revealing their new gear has a moisture barrier in it. Which, when fighting a fire and spraying water in a hot environment, is extremely useful. Not so much when you're working like crazy to reach the top.
"The barrier is designed to protect us from steam when we go inside a burning building. Of course when you're spraying water around, it water expands and becomes steam and it stalls us so our uniform - our new uniform - has a moisture barrier in it to stop that," Paul said.
"But when you're climbing a tower, all that water and moisture gets trapped inside. So your body heat goes through the roof and it's so hard. I honestly didn't realise. I got up to about the tenth storey last year and thought I was going to die,"
"I still had like - 88 storeys to go, it was terrible, and even for the really fit ones, it's a tough climb for anybody."
Paul said while it's a tough slog, it's all worth it in the end.
It's terrible while you're doing it but it's really good when you get to the top and once you get there it's such a good feeling. It's then that you realise how far it is, it's just ridiculous," Paul said.
According to the official website: '100% of the funds raised from the climb have gone to the Macquarie University's Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research. It is the largest MND research center in Australia, receives no federal or state funding to operate and is completely run through the support of public donations and research grants. With the help of our fundraising, they now employ over 70 researchers and 12 clinicians.'
Head to Fire and Rescue NSW Station 312 Gulgong on Facebook for more info.