Isabel Rios was not sure what to expect when she signed up for last year’s Firefighters Climb for Motor Neurone Disease.
The Raymond Terrace firefighter knew climbing up Sydney Tower Eye’s 1504 stairs in her full kit, including an air cylinder, was not going to be a walk in the park.
But she would not appreciate just how challenging and rewarding it would be until she completed the climb.
“It was just awesome, which is why I’m back again this year,” Ms Rios, a retained firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW, said.
“Just being there was incredible. The atmosphere and energy on the ground was intense. Having supporters there, especially people with Motor Neurone Disease, was incredible.
“The climb was hard though. I wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be.
“I try and keep quite fit but I did some specialised training for it – I went up and down Queen’s Wharf Tower and Tomaree Head wearing a weighted vest.
“But after a few floors of the climb you really start to feel it. It starts playing on your mind how many more floors there are to go.”
Ms Rios completed her first climb in a time of 21 minutes and 10 seconds.
The annual Firefighters Climb for MND, established in 2015, attracts more than 600 firefighters.
Each climb the Sydney tower’s 98 storeys – to the observation deck – wearing full structural firefighting gear, which weighs about 20 kilograms.
Each floor of the stairwell is dedicated to patients of MND.
MND is a progressive, terminal neurological disease. It affects the nerve cells (neurones) controlling the muscles that enable people to move, speak, breathe and swallow.
The disease causing the neurones to degenerate and die. It is estimated that there are 2000 people with the disease in Australia. There is no known cause for MND.
Firefighters raise money before making the climb, which this year will be held on October 20.
This money is donated to Macquarie University, which houses Australia’s largest MND research facility.
When Ms Rios returns to Sydney in October for her second climb, she will not be alone.
She will be joined by three friends and fellow firefighters who have put their bodies forward for the challenge.
James Goodliff from Raymond Terrace Fire and Rescue plus Jeff Allen and Scott Ford from Tarro Fire Station will make their first climb with Ms Rios this year.
“I work with James but I’ve made friends with Jeff and Scott through call-outs that we attend together,” Ms Rios said.
“Scott saw that I did the climb last year and wanted to help out. Jeff and James also jumped on board, wanting to help.”
Team Underdog, as they have called themselves, are closing to hitting their fund-raising aim of $3000.
“The four of us are hoping to raise as much funds for MND,” Ms Rios said.
“The stairs are going to be a challenge, but nothing comes close to the challenges that these individuals face each and every day of their lives.”