Kris Marley from Moorside travelled approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometres) across the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, where temperatures plunged as low as -60˚C with wind chill.
Based at the Co-operative Funeralcare in Chester Road, Sunderland, the funeral director spent 13 months organising fundraising events and undergoing intensive training for the journey.
He said: “When I was younger I always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and when I was getting ready to hit 30 last year I started looking into it and I also wanted to do some fundraising for Help for Heroes.
“I have a lot of respect for the armed forces; when I was younger I tried to sign up but didn’t get through the medical. I’ve had a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I’m over the moon to have raised so much for Help for Heroes.”
Kris travelled with company Global Enduro, setting off from Heathrow Airport on 22 March. From there he and the team flew to Oslo and then to Kirkeness, a smaller airport in northern Norway, before getting a bus to base camp.
He added: “The whole trip was probably the best experience of my life and after three or four days I saw the Northern Lights for the first time and I was amazed. The second to last night there was a massive display and it was just unreal. We’d been expecting something spectacular but nothing happened and I was so tired so went to bed. About 10 minutes later I was asleep and one of the guys came rushing in to wake me up. The whole sky was lit up in green and pink; I just sat there for about an hour.”
Kris, who joined the Co-operative Funeralcare as a trainee funeral director three years ago, trained in the gym five days a week before he went to the Arctic, and took ice showers to prepare his body for the conditions.
His challenge captured the interest of ex-Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries, who gave signed items for auction, and ex-Sunderland FC player Nicky Summerbee who took part in a Sportsman’s Dinner along with England legend Nobby Stiles.
Support also came from Virgin Active, which supplied his clothing, and Made4TheCage, which supplied prizes for Sportsman’s Dinners and also fundraised at its Mixed Martial Arts fight nights.
Kris is still in the process of collecting donations but expects to raise a total amount of just under £3,500.
Donations can still be made at www.bmycharity.com/survivingthearctic2012
Photo: Kris (right) with Lee Pendleton, who accompanied him on the trip.