The six volunteers, who live in Exeter and East Devon and are supporters of the local Samaritans branch, have just completed an Arctic Survival Challenge at Raftlaven in the northern Swedish wilderness, miles from the nearest settlement.
The challenge was to show the volunteers’ ability to adapt and live in the harsh environment where snow was many feet thick and temperatures ranged from 24 degrees inside a log cabin to minus 20 degrees in the surrounding forest.
The team - including a railway worker and several care sector staff - had to undertake a series of tasks including husky driving, ice fishing and building survival shelters and snow holes as well as cross-country ski-walking (photos attached).
The team raised over £7,500 for Exeter, Mid and East Devon Samaritans, which relies solely on contributions to operate.
“Everyone at the local Samaritans is in awe of what the team did” explains Helen Crossfield, director of the Exeter Mid and East Devon branch.
“Days were short - it was dark until 10am and then dark again from 3pm - and they had to collect firewood for heat, dig and build their own shelters and take it in turns cooking survival rations of dried and boil-in-the-bag food” she says.
“There were very few vehicles and everyone who went says there was a real sense of being isolated They had to do a long ski-walk - much harder than it sounds, especially for those unfamiliar with ski-ing - and used motorised skidoos to cover ground more rapidly, and we were driving huskies carrying us on sleds.”
The first three nights in the Arctic were in a log cabin with the following three nights in a teepee, heated by a central log-burner. “Apparently there wasn’t a lot of sleep as no one was familiar with this kind of environment, nor with sleeping in a group, so it was a challenge in every sense of the word - and a fantastic thing to do” says Helen.