Businessman tackles polar challenge to raise money for cancer charity

Businessman Michael Mitten will battle temperatures of minus 50C while pulling a sled across the world's toughest terrain – all in the name of charity.

The 30-year-old, from Houghton, is taking on the gruelling North Pole adventure in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, which helped care for his late father Ron.

The True North challenge, in April, will see Michael travel for eight days from a floating ice station in the Arctic circle to the geographic North Pole.

It's likely to be the biggest challenge of Michael's life as he skis for up to 10 hours a day in arduous conditions.

Temperatures can dip to minus 50C, which can feel like minus 90C with the wind chill factor, but Michael hopes that tough training will see him through.

He said: "My dad put up the bravest of fights against cancer and refused for so long to be beaten by it. He was still playing golf after four bouts of chemotherapy which would have floored most people.

"On the day dad died I decided to do something extraordinary to mark his life in a positive way and raise money for Macmillan as they were a great help to my dad and my family throughout his illness.

"When I found out about the North Pole challenge through North East explorer Brian Douds, it seemed like the perfect way to raise much needed funds for Macmillan and a wonderful way to pay tribute to my dad.

"I'm raising the funds to cover the costs of the trip through corporate sponsorship so anything you give will go directly to Macmillan and not to fund the expedition costs. I want every penny raised to go to improving the lives of cancer patients and their families."

Ron, who set up family business Houghton International, lost his battle with lung cancer in June 2007, aged just 58.

Michael, who is now managing director of the firm, began intensive training in memory of his dad at the end of last year.

He said: "I chose the North Pole because expeditions to places like the Great Wall of China just weren't unique enough.

"The challenge is fairly exceptional and I hope it will be enough to get that message across and raise the funds for Macmillan. I'm simultaneously elated, excited and terrified about the challenge."

His cold terrain training involves cross country skiing in France, a harsh gym programme and 100lb sled pulls along Seaham Beach.

The programme has been devised by Doug Stoup, the expedition leader who will ensure Michael reaches the North Pole. Doug has already made the journey eight times and is an expert when it comes to assembling and dismantling tents at up to minus 50C.

Michael has so far raised just over 2,000 towards his 50,000 target.

To sponsor Michael go to www.justgiving.com/truenorth. Potential corporate sponsors can contact Michael at Michael.mitten@houghton-international.com

For more on Michael's journey visit his blog at www.truenorth2009.blogspot.com