IT worker turned adventurer Phil Raisbeck is back at his desk today after returning from a life-changing trip to the Arctic.
Phil, from Ryhope, is finally home after crossing the gruelling Fjällräven Polar where he battled through temperatures as low as -30C.
Despite being allergic to dogs, the 42-year-old manned a six-dog sled as he followed the 180-mile route from Signaldalen in Norway to Jukkasjärvi in Sweden.
Phil said: “Within minutes of starting, I was shocked at how hard it actually was to handle the sled and the dogs.
“If anyone thought this was going to be an easy ride, you soon realised it wasn’t the case.
“There is so much you need to do in order to control the sled and you have to concentrate fully at all times. Within minutes my arms and legs were aching, especially when running and pushing the sled up the hills.
“It really is hard to describe the whole Fjällräven Polar experience in words, photos and videos. You really have to experience it for yourself to believe and understand it. It was without doubt the hardest yet best challenge I have ever done, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
“It really was a once in a lifetime experience and I feel so lucky to have shared it with such an amazing group of people from around the world. I know I have made many lifelong friends, which has been shown by the continued constant daily contact and the already planned future adventures together.”
What makes Phil’s expedition even more remarkable that two years ago he had barely set foot on a mountain when, in 2012, his step-brother Ian asked if he wanted to join him on a “life-changing” adventure on a 250km trek through the French Pyrenees.
He has not looked back since and now spends most weekends in the Lake District instead of the pub, and is making his way through the 282 Munro Mountains in Scotland.
The Wearside Action Man was one of 20 people from across the world selected to take part in the six day trip, and only one of two from the UK.
For his trek, Phil gave up alcohol and physically prepared at the University of Sunderland’s Sciences Complex.
Sports scientists and students, led by Lisa Board, a senior lecturer in sports and exercise science, worked with him to improve his fitness levels and collated vital data to help prepare him for the trip.
Throughout the journey Phil was charged with looking after six Alaskan Huskies, and even saw the Northern Lights as he relaxed after a long day trekking.
Phil managed to become one of the two participants from the UK after winning a public vote via social media, local news sites, radio interviews and celebrity tweets from Alan Hinkes, the first Briton to have climbed all 14 of the world’s mountains over 8,000m high.
Now, he has signed up for the Fjällräven Classic in August, a 110km summer trek through the Swedish mountains, with many of those who participated in his latest trip.
Phil added: “My flights are booked and I’ve bought my tent, so there’s no going back.”