Arctic expedition at minus 40 degrees

Cathy Mitchell pulling a tyre on Douglas beach during training for an Arctic event

Cathy Mitchell pulling a tyre on Douglas beach during training for an Arctic event

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A bank worker from Douglas is set for an expedition to the Arctic and hopes to raise at least £5,000 for a mental health charity in the process.

Cathy Mitchell, 30, from Derby Square, will be on one leg of the four part expedition to the Arctic Pole of Inaccessibility – 400 miles from the North Pole on Arctic ocean pack ice – in February next year.

During the trip she will endure temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees and all kit and provisions will have to be taken with them by sledge.

‘We have been practising in Norway camping out in minus 16 degrees – so we still have to build on that a bit – and doing a water immersion test,’ she said.

Cathy is completing the trip through a company called Ice Warrior, under the leadership of explorer Jim McNeill, and has already done two trips to Norway to train and prepare for the extreme weather conditions. ‘We were there for one week doing basic training then back again doing advanced polar training,’ she explained.

Those taking part in each leg of the trip will be flown to and from the expedition by aeroplane, which will land – weather and terrain permitting – on the ice. They will also be conducting research on wildlife populations and environmental conditions.

The object is to raise money for the Service Users’ Network (SUN), an island charity dedicated to supporting and improving mental health services by organising conferences and other events.

Cathy was moved to support the charity after her brother Terry’s suicide.

‘When Terry was my age and younger he did lots of things including kayaking and snowboarding, but aged around 37 he was experiencing mental health problems and took his own life,’ she said. ‘As a family we wanted to be open about it. He had difficulty talking about it and we didn’t want this to happen to other people.’

After doing some work with the Service Users’ Network, Cathy wanted to try and publicise some of the issues surrounding mental illness: ‘One in four people will suffer from some form of mental illness and young males in particular are the hardest to reach. I wanted to help and to challenge myself.’

The first of four groups will set out in February next year and each leg of the trip will last for 22 days. Seven people will be on each leg of the trip but as yet Cathy does not know which section she will be tackling. ‘I find that out later on in the year, November or December,’ she said.

As part of the acclimatsation process she also has to experience mild hypothermia – using a commercial freezer to find out what it feels like.

‘We plan to do a freezer to freezer link up,’ she said.

‘The idea is to go down to minus 21 degrees and stay there until we are hypothermic – which can take 30 minutes to an hour. There will be other trainees doing the same task elsewhere at the same time so we plan to link up and speak to them freezer-to-freezer.’

She thanked personal trainer Roger Davies, National Tyres and Manx Marine for their support.

Anyone wishing to offer support or sponsorship can contact her at or by calling 411849.

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