A TEAM of three friends left today to race across the frozen wastelands of the Arctic for charity.
Longwood man Mike Dann, 27, and friends Simon Edmundson and Tim Tottenham, both 26, are leaving the UK to take part in a race to the North Pole.
They are undertaking the mammoth walk to raise money for Huddersfield teenage cancer charity The Laura Crane Trust.
Mike, an engineer, wanted to support the charity because he went to Greenhead College with Laura, who died from cancer in 1996 at the age of 17.
So far, the three adventurers have raised £9,600 for the charity - but are hoping for a final total of £10,000.
This is in addition to the £30,000 they had to raise for their trip, £22,000 of which came from corporate sponsorship.
Mike said: "We just need a few more generous people to help.
"I have been so deep into fundraising and organising the logistics of this that it's only just sunk in that we are leaving.
"I'm getting quite excited."
Mike, Simon and Tim will be one of 15 three-person teams taking part in the race, organised by travel company Venture Challenge.
After several difficult flights and transfers they will arrive at Resolute Bay, in Arctic Canada - the most northerly settlement which can be reached by a commercial flight.
Mike, Simon and Tim will then face a four-day walk - just to reach the starting line!
Last year's winning team completed the 350-mile race in 10 days.
Mike- who divides his time between homes in Longwood and the Isle of Wight - says they are hoping to beat that time by walking for 20 hours at a time and sleeping for just four in between.
He has spent eight months planning the adventure and all three men have taken part in extensive training to ready themselves.
They have visited Austria to learn how to ski in low temperatures.
On their trek, they will have to face temperatures of -25°C - with a wind chill factor making it feel like -65°C.
There is also the risk of falling through ice into the freezing sea.
To avoid drowning from cold and shock the trio have been jumping into cold Austrian lakes to acclimatise their bodies and practise getting out of the water.
They have also learned to shoot, in case they are attacked by polar bears.
The men all have some experience of tackling tough challenges.
Simon - who is currently working in Africa - has climbed mountains in the Himalayas. Mike has climbed in the Alps and Alaska.
Tim, now living in Portsmouth, is a captain in the Royal Marines and has completed basic training in Arctic terrain.
But the trek is something none have tackled before.
Mike said: "We've never done anything of this sort, in these sorts of temperatures."
* You can sponsor the team by visiting www.northpole2006.org.uk You can also send donations to the Laura Crane Trust by visiting www.lauracranetrust.org
People who give cash are put into a draw to win a case of champagne.