By Andy Hirst

A Huddersfield grandmother endured frostbite, sleepless nights and horrendous food in Arctic temperatures to raise £8,000 for charity.

But 71-year-old Yvonne Whittaker said she had a brilliant time pulling a sled across deep snow in the Kuusamo area of Finland – and would certainly do it again.

Her four-day expedition’s target was to raise £1,500 for Shabang! creative arts charity in Slaithwaite but in the end she finished up with £8,020 in memory of her grandson, Harry.

Harry had Down Syndrome and was just three when he sadly died in July 2014. He was a child actor in Emmerdale, playing the role of Rhona Goskirk and Marlon Dingle’s son, Leo, between 2011 and 2014.

Harry attended Shabang! and the charity works with children with additional needs and their families, providing fun creativity ranging from weekly music sessions to full-on theatre performances.

READ MORE: Why Yvonne decided to swap slippers for skis

Some of the youngsters have gone on to acting careers like Harry, whose parents are Yvonne’s son, Kristian, and wife Katie.

Yvonne, of Skelmanthorpe, said: “I absolutely loved the Arctic Trek experience even though it certainly was tough going. It was absolutely exhausting. The nights were horrendous as I’m a bit claustrophobic and the tents we had to pitch to sleep in were so incredibly low to withstand the bitter winds out there – so low it was impossible to sit up.

“Once inside you’re in three layers of clothes, a balaclava, a beanie hat and then a liner inside a sleeping bag. You just can’t move at all – I felt I couldn’t breathe properly and the nights seemed to go on forever. I did the whole expedition on hardly any sleep.”

Yvonne joined a group of other fundraisers for different charities on the trek and all their water for cooking and drinking came from melted snow.

The food was also basic – dehydrated food they popped into boiling water may have had different flavours on the packet such as rice, pasta, pesto and noodles but it all left Yvonne with the same taste sensation.

“It was disgusting,” she said. “Absolutely horrid.”

Another major danger out there is frostbite and many in the group suffered from it.

Temperatures were usually around -15°C but with the wind chill factor it felt even colder. There were times Yvonne took her gloves off – mainly to change from skis into snowshoes – and by the end of the trek she had suffered frostbite in one of her thumbs and four fingers.

“It came out in leathery blisters which then began to peel and I still can’t feel the tips of my fingers,” she said. “I’m assured the feeling will come back but it will take weeks. I’m very keen at sewing but I can’t use a needle and thread at the moment.”

Yvonne added: “No matter how hard it was the days were amazing. There was a fantastic sense of teamwork with everyone helping each other, especially when they got stuck in the deep snow. I’d do it again every year but would stay in a lodge at night to avoid a tent.”

The group had to pull sleds through the snow

One night Yvonne built an igloo and slept in that.

“It took hours to construct so I thought I may as well sleep in it,” she said. “It was far warmer than the tents.”

She was even able to take a candle in it which gave it a cosy feel.

“In the end it was absolutely worth it to raise £8,000,” she said. “I’m thrilled at the amount.”

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.