Former Ireland and Leinster rugby prop Mike Ross will be among 18 people to face a survival challenge deep inside the Arctic circle to raise funds for the charity ‘Butterfly Skin’ Debra Ireland
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Former Ireland rugby prop Mike Ross has conquered a six-day Arctic survival challenge – but said it was ‘trivial’ compared to the struggles of those battling a horrific skin disease.
The ex-Leinster star endured temperatures of -27C and had no electricity or running water
during the trek in aid of ‘Butterfly Skin’ charity, Debra Ireland.
It supports people in Ireland living with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a condition where the skin blisters at the slightest touch, requiring excruciating bandage changes which can last hours.
Ross was among 18 people to face the wilderness challenge deep inside the Arctic Circle, learning the skills necessary to survive in one of the world’s harshest environments.
The crew had to light fires using lichen, pick-axe through ice for drinking water and cook local food on camp fires.
“The aspect of life I missed most was definitely running water – you don’t appreciate the benefits of it until you don’t have it,” said the 42-year-old.
But his temporary break from home comforts made him realise that every challenge they faced was “fairly trivial” compared to living with EB.
“We had some really good chats during the trip with people who knew a lot about EB, and some of the descriptions of living with the disease were absolutely harrowing.”
After two days’ training, the group headed off on a two-day trek into Finland’s Yllästunturi National Park, where they camped outdoors overnight.
Their initial accommodation was a woodcutters’ lodge with no electricity or running water.
Ross, who retired at the end of 2017 after a 12-year professional career, said that using the skis on the trek was the most difficult part.
“The skiing was the toughest challenge – I’d never been on a pair of skis before or anything that wasn’t firmly connecting me to the ground, so I found staying upright very challenging.
“The camp out was also tough, and I can’t imagine how explorers do that for weeks on end.
“For those who donated to help me with the fundraising for this trip, the impact of their donation is massive.
“There’s so much cost associated with EB, every cent counts – and there is also some very promising research into treatments that the donations will directly impact.
“There is no known cure for the genetic condition and the only treatment is the constant, bandaging of the skin.”
Money raised from the challenge will be used to continue increasing the quality of care Debra Ireland provides to patients as well as funding critical medical research.
Each Arctic Challenge participant had to raise a minimum of €5,500 – and Ross’s fundraising page is still open for donations at: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/debrairelandarcticmr.