A DETERMINED fundraiser is braving sub-zero temperatures, snow, ice and even polar bears to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Stephen Fruzynski has swapped the home comforts of Haddington for skis and a group of islands in the Arctic nearly 2,000 kilometres north of Norway.

The 29-year-old is trekking up to 100 miles across Svalbard as he raises thousands of pounds for Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH).

Stephen told the Courier he had his own mental health issues and encouraged people to speak out.

He said: “I sat for three or four years not knowing what was wrong with me whatsoever and I broke down.

“I needed to go and see someone and my doctor at the surgery in Haddington was brand new and things started to roll from there.

“He said to start talking to people and I took a different approach and I just went out and told everyone.

“I have to say the response was brilliant.

“Even to this day, people come up and ask for advice.

“They know I’m not a counsellor but they know I have been through it and what I can do.

“If I can make one person talk then I am more than happy.”

Stephen, who lives on Haddington’s Burnside, flew to Gatwick last week and then headed on to the Norwegian capital of Oslo before a further flight to Svalbard.

Ahead of the group trip, he had already collected more than £6,000 for the charity, which provides mental health social care support.

While in Svalbard, he will spend eight days trekking between 10 and 14 miles each day.

Ahead of the trip, he stocked up on a wide range of pieces of equipment, including a variety of gloves, balaclavas and hats, which he is carrying with him throughout the expedition.

The brave team are joined by a small group of experts, who cook their meals and also protect them from the threat of polar bears.

The former Knox Academy pupil said: “During the day, without a wind chill it will be about -5C; with a wind chill it can go down to about -25C.

“At night time it can be -20C without a wind chill and it can be -45C, -50C with one.

“Just keeping warm will be fun.”

The challenge is not the first that Stephen has experienced.

He has previously done fire walks and The Mighty Deerstalker, which sees competitors run through the night across rivers, forests and over hills near Innerleithen in the Borders.

Two years ago, Stephen, who works as a service advisor for Toyota, crossed the Sahara.

He said: “I didn’t know a single person but I went online and applied on a website.

“I flew out to Marrakesh in Morocco and it was epic.

“Yes, it was hot – it is the desert – it was absolutely roasting.

“You just became a group of 13 people and you became a massive family and you spoke about anything and everything.”

To support Stephen, text FRUZ87 to 70070 or go to www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Fruzynski