Former EastEnders star Joe Absolom takes part in new reality show 71 Degrees North on ITV1. Here, he describes what terrors awaited him in the cold…

Why did you decide to do such a high-risk challenging show?
“It seemed like a really good excuse to go and have a really good time and I wanted to and see a bit of the world that I hadn’t seen before. I expected it to be tough but some of the challenges were a bit of a surprise. Before I went, I thought it sounded like a lot of hard work in terms of getting on with people. To go away and do something like that with 10 people you don’t know isn’t really my cup of tea. My agent said don’t do it but I thought about it and when I found out it was set in a beautiful part of the world I’d never seen before and that I’d be mountain trekking, husky sledding and dangling off ravines, it sounded like a laugh. It was also a physical challenge rather than 10 people just sitting around talking about rubbish.”

What were the hardest parts to endure?
“The nights were the worst, trying to sleep in the tent in the freezing cold. During the daytime it was all a bit of a laugh. At night it became a bit like, what the hell are we doing?”

Were there any team rivalries?
“We weren’t so much competitive with each other – it was more a case of competing in the challenges. Gavin Henson was the true favourite for every task. He’s a sportsman so they get into a different mindset – that I’m going to win whatever! If he was swimming against an old lady or a blind dude, he’d still try to beat them! He was never going to go soft which was good for the show. We didn’t know what the challenges were in advance, so it was a really good buzz. Everyone got on really well, once we learnt how to put the tent up properly and how to flatten the snow out before you put your sleeping bag down. The first few days we didn’t realise that and it was a nightmare. We got better at it.”

What did you do for food?
“A lot of the food was dried stuff in packets, like chilli or something but it was alright. They give you loads of chocolate to build you up because we had to take in 10,000 calories a day. So that keeps your weight up – your teeth fall out though!”

Did the experience change you?
“The amazing thing about that environment is that it makes you more outgoing. I wasn’t really a leader but there was no sitting around. I found it really good fun to do. I did have a bit of a wobble. One of the treats was to speak to our families on Skype. So I spoke to my girlfriend and my little girl, Lyla, and then the next day we had to dangle over a huge waterfall, over 300 metres high and I thought, I don’t really need to do this. Because we hadn’t seen our families for weeks, it made me think, I don’t know if want to do it. Somehow I carried on though.”

71 Degrees North starts on Saturday September 11 at 9pm on ITV1.