The chief instructor said it was typical with SF selection that at the start (ie when we did the bootcamp weekend in November) there are lots of people, I’m sure there was at least 70. By the second stage (Pen Y Fan in the snow) the numbers were down, and at the final stage there was just 17 people – he said the fact that we were there was something to be proud of.
Of all of those that started just 1 completed it. The winner who also was first in both the previous events, an ex military fell who is absolutely tough as nails, quoted ‘I’ve been up the mountains in some terrifying conditions conditions and yesterday was by far the worst I’ve ever experienced, absolutely horrendous…’
Physically I was ok, mentally I got wobbled a few times, but the main thing that messed me and my tabbing pal up was lack of navigation skills. It seems we managed to cover many climbs and declines between the start and checkpoint number 1, doing over 10 miles when apparently it should have been just under 3 miles… We knew where we were on the map at all times though just sort of went the long route…
We made some memories and perfected the art of climbing over barb wire fences whilst carrying our 55lb bergens and probably now hold the title for longest route to checkpoint number one! Between us we sunk in numerous marshes and bogs, crawled through dense black forests and crossed many streams (& barbed wire fences).
There was a point when we at the top of the mountain where my comrade looked like he may have had to be stretchered down it, his eyes glazed, he was shivering and shaking and really struggling to put an extra layer on.
It was at that point we were told we were going to be ‘pulled off’ – which means we wasn’t allowed to carry on. We had to trek another hour or so down a really steep mountain face to meet up an ‘RV’ (rendezvous) point where there were some more of our fellow comrades that had already also been withdrawn from the competition and others who had packed it in voluntarily.
When we were on our way down the mountain face I was trying to keep spirits up by saying things like ‘at least we will be able to get a nice hot drink first’ etc, little did I know what actually did await us at the RV point…. Well basically all that was there was some vehicles. We off loaded our bergens and then got into the back of a jeep. And that is where we had to sit and stay, for about 4 hours… with no hot drinks! But still we were safe and marginally warmer although my feet felt like they were in a bucket of water.
On this adventure I have learned life skills and made life long memories.
The SAS instructor sent me a message to say that all of us that took on this final challenge earned respect from him and his staff, and that they were close to cancelling the event due to the intense weather conditions. He said we showed the courage that the Special Forces units look for – to receive a message like this from someone that has been there, done it and put people through this for real is nearly as good as a medal for me. He signed off with this great quote by Sir Winston Churchill, which can be applied to anyone in any situation:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Amen to that!