Food, Shelter, Water, Rescue... When The Version took on the 24 Hour Bear Grylls Challenge...
Food, Shelter, Water, Rescue. These, according to Bear Grylls, are the four elements to surviving the wild. And these were to be the same four elements that would structure our Bear Grylls 24 Hour Intensive Survival Weekend, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.
Without delay, on us rocking up to a small cabin in the middle of what felt like nowhere, our two instructors - Steve and Chris had us packing rucksacks with a harness, knife, a pot to eat from and some other bits in pieces (one poor sod had to carry two dead rabbits in his backpack as well). As we were told not to even think about packing chocolate bars and goodies, I decided not to take my hip flask full of rum and suddenly the whole thing felt like it might be a bad idea! Quick introductions followed, before we boarded a van which dropped us off in the rain ten minutes later and we were told to run down the hill to our first stop ..
Challenge one... Abseil into a cave. I've never done abseiling before and there wasn't time for much instruction before we were clipped to a rope and told to feel our way down in the dark, until we reached the bottom. We were told that a bag containing rope had been hidden and we were to find it before traversing out of the cave. Whilst a fun exercise, I was already knackered by the end of this and we'd barely began.
What followed was an educational trek along the river, with our instructors telling us which plants to look out for if we fancied something to eat. I have never craved a bar of chocolate more in my life. Before we knew it, we'd gone from eating leaves called "marsh mallows" to meal worms, found crawling on a log in an opening. If you're wandering, they tasted like creamy chicken and it wasn't anything as bad as eating bugs is made out to be on tv.
Our next challenge was to cross a river, via a Tyrolean traverse. This involves using a fixed line to cross from one point to another, often over water. Again, no time for hesitation, we just did it and it was certainly rewarding.
Later, on finding a spot to create our camp, we set about building a fire and shelter, having received a lesson in knot tying and fire lighting. We also each took a turn to help skin and chop a rabbit, which would later become our dinner... a rabbit stew. Check out our shelter below, which consisted of no more than a piece of tarpaulin and a bit of rope!
For day 2, we were up early and pulling ourselves along on top of a rope before we knew it. Next, abseiling down a hill, a practise rescue mission and then on to a rescue exercise, which involved putting our fire-lighting skills to good use and making a make-shift stretcher.
Then, the highlight of the weekend - the river activities. The highlights of these were wading through the rivers, climbing through what felt like a massive waterfall, and jumping off a cliff into another one.
For someone who's never done such things before, there was definitely an element of hesitation and a feeling of 'what the hell am I doing?' but the support of the group and the thirst for a challenge meant we all just got on with it. To round things off, we completed an exhausting four mile run/walk to our final activity, an abseil down what felt like a huge bloody great cliff which overlooked the location where we began - and were to end - our challenge.
Within the 24 hours, we'd learned how to find and cook our own food, build a shelter to stay dry and warm, source water and learn how to cross rivers and waterfalls, and build a fire in order to be rescued. We would absolutely recommend the Bear Grylls 24 Hour Survival courses to anyone interested in a personal challenge.
You definitely have to have a good level of fitness, but you don't have to be Superman (or Bear Grylls) to take part, and the sense of achievement after each activity was enormous. We learned a lot, and the Instructors and fellow campmates made the whole thing a joyous, if challenging experience.
The Bear Grylls Survival Academy 24 Hour Adult Courses are open to adults over the age of 18 and run year round at various locations across the UK, including Surrey, the Brecon Beacons and the Lowlands of Dartmoor. The cost is £349 per person and the following activities are included:
- Dynamic river crossings
- Improvised wilderness first aid
- Emergency shelter builds
- Navigate harsh terrain by day and night
- Rope skills – crossing difficult terrain
- Survival knife skills and fire lighting
- Foraging for food, setting snares & traps
- Dynamic Self Rescue Techniques
Visit beargryllssurvivalacademy.com for more details and booking.