WHAT IS THE P COMPANY FAN DANCE?
The P Coy Fan Dance is a demanding sequence of non-navigational test marches staged over the highest peaks of the Eastern and Western sides of the Brecon Beacon Mountains. The historic and legendary routes that have lay dormant for nearly 30 years formed an integral part of Exercise Steel Bayonet; the final phase of the world renowned Paratrooper & Airborne Forces Pegasus Company Selection course. The opening Fan Dance test takes on the two most iconic peaks in the entire Beacons range, landmarks steeped in both Paratrooper and SAS folklore. The FRV is followed by a brief respite before launching into the 10km High Speed March, true to the original P Company Steel Bayonet test.
Starting at Cwm Gwdi, the abandoned military training camp and original P Company base, the ghost of past endeavours linger with the concrete bases of Nissen huts still visible amongst the trees. In use since the late Victorian era and allegedly used to prepare soldiers for the Boer War, military activity continued on the site up until the early 90s', hosting the very first Pathfinder Platoon Selection cadre in 84 and the last ever Beacons P Company course in 92.
The P Company Fan Dance marks an entrance onto Pen y Fan with a steep climb up to Allt Ddu spot height, followed by long drawn out slog over the exposed and windswept northern ridgeline up to the summit. An immense sense of history, pride and a strong surge of purpose comes in knowing that the faded footsteps of a generation of Paratroopers and SAS soldiers had marched the same hallowed path of this now ghosted route that had once determined the fate of so many men in search of something out of the ordinary.
From Pen y Fan summit the route follows the SAS Fan Dance trail down to the iconic old red phone box RV where tabbers are required to log in before being escorted across the A470 to the western side of the Beacons National Park. The most demanding part of the course begins with the next RV located at the top of an immense Selection landmark… The early approach follows a rough single lane trail up a steady gradient that eventually veers off due south and enters the marshland sector dotted with vague sheep tracks and pockets of what is known in Selection fame as babies' heads. After negotiating this sinking and waterlogged stretch of terrain, the looming menace of the legendary Iron Man SAS test week march begins with the staggeringly tough climb up Fan Fawr's notorious North Face.
From the marches' second summit it's onwards to the next RV where a half hour break and a hot stew and warm brew awaits. Make the time cut and satisfy the Directing Staff of former Paras & SAS and the battle to beat the clock starts over again on the P Company 10km High Speed March.
The Steel Bayonet Fan Dance is at present a single day exercise that provides a beautiful, brutal and dramatic load bearing challenge with a strong sense of nostaalgia and wilderness for much of the course. The route arguably provides an equal, if not greater physical and mental challenge than the SAS edition Fan Dance, certainly with more varied terrain and tougher underfoot conditions across two very different landscapes with rapid changing weather systems of their own.
Aside from the race aspect of this event, just getting to the end is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. The P Company Fan Dance is open to ANYONE looking for a unique challenge: be it personal, competitive, as a sponsored participant in aid of your favourite charity or as part of a team building exercise. Our Steel Bayonet Fan Dance will be staged annually with both Load-Bearing and Clean Fatigue categories. This special edition event will directly support the Support Our Paras charity and will be staffed by former Paratroopers and Special Air Service Directing Staff.
Logistics: The P Company Paratrooper Fan Dance and its associated 10km High Speed march is not an out and back route. The march will start and finish in different locations with logistical arrangements in place to manage troop movement. The Storey Arms will still serve as the event Base Camp and end of march Admin Point with a FOB (Forward Operating Base) (Cwm Gwdi) established at the northern end of the Brecon Beacons range. Further detail and instruction to be announced via private email information packs.
BACKGROUND: ELITE UNIT TEST MARCHES
Each test march is essentially a TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle). In the elite unit context the exercise replicates advancing from the point of strategic insertion towards the theatre of operations while remaining undetected. By definition the main part of the mission commences once the TAB has been completed. The ability to TAB is essential to elite military units such as the Parachute Regiment, Royal Marine Commandos and Special Forces who are required to cover long distances at speed over arduous terrain while being completely self-sustained. If an Airborne soldier is unable through injury, poor personal administration or lack of fitness to be operationally effective and fulfil his role, he will become a liability and have put others' lives in jeopardy. The ability to TAB, is therefore the bread and butter of the airborne soldier.
The nuts and bolts of the P Company Fan Dance are so simple. Carry all you need over a certain distance. No man made obstacles or tricks, just man against nature. But simple does not mean easy. Simple can also be primeval, brutal… all the mental & physical excess swept away by necessity. What is left? The stark beauty of such an experience has to be tasted first-hand.
WHY SHOULD I DO THE P COY FAN DANCE?
In our artificial world of mortgages, smart phones and the incessant chatter of the voice in the head, there is an urgent need to return to the simple raw intensity of man against nature: the human will pitted against an unapologetic and silent adversary of rock and earth. Sweat prickling the forehead and soaking the back, straps digging into the shoulders and the primitive urge to suck in the next breath and keep going smother out everyday concerns. The glorious feeling of the body working to its maximum capacity washes over you, jockeying for position with dozens of other competitors makes your heart feel as though it is attacking the inside of the rib cage. Fully dilated pupils drink in the richness of the surroundings as you pound up the mountain, scalding heat bursts through the leg muscles and the hypnotic rhythm of gravel underfoot and urgent breathing echoes around you. This is what it means to be alive: the vital and overwhelming awareness of the present moment thrust onto you by straining lungs and aching limbs. This is what it means to do The Fan Dance.
Note: We are proud of our provable heritage as the first and original organisers of the Fan Dance Summer and Winter edition events. Founded, organised and managed by former SAS&SBS soldiers with Parachute Regiment and Royal Marines Commando backgrounds, our ethos is of integrity and the unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Sure to be imitated, we set ourselves apart as the original Special Forces organisation willing to go ''Always a Little Further.''
Proud to support and donate to Brecon and CBMRT Mountain Rescue Teams, the 100 Peaks Challenge (The Soldier's Charity & ABF), The Pilgrims Bandits, The True Grit Initiative, and the Friends of Storey Arms Project for disadvantaged children. A special tribute to Support Our Paras, the official Parachute Regiment Charity and home of the UK's original military challenge, the legendary Paras 10.