Saturday 24 February 2018

Special Forces survival course to toughen up 'softies'

Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls

Nick Bramhill

SPECIAL Forces' Rangers have been recruited to devise and run a survival course for adrenaline-chasing Irish office workers that has been described as even tougher than TV adventurer Bear Grylls' gruelling new island-based reality show.

Irish adventurer Keith McDonnell has developed a four-day endurance mission for thrillseekers, which is run by two members of the elite Army Ranger Wing on a secret island off the coast of Co Dublin.

McDonnell, 37, who's the CEO of adventure tour company, Extreme Ireland, said: "There's nothing else like this or as tough as this in the country. I think it would be on a par with, if not harder than, Bear Grylls' survival exercises.

"It takes place on one of the wildest islands off the east coast, but participants are not told where it is. They are dumped into the water and then have to swim ashore.

"All their gear is taken off them and they are allowed just one item of comfort. They have to live off their hands and hunt for small prey, skin rabbits, build their shelters and rafts.

"There's also abseiling, climbing, foraging, navigation skills, Tyrolean lining and rope-climbing.

"On top of that, the people who take part will also learn first aid, how to build a fire from scratch and sourcing and purifying water."

Despite the back-breaking demands of the 'special ops' course, which runs once a month and has a maximum capacity of 10 participants, McDonnell said he believes anybody is capable of succeeding in the wild if they put their mind to it.

In the few months it's been running, the course has proved especially popular with 40-something men in high-powered office jobs.

And McDonnell, from Dunboyne, Co Meath, insists it's the most rewarding weekend anyone could have, with people quickly mastering long-forgotten skills.

He said: "The aim of the mission is to survive with all the creature comforts of modern life stripped away. You will be trained like a warrior, obtaining the skills to deal with anything life can throw at you in the future."

But he stressed he's noticed how pampered Irish people have become and believes we could reconnect with our hunter-gatherer origins if an outdoor syllabus was introduced in primary schools – as in some Nordic countries.

He said: "Irish men and women have gone too soft. It's terrible to think how they would fare if they were put in any situation where all the comforts of home were not laid on.

"Many grown men in Ireland cannot light a fire in a fireplace using firelighters nowadays, never mind keep themselves alive out in the open.

"We want to change all that. We are calling on people to toughen up, to smarten up and to challenge themselves."

For further information, see www.extremeireland.ie.

Sunday Independent

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