The death of two TA soldiers puts heat training in question – but many others seek an escape from health-and-safety drudgery
Don’t mess with the Brecon Beacons. The trek over at nearly 3,000 feet is freezing in winter and punishingly hot in summer. The sweeping combes and sudden drops are deceptive to the unwary and getting out is not easy. The training offered by the Beacons has made them a natural base for the SAS. Thousands of soldiers use these mountains each year. Just occasionally someone dies.
The deaths at the weekend of two Territorial Army soldiers must raise questions over the modern army’s obsession with physical machismo, even if this exercise was, as reported, a selection for the SAS. Heat training is supposedly important for special forces. That must be in part due to the fixation of recent British governments with intervening in the hottest places on earth, places whose role in the security of the United Kingdom is wholly obscure.
Yet it is not only soldiers who are attracted to test themselves in these dangerous places. Any walker on the Beacons knows the familiar lines of altitude runners, triathletes, adventure vacationers and company bonders, all taking serious risks in the hope of physical (and perhaps corporate) improvement. The search for a brush with danger is not confined to Africa and Asia, where adventure tourism is booming and danger is part of the attraction.
The coast and countryside of Britain are a welcome resource for those whose leisure needs are not met by a distant, sunny beach. Sea kayaking, wild swimming, rock climbing, mountain biking and hang gliding are hugely popular pastimes. For many they answer a craving to escape the “health-and-safety” drudgery of city life. They seek not just nature but the chance of a brush with danger. Sometimes that danger proves to be more than just a brush. But it would be pointless, indeed self-defeating, to seek to eliminate it. People will seek risk, danger, adventure elsewhere.