Exercise Sweat Finn took place in the mountain regions north of Malaga between 14th-21st September 2019. Taking part in the exercise where 17 reserve troops from 71 Engineer Regiment comprising of personal from 102 (Paisley), 124 (Cumbernauld), 591 (NI) Squadrons and RHQ.
The aim of the exercise was to conduct level 3 adventure training (AT) in Spain in a challenging and arduous environment. This would be achieved by 3 AT activities comprising of mountain biking, mountaineering and rock climbing with a view of testing and developing each individual’s leadership and physical robustness.
The group was staying in a 19-bed villa on the outskirts of Pizarra (a lovely quaint Spanish town). With no chef, parent or housemaid on site individuals would have to cook, wash and clean as part of groups to ensure they could get ready for the events that lay ahead each day.
Within 1 hour of reaching the accommodation, all the individuals took part in a 5-mile acclimatization hike, to get over the early morning start and 3-hour flight. With a shock to the system this let individuals understand the demanding environment and the general surroundings they were training in over the next 6 days, with the demanding fast pace.
The individuals where broken down into three groups with a team leader responsible for the admin and timings for their group over the next six days. On the first day two groups were then given a half day of mountain biking and rocking climbing introduction (beasting), while the third group where taken on a full day mountaineering. The pasty white Celtic troops had hearts set on sunshine and the swimming pool, they quickly realised that this was going to be an intense but rewarding week of AT. The groups then rotated through these activities the next day.
The next three days saw each group rotate through a full rigorous day of each activity. The area of El Chorro is glorious and seen the climbers climb grade 3-5c on 10 different climbs. A challenge that some flourished in and some understood what leg twitching was all about. The Ardales Lake District saw the mountain biking complete distances ranging from 18 to 30 miles and up to 1 in 8 gradient slops. Some would consider the biking to be mountaineering and the request of oxygen was asked for on many occasions, with some very exhausted but fulfilled cyclists at the top of many hills (some would say mountains). However; the mountaineering did take place in the nearby mountains and hilltops off Pico De Humo and Casarabonela, covering 15 to 22 kilometres with heights of over 1500 metres climbed or in some cases conquered. One of the key takeaways from the mountaineering was to be prepared before every journey, and to bring various weather kit, as seen by one of the groups when the weather was similar to the highlands of Scotland in winter rather than summer in the Mediterranean.
Each group faced similar challenges ranging from fitness levels, abilities and experiences to individuals overcoming personal fears such as heights, speed and the sun (for the Irish and Scottish). A sense of achievement was felt each day and at the end of a very gruelling week the troops all believed that they had gained or improved their confidence, knowledge and leadership skills within a very exhilarating environment.
The quote of the week must be “well are you enjoying yourself on the mountain biking?” answer “enjoyable sir, but I would rather do Brecon than that hill again”.