Fan dance (exercise)
"Exercise High Walk", more commonly known as the Fan Dance is part of the Fitness and Navigation phase of the selection process for the UK's Special Forces, as well as 16 Air Assault Brigade's Pathfinder Platoon. In the past it was used as a test on P Company during the Brecon Beacons Steel Bayonet phase (although a different route) and is still used as part of the Platoon Sergeant's Senior's Course at the Infantry Battle School, Brecon, Wales. The Fan Dance is a 15 miles (24 km) load bearing march (or in military parlance, a Tactical Advance to Battle (TAB)) that typically takes place at the end of the first week of the selection course. It is used as the first major indicator of whether a candidate has the physical and mental aptitude to complete the selection course.
The candidates are divided into two groups and each starts from opposite sides of Pen y Fan, a 2,907 foot (886-metre) high peak. One group starts at Torpantau railway station in Taf Fechan Forest, the other at the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. Each student carries a 45 pounds (20 kg) Bergen backpack, a rifle (a further 10 pounds (4.5 kg)), food and 4 one-litre water bottles (an extra 10 pounds (4.5 kg)). The candidates climb Pen y Fan's west slope (Corn Du) and then descend on the far side, known as Jacob's Ladder. The rest of the route follows the old Roman road before going back on itself for the return leg. Candidates are allowed 4 hours to complete the march in summer, and 10 hours in instances of adverse winter weather conditions. The Fan Dance is a DS led group march but is essentially down to the individual's own best effort. The Special Forces Selection Fan Dance takes place bi-annually, with a winter and summer edition.
The mainstream media reported that candidates died attempting the Fan Dance in summer 2013 but this is an inaccuracy as the Selection phase was already well into the Test Week phase.
- Curtis, Mike: "C.Q.B.", 1997
- McNab, Andy: "Immediate Action" 1995
- The Fan Dance, BBC Radio 4