‘Bear’ Essentials: TV star’s Sierra survival academy challenges

| June 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Written by Kristin Close

We put on our 20 lb. backpack and took off running into a thick conifer forest.

We took a break from running to forage, eat a mealworm and learn how to purify water from a stream. Before dark, we familiarized ourselves with the land, placed traps, tied knots and built emergency shelters. When all we had was the light produced from the fire, we skinned and gutted a rabbit and navigated by the night sky.

Sawyer Carson gets his protein fix with a mealworm. Courtesy photo.

As I laid in my pine-needle bed, I thought to myself, “I made it through the first 12 hours. Only 12 more to go.”

This is Bear Grylls Survival Academy 24 Hour Adult Course—named for the Discovery Channel survivalist and meant to push people to their limits while learning extreme survival techniques.

On June 2, my friend and I left Auburn, California and drove five hours to Calvin Crest near Oakhurst, California (just south of Yosemite National Park). At 21 and 22 years old, respectively, we were the youngest amongst the seasoned hikers and mountaineers. We had no idea what we were getting into.

We were in the hands of former British Royal Marine Scott Heffield, who has served in Iraq and Northern Ireland. Heffield has taught a variety of sports for more than 25 years, ranging from step aerobics to high altitude mountaineering. He has worked behind the scenes with production companies supplying specialist equipment and offering specialist skills and advice on stunt work, health and safety. Heffield is currently the project development manager for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.

The group of survivalists-in-training listens closely as a former
Royal Marines officer, Matt, explains how to forage for food.

On our second day Heffield woke us at 6:30 a.m. to do a few exercises, including push-ups, crunches and squats, to get our blood pumping.

We packed up and took off running again. The park had many dry branches that snap when you step and scratch your shins. And his time, we added parkour. We jumped off rocks and hopped over logs, repelled and zip-lined, crawled through tight, muddy spaces and swam across a pond.

Trained from a young age in martial arts, Grylls, the course’s namesake, spent three years as a soldier in the British Special Forces, serving with 21 SAS. It was here that he acquired many of the skills that his fans all over the world enjoy watching him pit against mother-nature in his television series Man Vs. Wild. Grylls more recently presents Escape from Hell and Get out Alive, which are two TV shows showcasing survival experiences.

Bear Grylls Academy attendees have 40 minutes to create a shelter–and then sleep in it.

The Bear Grylls Survival Academy was launched this year to share these experiences, and learn what it really means to look after yourself when the cards are not in your favor–to say the least. Through this grueling, and exhilarating, 24-hour course, we learned how to forage, lay traps, skin and gut, navigate by day and night, build emergency shelters, stalk, protect ourselves in the wild from attacks, wilderness first aid and tie knots.

Adventureres put their fire starting skills to the test when
they are given a practice scenario, in which a team member is injured and
they have to alert a rescue helicopter. Courtesy photo

This course is for the outdoor enthusiasts. Handpicked instructors chosen by Grylls and his team deliver courses to attendees at $579 per person. The courses are open to adults 18 and older, and will be held at various locations, including the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Rockies of Colorado and soon to come, Texas.


 Kristin Close is an editorial intern at Tahoe Quarterly. Her work has appeared in Aphrodite Magazine and the Nevada Sagebrush. 


Category: Outdoors, Summer

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