Sheffield teen conquered gruelling SAS training route by ‘reciting sister's favourite Disney songs’

A Sheffield teenager is believed to be the youngest person ever to conquer a legendary Welsh mountain trail used to train Special Forces.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 7:45 am

At 2pm on Saturday (June 26), 15-year-old Salahudeen Hussain breathed a sigh of relief as he crossed the finish line of the grueling ‘Fan Dance’ exercise at the Pen Y Fan peak.

The 15 mile weighted-pack march up the 2,907ft ridge is feared for being the make-or-break test for SAS candidates and is a trial of mental and physical ability.

But this weekend, Sal overcame the infamous course in a personal challenge to raise £5,000 for his detachment of the Royal Marine Cadets.

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Sal completed the grueling trek with his detachment commander Sergeant John Daley.
Sal completed the grueling trek with his detachment commander Sergeant John Daley.

“I was nervous beforehand,” said Sal. “We got there at 4am and you set off at 8am. For four hours you’re just looking up and thinking ‘I’m going over that’.

“The hardest part is the start. It’s foggy and there are so many false summits, at some point you look up and think it’s going to go on forever. It’s a real mental challenge.”

Sal, who is a cadet lance corporal for the Royal Marines Cadets Sheffield detachment, first committed to scaling the Fan Dance in 2019 - when he was 13 - to raise money for his unit.

The expedition was halted again and again by the Covid-19 pandemic before he was finally able to set off on Saturday, accompanied by his detachment commander Sergeant John Daley.

Salahudeen Hussain is believed to be the youngest person to conquer the Pen y Fan at age 15.

The Fan Dance is used in the selection process for the UK Special Forces, where candidates fail if they do not pass in four hours and 10 minutes.

The 2,907ft peak is famed for being as much a test of mental endurance as it is physical.

Sal said: “I felt like the last two years had been leading up to it.

“It sounds weird but I kept myself going by reciting film scenes in my head, or my sister’s favourite Disney songs.

Sal took on the infamous SAS training route 'the Fan Dance' to raise £5,000 for the Royal Marine Cadets.

“My commander John was brilliant, he was with me the whole way and kept me going.”

Finally, clocking at just over six hours, Sal was applauded across the finish line after breaking into a run for the last leg.

It is now believed that Sal is the youngest person to have conquered the peak after Lilyella Craw from Lanarkshire bested it in four and a half hours in 2017 when she was 17.

His efforts have raised over £4,200 out of his target of £5,000 on his JustGiving page.

Sergeant John Daley said: “It’s just an outstanding effort and for a young person to find the discipline for it is amazing. “His donation will help us make the Royal Marine Cadets experience the best it can be for so many young people.”

Sal’s donation will be used to buy boots, webbing, shirts and basic equipment for the Cadets, which has reportedly seen a surge in membership during the lockdown.

Sal hopes to read medicine at university when he is older and one day join the Royal Marines.