Had I been one of the competitors, I'd have been kicked out of the competition before even starting - for arriving late. It happened as several people arrived after the 7am check-in to take part in the Land Rover G4 Challenge. Tough rules, for a tough challenge. That was well over 24-hours ago and since then those who did make it on time have been through a series of gruelling physical and mental challenges to reduce their numbers to just 24.
But what are they competing for? Two places - one female and one male - in the Land Rover G4 Challenge. Actually, that's four places at this national selection, the final two being chosen after an international selection process. That's four places out of 24 competitors then. Not the best odds.
The G4 Challenge can rightfully be described as the adventure of a lifetime. It's a global challenge where entrants compete in country teams in an incomprehensibly tough adventure, driving, hiking, biking and kayaking through Mongolia for three weeks in June.
Physically and mentally demanding, the selection process is as tough as it gets. The competitors have hiked, biked, run and swum, built bridges from logs, negotiated streams and off-road courses in Land Rovers, lifted and hauled logs, hoisted tyres, been quizzed, tested and hardly rested. It's a gruelling schedule that is even exhausting to watch. But then the competitors are some of the finest around. Even visiting Olympic Gold Medal winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton is in awe when she reads some of the entrants' CVs - most of the competitors are at the very top of their game in adventure and endurance sports.
I'm no iron man though and instead of enjoying a night of - interrupted by a challenge - sleep under canvas in near freezing temperatures I head to a hotel. The next morning the remaining competitors are up and off as I arrive at 7am, heading to more testing challenges to prove their mettle. It's humbling to see such strong people so determined to win those coveted places.
Just 17 teams will compete in the G4 Challenge and the winners get nothing more for their efforts than national pride and a Land Rover to donate to their country's Red Cross and Red Crescent Society to help distribute aid. Charity plays a big part in the event; it's hoped that the G4 will raise over £1m over the next two events for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
After three days the UK winners are finally announced: Bruce Duncan, Andrew Grieve, Sarah Davies and Maria Leijerstam each impressing the national selectors with not just their physical ability but their mental aptitude and team skills.
Getting to the national selections is an impressive enough feat in itself; making it to the final four is a huge achievement. Only two of them will make it to Mongolia in June, the pair selected in trials this February. It's incomprehensible how those international selections could be more difficult than the 51 tasks they've already faced to get this far, but the event organisers promise they will be. To follow their progress, go to www.landroverg4challenge.com
Kyle Fortune - 9 Dec 2008