The Ten Tors Challenge is an annual event, organised by the Army alongside the other Services; the Emergency Services, Dartmoor National Park and Dartmoor Rescue. Unique among endurance challenges, Ten Tors is only available for teenagers from the seven Counties of South West England. In early May, 2400 teenagers descend on Okehampton Camp, ready to walk a distance of 35 miles, 45 miles or 55 miles (depending on age) across the demanding terrain of Dartmoor in just 2 days. The teams must be self-sufficient, navigating their way to ten nominated checkpoints, many of which are situated on the Granite Tors, for which Dartmoor is famous. Dartmoor is also infamous for its bogs and ability to attract foul weather conditions. Preparation is key to successfully completing the event as a complete team. The teams must carry everything they need to complete their route and stay out overnight safely. Those who complete the challenge, along with their parents and teachers who prepare them to remember with pride the huge achievement that completing Ten Tors brings. I would like to thank the thirteen amazing girls who started training for the challenge, their parents for their support and encouragement and the staff (Miss Davis, Mr Johnstone, Mrs Cowell, Mr Nicholas, Mrs Haynes, Mrs Williams) for being prepared to give up their precious weekends to help prepare our team for the challenge of a lifetime, along with Mrs Duncan who came to see the emotional team cross the finish at 14:38 on Sunday 7 May.
This year the team of Alice (team leader), Lucia (deputy team leader), Clara, Alex, Kate and Bryony completed the challenge. Here is their story:
“We started training for the Ten Tors challenge in February 2017. We walked 27 km over the weekend on the first Bath training, it was our first walk and it was something new for everyone. We started off with 13 girls from our year who were all competing to get into the final Ten Tors team of 6. Three weeks later, we had another Bath training, this was slightly longer and physically harder, walking 25km in one day. The second day of the Bath training we learnt skills that we were going to need on the challenge such as putting up tents, first aid, navigation and we had our first experience of cooking boil in the bags with the trangia. We highly recommend the meatballs!
At the end of March, we had our first 3 day training down in Dartmoor where the real event is held. As soon as we got to Dartmoor we realised the complete change in terrain from Bath. Endless hills which went on forever, making you feel isolated from the city. It was a new experience for everyone. On the first walk we got to grips with our new surroundings and the challenge of having to carry big heavy backpacks. We walked a total of 18km through bogs and tussocky grass. Our feet were wet and our muscles were sore but we kept our spirits high. After camping overnight in the campsite, we packed away quietly trying not to wake anyone and set off early for our next walk. We walked 20km around Dartmoor, visiting different Tors throughout the day. At the end of the day, we wild camped in the middle of the moor, with a stream for running water and only what we had in our backpacks. Even though we were exhausted and sore, we had an amazing night experiencing the most beautiful sunset silhouetting the Tors on the horizon. It was an experience that we will never forget. We woke up at the crack of dawn, packed everything away and prepared ourselves for the 12km walk ahead. Two weeks later we had our second Dartmoor training weekend which was a lot more challenging and really pushed us to the limit. We had to walk further and faster. We walked 26km on the first day and 19km on the second. The reality of the actual event kicked in. Then the final 6 were chosen.
Our feet were wet and our muscles were sore but we kept our spirits high. After camping overnight in the campsite, we packed away quietly trying not to wake anyone and set off early for our next walk. We walked 20km around Dartmoor, visiting different Tors throughout the day. At the end of the day, we wild camped in the middle of the moor, with a stream for running water and only what we had in our backpacks. Even though we were exhausted and sore, we had an amazing night experiencing the most beautiful sunset silhouetting the Tors on the horizon. It was an experience that we will never forget. We woke up at the crack of dawn, packed everything away and prepared ourselves for the 12km walk ahead. Two weeks later we had our second Dartmoor training weekend which was a lot more challenging and really pushed us to the limit. We had to walk further and faster. We walked 26km on the first day and 19km on the second. The reality of the actual event kicked in. Then the final 6 were chosen.
We arrived in Okehampton early Friday morning on the weekend of the event. When we arrived we saw the field packed with hundreds of tents from schools all over the south-west. It was an unbelievable sight. We got allocated our route early Friday morning so we started working out our route as soon as we arrived. In the evening all of the Ten Tors teams began to come together and we made friends with our fellow Ten Tors teams.
We woke up on Saturday morning at 5am to the sound of the new Ten Tors rap, which was interesting… followed by the iconic Chariots of Fire. Everyone was excited. We packed away and set off to the start line. It was huge. Thousands of teenagers all gathered waiting to hear the sound of the start guns. All of a sudden a huge mass of people went in all directions, heading for their first checkpoint. Our first climb was to Cosdon hill. The adrenaline kicked it, this was the actual event. The event was challenging, mentally and physically. We experienced blood, sweat, and tears, literally. We made many friends on our journey and made lots of memories which we will never forget. After walking for 13 hours we finally reached our camp at 8pm, White Barrow.
When we woke up at 4am in the morning, we realised it was the last day of our event, we were going to finish today. It was one of the best feelings. Even though we were in pain, the excitement of the finish overpowered it. As we got nearer to the finish line, we could hear the distant sound of cheering. The anticipation to get over the finish line grew. As we finally reached the track to the finish, we got the RHS flag out of our bag and held it out proudly. As we walked to the finish line, everyone was cheering. It was one of the most amazing moments we have ever experienced. It made you realise how big the achievement was that we had completed.
Overall it was a once in a lifetime experience that we will never forget. It has changed us all, and we have all become closer than ever as a team. It has made us realise that we can achieve anything if we put our minds to it. We would like to say thank you to Mr Hardcastle for everything. He has made this dream a reality and we are all so grateful, thank you. If you get the opportunity to participate in the Ten Tors challenge, we highly recommend it, it is something that will stay with you forever.”
The team’s parents have been overwhelmed by what they have seen in their daughters. Here are some of their comments:
“I think it is unbelievable what the girls get out of this challenge both from a personal and group perspective. Apart from the skills of survival that they will have forever, they have learnt to work alongside each other for the benefit of the team. I know how much they wanted to complete the challenge together and they drew on each other for the strength to do that.”
“We have been amazed at her resilience and her determination throughout to be in the team. It was a fabulous occasion for us on Sunday to see the whole team finish and a life lesson in friendship and team effort.”
“I would seriously encourage any girl currently in Year 9 to really go for the opportunity next year. You’ll certainly be able to look back with pride, a real sense of achievement, and make memories for life with your teammates. Although she was blistered, bruised, bitten and exhausted she found it one of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences she has ever undertaken.”
For those in Year 9 – watch out for the launch for Ten Tors 18 in the Autumn – just don’t expect such good weather for another 10 years!