If your idea of a great weekend is hiking for miles in dense mist, high winds, scorching sun and icy rain with your kit strapped to your back, then the Ten Tors will be right up your street, as it were. This Tor-turous challenge involves climbing 10 peaks around Dartmoor during the second weekend in May. Believe me, this is no walk in the park!
What Ten Tors is all about
The annual is organised by the British Army
and is limited to 2,400 hardy participants. It is aimed at young people aged 14-19 and attracts teams from schools, colleges, Scouts groups, Girls' Brigade, Boys Brigade and Cadet Squadrons. In the past, participants from all over the UK and as far away as Australia and New Zealand have taken part. However, due to the high number of entrants, teams must now originate from the South West of England.
The event is definitely not a race, more a test of endurance, navigation, survival and physical ability. Participants are in 400 teams of six and will train hard before the event. Climbing ten tors in 34 hours is certainly not for the faint-hearted!
The Ten Tors Challenge is organised by the 43rd (Wessex) Brigade based at Okehampton and is marshalled by specially trained volunteer managers. They call in support as required from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Dartmoor Rescue Group who on occasions have provided additional manpower and helicopters to help out in emergencies.
Dartmoor itself is one of England's last natural wildernesses. It covers 368 square miles and the low grass and peaty moorland is broken up by rugged granite outcrops known as “tors”. The highest point is High Willhays, at 621 metres (2,018 feet) of elevation.
The history of the Ten Tors Challenge
Ten Tors started in 1960 and the only year that this annual event was cancelled ahead of time was in 2001, due to foot and mouth disease controls. On several occasions, most recently in 2007, the event has had to be abandoned due to flooded rivers and dangerous bogs. In 1996 contestants even had to contend with a heavy snow storm, while just two years later temperatures reached a sticky 26°C (78°F).
To reduce the dangers, 2014 sees a revised route, the first in 30 years, with fewer river crossings. There will also be more check points where participants can leave the event, particularly if the weather turns hazardous, to reduce the need for helicopter rescues.
Gold, Silver or Bronze?
Ten Tors offers several different routes with varying degrees of difficulty from arduous to Herculean! They all include up to 55 miles hiking, wilderness camping and conquering 10 nominated tors over the weekend. Altogether the event covers 19 different tors, each manned by an official marshal who stamps participants' route cards.
The 12 Bronze routes are for entrants aged 14 to 15 and cover 35 miles and the statutory 10 tors. Ten Silver routes cover 45 miles and are for 16 and 17 year olds. The four tough Gold routes are for 18 and 19 year olds, or those who have previously completed a Silver route. They include 55 miles of hiking and 10 tors.
All those who complete their chosen course receive a medal of achievement and a lesson for life. For many, the Ten Tors is the first physical challenge they will have experienced and the opportunity to discover the value of teamwork. The chance to overcome all obstacles through sheer willpower is, for many, a memorable achievement which they build on in the subsequent challenges of life.
Ten Tors is so much more than a weekend hike or an outdoor adventure. If you feel up to the challenge, get your application in early and look forward to adding this coveted event to your CV of life. If you fancy cheering on the participants, the events starts on the second Saturday in May with cannon fire at 07:00 from Anthony Stile near the Okehampton Camp. It ends at 17:00 on the Sunday, although many team members complete the course and receive their medals earlier in the day.
Have you been part of the Ten Tors Challenge? Would you recommend it to other young people? Please add your personal comments below and feel free to encourage others to take part in this character-building event.