Ten Tors

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Ten Tors is an annual weekend hike organised and run in early May for 2,400 young people by the British Army on Dartmoor. The majority of entrants are schools, colleges, Scout groups and Cadet squadrons from South West England, though groups from across the UK have regularly taken part, as have teams from Australia and New Zealand. However from 2012 only teams from the South West of England are eligible to take part,[1] due to the large numbers of entrants. Teams normally train for a few months before the event.

Team walking during the event

Event format[edit]

Teams of six are required to visit ten specified tors; on the top of each tor is a checkpoint. Up to two members per team may fall out during the Challenge; if a team drops below four members they may 'join' with another team walking that route. If joining is not possible the team will be 'crashed out' of the event. Ten Tors Charter 2012, Annex E, para 25

There are 26 different routes over three different distances, lettered from A to Z, using a total of 19 different manned tors: 12 Bronze routes of 35 miles (56 km) for those aged 14 to 15 years; 10 Silver routes of 45 miles (72 km) for those aged 16 to 17 years; and 4 Gold routes of 55 miles (89 km) for those aged 18 to 19 years, or 17-year-olds who completed a Silver route the previous year.

The organisers stress that the event is not a race – although teams often compete to see who can finish first – but a test of endurance, navigation and survival skills, because of not just the distances and the challenging terrain, but potentially also the weather: conditions on Dartmoor can vary considerably and change suddenly. In 1996, for example, the event was struck by a heavy snow storm, leading to some teams still being out on the moor a day after the event was due to have finished; while in 1998 temperatures reached 26°C (78°F).

Participants arrive at Okehampton Camp on the Thursday or Friday before the hike, watch a safety briefing video and have their equipment checked, a thorough process known as scrutineering. Teams must carry all their food, clothing, tents, stoves, fuel, navigation equipment, maps, emergency rations and a first aid kit; they also collect drinking water from the moor and use water purification tablets. Each team has a nominated team leader, who is responsible for ensuring that the team's route card is stamped at each tor.

All the teams start at 0700 on the Saturday from an area of flat land next to Anthony Stile, close to Okehampton Camp on the northern edge of Dartmoor. They stand in a semicircle and set off when a cannon fires. They have 34 hours to visit each of the ten tors on their route in the correct order. Teams must not pass through a checkpoint between 2000 on Saturday and 0600 on Sunday morning; nor may they pass the ninth tor (eighth for the 35 mile routes) until the Sunday. Those trying for a Bronze medal must camp at one of the manned tors on their route, while Silver and Gold teams may camp anywhere on the moor. Teams must arrive back at Anthony Stile by 1700 on the Sunday, having visited all ten tors on their route in order, to qualify for a medal.

History of the event[edit]

The first Ten Tors Expedition took place in September 1960, with around 200 young people taking part.[2] By 1980, the numbers had grown to more than 2,600. To protect the environment, the numbers are now limited to 2,400 individuals: 400 teams of four to six teenagers. The Army uses the event as a large scale logistics training exercise.

Until 1967 the event was organised by the Junior Leaders Regiment, Royal Corps of Signals. This responsibility passed to Headquarters South West District, and in 1986 to 43 (Wessex) Brigade, the regional Headquarters of the Territorial Army in the South West.

Since 1977 an additional event, The Jubilee Challenge, has been held for young people with physical or learning disabilities. This involves a selection of four routes of between 7.5 to 15 miles (12.1 to 24.1 km), both on road and cross-country.

Many military units and civilian groups provide support for this event and the Jubilee Challenge, including the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, Exeter UOTC, 243 Field Hospital RAMC, 6th Battalion The Rifles, two Sea King HC4 helicopters from 848 Naval Air Squadron, 39 (Skinners) Signal Regiment, two Gazelle helicopters from 7 Regiment Army Air Corps (Volunteers), Bristol UOTC and the Dartmoor Rescue Group.

1981[edit]

The first ever Junior Army Team from Junior Leaders Regiment Royal Armoured Corps JLR RAC finished the Gold Course with 24 minutes to spare, despite several of the six-strong team having severe foot injuries. They were cheered home by an honour guard of Royal Marines and Paratroopers who walked with the boys over the last mile.

1993[edit]

Tavistock Times reports "Hurricane Force" winds during the event.

1996[edit]

A cold northerly wind on the Saturday of the 1996 event turned to rain and snow overnight. This continued through Sunday, accompanied by fog and driving wind. Requests from Tor party commanders, two of whom had their tents destroyed, added to pressure to abandon the event, and there was a mass evacuation of the moor on the Sunday afternoon, the first time the event had been terminated early. Fifty-one teams completed their routes, but no record remains of their success. Ten Tors, A History

1997[edit]

This was the first year that Tavistock & District Youth Forum entered a team, a 55 mixed team[clarification needed] who all finished.

2001[edit]

Ten Tors was cancelled in 2001 due to the foot and mouth epidemic, but went ahead the next year.

2002[edit]

(68% of the teams starting finished Complete, a further 17% finished with one or more fall-outs)[3]

Traditionally on the morning of the event a number of songs are played over the loudspeakers. Favourites are "Chariots of Fire", "(Simply) The Best","In the Army Now", "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" and "I Will Survive"; in 1986 Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken" woke the tented village at 0600. In 2004 the CD line-up was changed, leading to great uproar and complaints; it reverted the following year.

2003[edit]

(69% finished Complete, + 21% with fall-outs)

For the second year in succession the Plymouth DofE Award 45 team[clarification needed] took the honour of leading the teams over the finish line, at 08:49 (Ten Tors Teams, 2003), improving on their time of 09:23 in 2002 (Ten Tors Teams, 2002)

2004[edit]

(75% finished Complete, + 17% with fall-outs)

In 2004 the Ten Tors record for earliest complete team home was broken by R1809, Dartmoor Plodders, with a time of 08:19.[4] This stood until 2009.

2005[edit]

(52% finished Complete, + 29% with fall-outs)

In 2005, one of the original teams from the 1960 Ten Tors took part in the event, which was held on 14–15 May in particularly adverse weather conditions: constant rain on the Saturday, combined with a bitter wind, leading to an unusually high number of retirements.

2006[edit]

(76% finished Complete, + 17% with fall-outs)

In 2006, the event was held over the weekend of 13–14 May, with high temperatures on the Sunday resulting in several cases of dehydration.

2007[edit]

(0% finished...)

On Sunday 4 March 2007, Charlotte Shaw was swept away by the rain-swollen Walla Brook near Watern Tor, while training for the event. The rest of her group raised the alarm using a mobile phone, but despite her being evacuated by a Royal Navy helicopter within 20 minutes, she died later that night in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth.[5] In December 2009 an inquest into the death was halted for the case to be considered for criminal charges.[6] Several other groups were also evacuated by helicopter after weather conditions on Dartmoor deteriorated.

The event itself was abanoned at 21:30 on Saturday 12 May 2007, half-way through, due to severe weather conditions; the decision was influenced by the high drop-out rate of 15% on Saturday. Participants spent the night camped at a manned Tor, before being escorted off the moor by the military the following day.[7]

2008[edit]

(61% finished Complete, + 25% with fall-outs)

From 2008 the event was much changed, with different routes and use[clarification needed] of the moor to help bird conservation in the nesting season. Steeperton Tor and Hare Tor were dropped from the Tor list, and the pass from Dinger to Kitty Tor known as "Death Valley" was zoned off limits. Each team was permitted only two training walks on the north moor. A review of these changes is scheduled for 2011. The 2008 event was a total contrast to the previous years, with temperatures in the low 20s Celsius, and participants dropping out because of dehydration rather than hypothermia.

The first team across the line was the 20th Torbay Explorer Scouts, finishing at 09:10.

2009[edit]

(80% finished Complete, + 13% with fall-outs)

In 2009 the Ten Tors' record for the earliest complete team home since the rule change was broken with a time of 08:17 by 20th Torbay Explorer Scouts.[8] For the first time an all-girls team, from Torquay Grammar School for Girls also broke the record for successfully completing the 35-, 45- and 55-mile events consecutively and with the same team members (Tamsin Owen, Joyce Nie, Francesca Hill, Amelia Skerritt, Rebecca Stanley and Hannah Short).[9] There were fewer dropouts than in other years in almost perfect weather conditions.

2010[edit]

(79% finished Complete, + 14% with fall-outs)

2010 saw the 50th anniversary of the Ten Tors event. To mark the occasion the Duke of Edinburgh visited the event on Sunday morning to speak to finishers and present some with the commemorative 50 years medals. It also marked the first year that teams carried a GPS tracker which enabled the organisers and team managers to track the participants' progress directly. The first finishers were 20th Torbay Explorer Scouts (Joshua Owen, Matthew Ryder, Luke Hayward, Jacob Shah, Paul Moroz and William Fordyce) and King Edward's School Bath who walked over the line together at 7.37 to break the record for earliest finishers by 40 minutes. This also meant the scout group had crossed the line first for three consecutive years. Notable other finishers were the 'Denbury Boys' who, made up of men who completed the first ever Ten Tors, successfully completed the 35 mile event.

2011[edit]

(81% finished Complete, + 14% with fall-outs)

The 2011 Challenge started under a clear blue sky, but cloud obscured the tops of *West Mill and *High Willhays even then. Cloud and a fresh breeze built up through the day, but by 17:50 a blue sky was breaking through. Sunday was very similar with the first finishers (M1306 - Downend Scouts, at 08:35 Route M listing, 2011) walking in under a blue sky, but again the cloud gathered through the day. Notes from the Event.

The largely overcast and cool weekend was almost perfect walking weather - of the 390 teams which started 374 (95%) walked over the finish line, and of those finishing teams 316 (81%) walked in with all six team members. Over the last fifteen years of the event this is the highest percentage of both Finishing and Complete teams. Sixteen teams either retired (just 7, less than 2%) or were 'crashed out', but even here the statistics are impressive – in the previous 15 years teams are noted as stopping at their second Tor onwards. In 2011 the first teams to stop reached their fifth Tor before doing so.

It was also the 50th anniversary of Dartmoor as a National Park so everyone received a participant certificate.

2012[edit]

(75% finished Complete, + 17% with fall-outs)

The first team to reach the finish line was the Torquay Boys' Grammar School 45-mile team, who reached camp at 8:56am.

They were soon followed by both Torbay Explorer Scouts and Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School 45-mile team, who performed an excellent display of sportsmanship by finishing the last kilometre of the course side by side, despite a failure in the alarm of the QEH team, delaying the team by a full hour.

The first all-girl team to reach the finish line, The Maynard 35-mile team, got back to camp at 10:20, setting a new time record for the school. The Maynard 45-mile team also completed the challenge in a respectable time, finishing at 13:59.

The 2012 event was notable for the selfless efforts of one team, X2414 Kingsbridge Community College (55), who were on schedule to complete their route shortly after 16:00 when they diverted to answer the distress whistles of another team which had two of its members trapped chest deep in Raybarrow Pool.[10] After calling in the Dartmoor Rescue Group and helping the other team, X2414 walked in at 17:19, almost twenty minutes after the close of the event - this would normally debar a team from receiving their awards. The Director Ten Tors, Brigadier Piers Hankinson, met the team at the finish and presented Kingsbridge with their gold medals.

The event weather, following days of heavy rain, was cloudless, sunny and warm with 100% visibility. Notes from the Event, 2012

2013[edit]

(23% of participants did not finish)

The 2013 event went down in Ten Tors history as one of the most miserable. Organisers said that if the weather had come a day earlier then the event would have been cancelled. Swollen rivers from rain over the previous weeks meant that river crossings were hazardous; teams were offered advice on the best places to cross by Dartmoor Mountain Rescue. Some young people stayed at river crossings for a number of hours, selflessly helping others to cross whilst putting their own chances of finishing on hold.

Especially on Saturday, navigation became extremely difficult as fog and mist reduced visibility to as low as 10 metres: a few less experienced 35 mile teams did not even make their first tor. The weather lifted overnight and gave teams a break from the rain, but this brought near-freezing temperatures across the whole moor. Throughout Sunday the weather worsened again.

Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School 45 mile team S1915 were the first team to make it across the finish line on the Sunday morning at 9:20, over four hours ahead of any other team on their route.

Teams often choose odd dress code for crossing the finishing line. School uniform, kilts, miniskirts and Chinese dragons have all featured in the past. However, this year, the Launceston College 45 mile team decided to cross the line in brightly coloured morphsuits. Whilst the rain was beginning to lash down and the traditional Dartmoor high winds persisted, the team sacrificed their finishing time (12:15) to show the spirit and good humour that makes Ten Tors.

The finishing gate was left open for an extra 45 minutes. By 11:00 on Sunday morning, over 300 people had dropped out, and by the end of the day the number of people who would not complete had increased to over 500.

2014[edit]

(81% finished complete)Tavistock & District Youth Forum had all three teams complete, 1 at each distance. The first team to finish was the 35km CCF team from Churcher's College, Petersfield, Hants. They came over the line at 8.56am and was a mixed team : Olivia Hart, Francesca Hussell, Jerome Greig, Ben Kelson, Edward Rodge and Owen Tutt.


Manned tors[edit]

The tors used as checkpoints on the Ten Tors challenge in 2013 were as follows, but this is being changed for the 2014 event.

All the above tors are staffed by volunteers: ten are manned by personnel from the Royal Air Force and nine by Royal Navy colleagues.

The following tors are no longer used because of bird nesting:

Ten Tors Prayer[edit]

Every year before the start of the event the following prayer is read.

O God who has made the Earth of great beauty,
and who has given us the Spirit of Adventure,
we thank you for the beauty of the world,
for the courage and vigour of young people,
for the companionship and for the opportunity
to enjoy all these gifts.

We pray that you will keep them safe on this great venture
and grant that they may meet each challenge
and difficulty with unselfish courage and so find the
true spirit of comradeship as shown to us by
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen [11]

Jubilee Challenge[edit]

Since 1977 the Jubilee Challenge has been run as an additional event: it is a shorter version of the Ten Tors for competitors who are impaired in some way (by either severe learning difficulties or physical disability). The Jubilee Challenge takes place on the Saturday, over distances of 7.5, 8.5, 11, and 15 miles.

See also[edit]

  • Four Inns Walk, a 45-mile (72 km) competitive event in the Northern Peak District, often attempted by young adults, as well as other teams of fit, experienced walkers
  • Three Towers Hike, a hiking event with three hikes of varying lengths held in West Berkshire and Southern Oxfordshire.
  • Abbots Way Walk, a 23-mile team, ( min 3 max 8) walk across southern Dartmoor from Buckfast Abbey to Tavistock always run on the first Sunday in October and organised by Tavistock & District Outdoor Education Forum. They were awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in June 2013. They are entering 3 teams in the 2014 TT Challenge.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ten Tors equipment and rules". 
  2. ^ Dell, Simon (2011). Ten Tors - the Dartmoor Challenge. SPS Marketing Ltd. p. 64. 
  3. ^ Ten Tors Teams. "2002". "Stats derived from these lists for each year" 
  4. ^ Ten Tors Route Card 2004, Route R 
  5. ^ BBC News (2007-03-05), Moor trek stays after girl dies, BBC News Online, retrieved 2007-03-05 
  6. ^ BBC: Police watchdog will not investigate Tors death
  7. ^ BBC News (2007-05-13), Ten Tors expedition is abandoned, BBC News Online, retrieved 2007-05-13 
  8. ^ Ten Tors Route Card 2009, Route M 
  9. ^ Ten Tors Route Card 2009, Route W 
  10. ^ Kingsbridge & Salcombe Gazette. "Ten Tors heroes". Tindle Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  11. ^ The Dartmoor Ten Tors Expedition

External links[edit]