Living down here in Devon, we’re all well aware of Ten Tors Challenge, what it is and when. But, until this year, when my eldest daughter, aged 14, has started to train for it, I kind of just assumed it was a very long walk, yes, with an overnight camp, but hey, how hard can it actually be?
For those of you that don’t know. The Ten Tors Challenge is the biggest event in the country solely aimed at teenagers from 14 to 19. It sets routes of 35, 45 and 55 miles depending on your age. It is organised and supervised by the army and the routes all take in ten tors (checkpoints) across Dartmoor and participants must carry all their own kit from tents to trangias to food to first aid kit. There is also the Jubilee Challenge the same weekend which is for young people with special needs. They complete day routes of up to 11 miles.
So, my daughter has been training for the 35 mile Ten Tors with Teignbridge Scouts since January. This has involved every other weekend being a training walk, with full packs from day one. When I say full pack, I mean full pack. It’s a rucksack crammed full of spare clothes, sleeping bag, roll mat, trangia, food, water bottle, water purification tablets, first aid kit and tent. It is not light. I struggled to carry it to the door for her a couple of weeks ago at 6.10am on a Saturday morning.
That’s another thing, the training walks usually start at 7.15/30am in the middle of Dartmoor somewhere and that means leaving our neck of the woods at 6am. Those of you who have teenagers will know that getting a teenager up at 5.30 am every other weekend is no mean feat in itself, let alone getting them out of the door to go and walk upwards of 20-30 miles.
Then there’s been the weather. You may recall that we had weekend after weekend of relentless rain and gale force winds? Naively, perhaps, I first thought that training walks might be cancelled in weather like this. But no, they carry on. Walking for up to 10 hours in absolutely miserable conditions, then having to set a tent up, in the rain, cook your food, it’s no surprise that my daughter told me they’re all in bed and asleep by 7.30pm. They’re then up again at 6.30am Sunday morning to have breakfast, break camp and continue walking. One weekend recently, they were walking through snow all day and camped, high up on the moor, at 0 degrees C. Thankfully, my daughter missed that walk as she was away with her school, but I was told that even with their 4 season sleeping bags, her friends were cold that night.
Training is also every other Tuesday night where they go through the route for the next training walk, go over first aid stuff (they all have to carry emergency procedure cards, hypothermia reminders etc) and swapping teams, tents & equipment with each other if team changes mean this is necessary.
Bearing all this in mind, and the fact that even if they’ve done the training, they’re still not guaranteed a place on a team, I have to take my hat off to these teenagers. It’s teaching them resilience, determination, reliability, endurance & responsibility. Having seen how gruelling the 35 mile training is, I can’t begin to imagine how tough it must be for the 45 and 55 milers.
So if you see youngsters up on the moor with big packs on their backs doing training walks, give them a huge well done because they truly deserve it even if they don’t make the final event.
I take my hat off to you Ten Tors hopefuls…and as the founders (Colonel Gregory and Captain John Joyner) of the Ten Tors Challenge once said, ‘“If there is anything more important than the will to succeed, it is that the will shall not falter.”