Herculean effort by teams for ten tors attempt

Over the weekend of 11/12 May, two teams travelled from Newton Abbot College to Dartmoor to take part in the annual Ten Tors challenge, organised by the Army’s Headquarters South West, with support from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

The challenge, attempted by nearly 2,500 teenagers, sees competitors navigate routes of either 35 or 45 miles over the northern half of Dartmoor, visiting ten designated tor checkpoints along the way. The event takes place over two days and teams are expected to be self sufficient, cooking and camping for themselves. 

The two Ten Tors Teams
The two Ten Tors Teams
Following months of preparation and training, the College had one team entered in both the 35 and 45 mile event. Camp was set on the Thursday, in preparation for the students arriving on Friday morning. Friday was a day of organisation, packing and planning. Teams were issued with routes to plan and the Army delivered important safety briefings. Once ready, all teams settled down to sleep….ready for a 4am wake-up call! 

Starting at 7am on Saturday morning, both teams set off in the hope of breaking the back of the challenge on the first day. The 35 mile team (comprising Annabelle Gleave, Cora Davey, Ashleigh McLagan, Elizabeth Haines, Teagan Fletcher and Hannah Milner) reached almost half of their checkpoints, before retiring for the night. The 45 mile team (comprising Jacob Roberts, Tessa Hanson, Libby Evans, Isaac Sable, Bailey Hindom and David May) successfully navigated their way through 30 miles and seven tor checkpoints on day one before setting up camp for the night. 

It was a gruelling challenge for our students
It was a gruelling challenge for our students

The College was also represented in the challenge with students in the Teignbridge Scouts team  entering the 35-mile challenge (Izaak Evans, Freddie Rudling, Tabitha Hammond and Laura Scanlon). They successfully completed the event and arrived comfortably home on Sunday afternoon. All students looked surprisingly fresh and were thrilled with their achievement. Matthew Baker also led a 45-mile team for the Scouts, bringing them back on the home straight just after 1pm. 

Unfortunately, despite an incredible team effort and covering a distance of 37 miles (as recorded on a team member’s GPS watch), and due to unforeseen circumstances, the College’s 35 mile team had to be retired from the challenge on the final day. Team Manager, Leah Thomas said: “As Team Manager for the NAC entrants this year, I could not have been more proud of the girls’ tenacious efforts and resilient attitude. It was difficult not to get emotional when they arrived home as I know how hard they have trained. I was proud to collect the team and sign them out from the Army’s care and was particularly touched by an officer’s comment that ‘They are the most smiley team we have seen all day.’ Despite obvious disappointment, the girls presented themselves in a mature and composed manner. I hope they return to take on the gruelling challenge again next year. It is really easy to underestimate the distance, but it has to be one of the most difficult hill-walking challenges around.” 

The 45 mile team, led and navigated by Year 12 student, Jacob Roberts, started their final day at 4.30am in order to attempt a timed finish. Not without facing their own challenges, the team found themselves lost trying to locate the eighth tor checkpoint, losing them an hour in the process. Despite gruelling hill walking, boggy conditions and extreme fatigue, the team found the final checkpoint. However, they soon realised that, at their current walking pace, there was not enough time to meet the strict 5pm deadline. In a final effort, the team took the decision to run the final leg of the competition, crossing the finish line at a nail-biting 4.40pm.

It was an emotional moment, as team leader, Jacob Roberts, explains: “This is my second Ten Tors challenge, having completed the 35 mile event two years ago. The last day was both physically and mentally gruelling and, by the end, everything in your body wants to give up. As team leader and navigator, I had to make difficult decisions that were, at the time, really unpopular. But, once you eliminate failure, there is no option to fail and we were going to make it across the finish line, no matter what. I ended up carrying another team mate’s bag and we took the decision to run to try and finish within the time. Coming over the brow of the final hill, seeing thousands of people cheering was incredible. We had a helicopter flying really low, encouraging us to the finish line; a sight I will never forget. Crossing that line was really emotional but it was totally worth it. It just shows how far the mind is willing to go. I would advise anyone who is interested in Ten Tors to try it – it is one of the best experiences out there; when I turn 18, I will be returning to Dartmoor to tackle the 55 mile event.” 

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