Ten Tors 2014 - The Event

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On the weekend of the 9th, 10th and 11th May 2014 the Ten Tors Challenge took place on Dartmoor
- in theory to be my last as a 'challenger'. Having taken a break from Ten Tors in 2013 due to a very busy exam schedule this weekend I would be going for the gold, 55 mile, route.

On the Friday we met at Bearflat shortly after 7am, departing via Norton Hill and Exeter services, to Okehampton Camp. We arrived mid morning and followed Mr Brewer to our site which was as always marked by the tallest, and widest selection of flags. At the site I met up with Tom and Rob who had gone down the day before, along with most of the staff to set up the site.

The routes had been released while we were on the coach so when we arrived we discovered we had been allocated route 'X'. All the routes were different this year as part of the army responding to budget cuts, so rather than taking us to Trowlesworthy Tor at the bottom of the South Moor, our route's most southerly point was 'Peat Cot', the new most southerly point of all routes, and as such there would be far more zigzagging across the moor. Nobody knew how much easier or harder the routes would be as a result of this, and how this would affect our timings.

We then went to our tent, and had our kit checked before going up to the scrutineering. We went up to with the 35 and 45 teams and made fun of Rob who wasn't very happy he'd been asked to be the 6th member of one of the 35 teams (he did get a Rab soft-shell out of it though so couldn't complain in the end). Scrutineering took place without any problems, as did the briefing which followed. Once we'd had both of these stamped on our route card, we went back to the site for lunch and to plan our route. After this, there was just time to cram in some revision before dinner and an early-ish night.

The next morning we awoke to the classic 'chariots of fire' over the camp tannoy as quickly packed up our things. Once we'd had our breakfast we were lined up for a series of photos in front of our display of flags, and then quickly made our way to the start point at Anthony Stile.
We took our place next to the big 'X' sign and waited for the guns to go off to start the challenge.
Our first tor was Great Kneeset however because of the new routes, we first had to go via Nodden Gate on the west edge of the moor. This involved us crossing the West Okement River and curving passed Sourton Tor and then joining the discussed railway line to the gate.
After checking in, we quickly turned around and headed east, passed Great Links Tor and Green Tor before reaching Great Kneeset. After a brief stop, we continued on, joining the track below Okement Hill and then cutting across east to Watern Tor.

Following Watern Tor we then had another 'via' to go to at Fernworthy on the western point of the Fernworth Forest. This was a fairly short leg across boggy ground however we had to wait just before checkpoint as a member of the team running the base ran towards us and got us to wait while one of the three helicopters which support the event picked up somebody who had hurt their leg and couldn't walk on.
We didn't stop any longer than the amount of time it took to check in at Fernworthy because we had already had a break waiting for the helicopter. We then made our way around the north edge of Fernworthy Forest, cutting up north east to our third tor, Kes Tor. From there, we walked south, on the eastern edge of the Fernworthy Reservoir, heading due south to Water Hill as the weather took a turn for the worse. The weather was at its worst point for the whole weekend while we were at Water Hill - one of the most exposed points on our route - so we only stopped briefly before heading down into Postbridge.

The field behind the car park in Postbridge where the army had made their base had become a quagmire as a result of every single route passing through this bottle neck, as had most of the paths in and out. We stayed just long enough to see one of our 35 teams and then headed up a slippery track full of teams back onto the moorland. From head we headed north west towards Rough Tor. By this point some members of the team were starting to struggle so we had a brief break halfway between Postbridge and Rough Tor. Shortly after moving off again, I noticed the tracker that the army supplied us with was beeping, and when I took it out of my bag, saw the emergency button must have been activated (I don't know how this happened because it was still in its sealed case), the screen said 'are you in danger'. The only option the device gave me to respond with was 'Yes', so because we were now just at the bottom of Rough Tor we though the best option would be to explain the problem to the team there.

As we approached Rough Tor we were asked who were, and when responded with 'x-ray alpha', we were told that I, as team leader, had to go with the tor leader and phone Ten Tors HQ because our tracker had been activated and the tor party had been put on alert to look out for us. Once it had been cleared up that we hadn't activated the tracker and were all ok, we checked in and left, just as a helicopter arrived at the checkpoint to help find us!

On the next leg we walked passed Beardown Tors (although this wasn't one of our checkpoints), passed Beardown Farm and onto the South Moor. It was getting close to the 8pm cut off time by this point and we didn't want to be stuck at our most southerly point, Peat Cot, overnight so really picked up the pace, overtaking a few other 55 teams on our route as we did so. We got to Peat Cot at 7.55pm giving us 5 minutes spare to check in before we were allowed to walk on. We headed up the 'yellow brick motorway' until South Hessary Tor where we curved off to the West. We crossed the B3212 as it was starting to get dark and the weather started to turn again. We preceded to follow the old railway track west and then north to the disused quarry next to Yellowmeade Farm were we decided to stop for the night.
We tried (unsuccessfully) to find a sheltered spot for our tents and promptly went to bed.

The next morning we managed to oversleep - we'd meant to get up around 4am, giving us two hours to pack up and make our way to our next tor for when checkpoints open at 6am. Unfortunately, we didn't wake up until 5am so despite getting our kit packed in record time, we didn't make it to our 7th tor, Middle Staple Tor' until 6.55am. Fortunately, because we'd managed to get passed Peat Cot on Saturday evening we were still in the top half of the team on our route and we made up lots of time by powering through the next section to Standon Farm. By this point we were the fourth team on our route (out of 12), behind QEH, who were over an hour ahead on the team in second, Great Torrington Adventure Group, and Norton Hill who we arrive at Standon Farm just one minute behind.
We left Standon Farm and headed passed Lane End going north west and ticking off Ger Tor and Hare Tor as we passed them before arriving at Chat Tor, our 9th. Norton Hill had taken a slightly different route from us for this leg but we both arrived at Chat at exactly the same time!

Our penultimate leg was the longest and by far the hardest of the challenge, from Chat we had to Cosdon Beacon on the east side of the moor, overshooting the finish line at Okehampton Camp. To do this, we first went north west to Kitty Tor where we dropped down the steep valley to cross at Sandy Ford. I managed to hurt my knee on the steep descent which made the steep climb on the other side even harder. We hit a track just north of Dinger Tor and followed this east and then north until we were just south of Higher Tor. From here we left tracks and went east over the River Taw and up Cosdon Beacon. We'd managed to overtake Norton Hill on the long leg so were now the third team. We took a slightly longer break than usual before descending again, down around Higher Tor, passed Cullever Steps and up the track there until we could see the camp. At this point we met Mr Stuart and Mr Sayers who gave us each a flag which we carried, running the last few metres across the finish line into the camp at 3.50pm.




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After the event, the army uploaded the GPS tracker data from our route which can be seen below:


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Below is the full write up from the event from the school newsletter:

Ten Tors 2014
Great Success for Beechen Cliff teams. Have no doubt, this year’s event was tough. With an
almost deliberate timing low pressure with rain and gales gathered over the Atlantic to take great delight in blasting Dartmoor from Thursday to Sunday morning over last weekend.
However this could not undo the preparation or determined attitude of our teams who responded
brilliantly over the weekend and won out in due course. Once again we had teams walking at all distances, 35 miles, 45 miles and 55 miles respectively. Training began in January as this is not the sort of event where you can ‘just turn up’. The ante is progressively upped with day walks on the Mendips and Quantocks turning into more arduous weekend expeditions over Dartmoor.
As ever the teams have to become self-sufficient, able to spend a night out on the moor and navigate across no matter what conditions. In this way they visit their Ten Tors.

Okehampton Camp high on the moor was our exposed base for the weekend where teams from all over the South West converge for the mass start at 7.00am Saturday morning. This means that the place fills up over Friday as kit checks and briefings are conducted by the Army. Teams also see their respective routes for the first time and have to plan their tactics and approach. The atmosphere builds in this tent city which even boasted a 200 person strong ‘conga’ line at one stage, weaving its way around tents and portaloos.
The start was as spectacular as ever with the sun shining briefly before the maelstrom returned to cover the 2400 participants. Then as ever parents and staff become glued to the Ten Tors website as team’s positions and progress is tracked across the moor. Despite a day of driving rain and gales our teams were in good positions to complete on the Sunday, if they could hold their nerve against the conditions. It was at a relatively dry finish that they rolled over the horizon to see crowds and waiting parents at the finish before the medal ceremony. For most of the 55’s it was to complete the
set of medals, topping Bronze and Silver medals with a coveted and prestigious Gold. Special mention must be made here to Harry Jenkins who walked with another 55 team (Norton Hill School). Without him and his training and ability to complete this most demanding of distances they would not have been able to start the event as teams of six are needed. Well done Harry!

Ten Tors is a firmly fixed event on the Beechen Cliff calendar and is recognised nationally as the premier youth challenge event of its kind. I am sure pupils would want to acknowledge the huge input and hours given up by staff at Beechen Cliff of whom seven have been regularly involved in preparing groups for the event.
Completing Ten Tors is a huge achievement and the scale of the event has to be seen to be believed. On this note it was greatly appreciated by staff that so many parents came down to witness the finish and understand what all the efforts have been for. Here’s to Ten Tors 2015.

Dave Brewer (Head of Humanities), Richard Stewart (Head of Chemistry)

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