Five Tors Challenge

This is the weekend of the Ten Tors Challenge. About 400 teams of six youngsters each are let loose on Dartmoor to walk one of three circuits (35, 45 and 55 miles) over the weekend visiting check points on each of ten tors. The whole exercise is organized and managed brilliantly by the army. It transpires that the low flying helicopter ducking under both our radar and cameras was a support helicopter for the Ten Tors event. It must have been on a training flight checking the route prior to the event proper, which began this morning from Okehampton.

We had a grandstand view from Billy Bailey, albeit at considerable distance. As we breakfasted in comfort, we began seeing collections of six ants breaking the skyline of Dartmoor before us and working their way across our field of vision. A neighbour on our campsite assured us that everyone was set loose at the same time but the teams were appearing at oddly regular intervals. This pattern seemed more in keeping with a release at timed intervals rather than a mass, “on your marks, get set, go” sort of affair. However, our neighbour’s son had competed in previous years so she should know.

A Ten Tors team approaching the army checkpoint at Staple Tor Vixen Tor, only on the much abbreviated route Since it was another oddly dry day, though the much advertised “plenty of sun” never seemed to turn up, Carol and I decided to join in and do an abbreviated FIve Tors Challenge of our own. We had only one day rather than two, so half the number of Tors seemed fair. As a concession to our lack of youthful vigour, not to mention our lack of training, we also cut the overall distance down to about five miles and returned to the comfort of Billy Bailey for our overnight camp rather than roughing it out on the moors. Our Two Wrinklies Team successfully visited Vixen, Heckwood, Pew, Feather and Staple tors. Well, I say successfully but Vixen Tor was surrounded by a wall with “no public access” scrawled across it. Hrumph! We claim it as a moral success, though. Following our moral success, we showed our appreciation of the dedication and effort involved by cheering on on a few of the real Ten Tors teams as they went by while we sat recovering with a pint of Addelstone’s cider (Cornish Rattler remains superior) after our own far less strenuous event.

The Ten Tors has its critics, of course, in these days of coddling and over-protection. They say it shouldn’t be allowed and is too dangerous. In my opinion, such criticisms are ill-conceived and unfounded. Of course accidents could happen but the support and back-up is extraordinary and this is classic youthful adventure. We should continue to nurture the courage and spirit that embarking upon such an event requires. Guess what – life can be dangerous and it’s as well to be prepared.

Congratulations to all the Ten Tors teams. Just starting takes guts. The distances are serious, it is far from easy walking and their achievements are truly praiseworthy. Bravo!

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