News and Events

Ten Tors Teams Battle Through the Dartmoor Heat

Posted: 17th May 2024

students on a run

One of the challenges when training for Ten Tors is the need to be prepared for many eventualities, particularly when it comes to the weather. Dartmoor is famous for throwing up a variety of conditions, even within the space of one day, but when it came to the 2024 Ten Tors weekend the main priority was clear to all: making it through the heat.

Ironically, this training season had seen the worst weather in the three years since the event returned from Covid, with one day even cancelled due to a deluge. Pupils were clear on how to handle wind, rain, and the cold, but had only enjoyed one weekend of sunshine in their preparations. Thankfully, they were very well briefed by the school nurse and Mrs Sail, Head of Dowrich House and teacher of geography, with clear instructions issued on the Friday before the start of the Challenge. This meant they managed their personal care well, and 47 of them did extremely well to complete their routes successfully.

For pupils and staff, The Ten Tors ‘weekend’ officially began on the Tuesday, when teams were issued with the routes they had been assigned to. Initial route planning began that afternoon, with pupils benefitting from the advice of experienced Dartmoor walkers. The next step of preparation involved a full kit check on the Wednesday to ensure pupils were adequately equipped. Staff were then up early on the Thursday to set up the School’s camp at Okehampton, ready for the teams’ arrival on Friday.

With the excitement building, pupils completed their final preparations on Friday morning. They then headed off for lunch, before boarding the coach to at last arrive at Okehampton Camp for early afternoon. A few more important administrative tasks followed, including the issuing of the crucial GPS trackers that allows the Army to monitor pupils’ progress. Pupils had time to explore the entertainment offered by the camp, before returning for dinner. The now traditional pasta bolognese was on the menu, complemented by an excellent white chocolate cheesecake. Once a few more tasks had been concluded, it was soon time for bed and pupils settled in with thoughts of an early start.

 

Thursday-Friday: Ten Tors 2024

 

Saturday morning saw the blaring sounds of ‘Chariots of Fire’ played across the camp at 0500, ensuring everyone was awake, followed by a series of much-loved pop classics. Teams were up and about swiftly and efficiently, with breakfast served and last-minute checks made. There was just enough time for photos of each team as they set off, framed by a beautiful sunrise, before all were heading for the starting line, taking their designated space. At 0630, the bugles played, signifying the official start of proceedings. Unable to perform for the last two years owing to mist, the army parachute team this year had perfect conditions to show off their skills, and pupils and supporters were treated to a spectacular display. All that remained was the Ten Tors prayer and an address from VIP guest Ray Mears, before the canon sounded to send 2400 youngsters on their way onto the Moor.

Having safely delivered pupils to the start, staff returned to host a convivial breakfast for parents, before settling down into the main business of the day: drinking tea, taking down tents and checking pupils’ progress on the Ten Tors website. Although there was a regular breeze, it was clear that the heat was building, and pupils would be up against tough walking conditions. Happily, throughout the day, it was apparent that most teams were making excellent progress, setting themselves up well for a successful day two.

 

Saturday: Ten Tors 2024

 

All throughout the weekend, however, there was one team keeping us on edge. The Lower Sixth group attempting a 55-mile route seemed to be behind time. It turned out they had been delayed in a queue to check in at Prewley Moor, costing them twenty minutes, and although they made up time through the first day, their camping spot just before Water Hill left them delicately poised for Sunday.

The staff team back at Okehampton were aware of teams’ locations but were unable to assist in any way, and thus continued with the business of dismantling the camp on Sunday morning. They then readied themselves for the return of our pupils, all the while keeping an eye on which tor they had reached. With the atmosphere around the finish building, not to mention the heat, the first Exeter School team arrived at 1115, elated to have completed 35 miles across Dartmoor. As with many teams, they chose to cross the line in fancy dress, with an inspired choice of a stately robe and inflatable crown. The scene was then set for the rest of the teams to arrive, and the 35 mile teams steadily appeared over the next couple of hours, with Gru and his Minions stepping over the line at 1300.

We now had to wait for the Lower Sixth teams. Throughout the day we were confident that the 45 milers were on track, and they arrived in high spirits just before 1400, celebrating with a huge team hug. The 55-mile team, however, had us on tenterhooks all day, mysteriously not checking in to their first Tor on Sunday until 0615, putting them 15 minutes back. All day they were up against the threat of ‘Crash Out’ times, meaning they would be dropped out of the event if they didn’t meet key time targets. With some searing times between tors, they powered on, hitting each checkpoint with at least three quarters of an hour to spare. An incredible effort through the day saw them in at 1638, 52 minutes before the closing time, when in exhausted manner they slumped over the line. Some jovial questioning of the Ten Tors Manager followed (‘Why did you make us do that sir?), but they were elated to have cracked the 55-miler, and as a result were the first Exeter School team to earn the Ten Tors gold medal in 5 years. As to why they had started late on Sunday, it turned out that their alarm had gone off at 1630 rather than 0430 – a lesson to us all!

The staff team were very pleased with a successful Ten Tors, and immensely proud of how the pupils had performed. We were particularly delighted to see a very special email from a Navy lieutenant manning one of the Tors, who felt compelled to write to Ms Simpson, our Head, to commend the school for one of its teams. They had apparently shown exceptional teamwork and leadership throughout their stop over at the Tor, especially in looking after one of their own who had fallen ill. As the gentleman in questions put it,

‘The young men and women that made up that team are a credit to themselves, their parents and your school and have captured the essence of the Ten Tors event.’

A huge congratulations to them and all the teams this year, who applied their training so well and understood that working together is such an important part of the Challenge. As ever, a huge thank you to all the staff and volunteers who have imparted their knowledge so well this year and have given up so much of their time to train the pupils.  The ongoing strength of Ten Tors at the School comes from their efforts.  

 Finish line: Ten Tors 2024

 

Written by Ben Hall

Exeter School Ten Tors Manager

May 2024

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