Trek teens pass wilderness test

The Oxford Times: The Ten Tors Challenge is gruelling The Ten Tors Challenge is gruelling

Teenagers braving bad weather during a two-day epic trek across the wilds of Dartmoor spoke of their delight after completing the gruelling event.

Around 2,400 young people - aged 14 to 19 - in teams of six trekked up to 55 miles in strong winds and rain as part of the Ten Tors Challenge.

The event, in its 54th year, is overseen by the Army in May every year.

First to cross the line were youngsters from Churcher's College in Hampshire.

Team member Owen Tutt, 15, said it was a bit of a shock when discovering his team had finished first.

"We were hoping to beat our school record and then we came home first," he said.

"The weather was pretty awful, there were points where it was really tough.

"It's difficult to keep yourself on the side of a Tor when it's really windy. And the rain at times was heavy too.

"But it's been incredible.... the experience has been amazing."

Last year the Army announced changes to the route for 2014, which would mean fewer river crossings to reduce the need for air support in poor weather.

Entrants trek for 35, 45 or 55 miles in blustery and wet conditions and have to rely on their navigational skills as well as physical strength - which sees them carry all their food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials.

It is run by more than 900 military personnel, almost all of them reservists.

The majority of the teams who enter Ten Tors are from schools and youth groups from Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

A spokesman added: "It is a feat, they must complete as a team and without any help from adults and they'll remain entirely self-sufficient during their arduous expeditions, including camping out overnight on the moor.

"They do it for the challenge; to test themselves against one of the last remaining wildernesses in Britain. What they get in return for their months of hard training and commitment, as well as determination and bravery during the event itself, is an experience they'll remember for ever and the chance to learn a set of skills and values which will stay with them for the rest of their lives."

Ahead of this year's event officials insisted strong safety measures were in place - among them was entrants being fitted with a GPS-style tracking device to show the operations team where trekkers were.

Brigadier Piers Hankinson, director of Ten Tors, said: "We have all been apprehensive about the reality and whether it would be challenging enough.

"And it's proved as equally challenging as before."

And for some youngsters the gruelling challenge indeed proved too much, as around 50 of them dropped out of the race on Saturday night.

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