Out of the 30 plus hopefuls who began the Ten Tors training process last September, the 16 surviving Sidmouth College explorers underwent the final kit check last Friday morning. We had been issued the route details for the teams, two of which were in the 35 miles category and one in the 45 miles. The scrutineering process is intense and carried out without compromise to ensure all students are fully kitted-out for the weekend's expedition. It is a process that is repeated by officials at Okehampton Battle Camp before the Challenge begins.
The teams examined their route plans in the warm and dry of the College before loading up onto the buses and leaving for their final adventure of this season. They were a little quieter than usual but it was the staff who appeared more nervous: the weather forecast was poor and there was still a lot of preparation to do once we reached base camp.
The sea of tents at the camp looked like a music festival with shelters ranging from minimalist mountaineering tents to wedding marquees covering the camping areas, along with row upon row of minibuses in the parking areas. With an estimated 4000 people in the complex for the weekend, the logistics for the event are complex and diverse.
Some of our amazing volunteers, including Team Manager, Nick Keast, long-standing supporter, Geoff Atkins, and other parents, had established our base camp the day before meaning that, unlike most of the other teams who huddled down in tiny tents, our students had the relative luxury of large dome tents big enough to walk around in. This made the whole atmosphere of our enclosure much more convivial and fun. Once past the military scrutineering, the students fed themselves and bedded down ready for the off in the morning.
In an unwelcome break from tradition, the students were woken at the usual 0500hrs reveille not by the music from ‘Chariots of Fire', but by some awful modern nonsense that sounded like someone shouting at a broken printer. The students, however, seemed to enjoy this noise.... The rain came with perfect timing and continued right through the start procedure at 0700hrs, which included the firing of artillery guns and an unusually impressive helicopter display. Our teams set off with determined looks and we saw them walk away from us and into the wilderness of Dartmoor for the last time.
The impressively technical, but woefully managed, tracking and reporting system commissioned by the military lived up to its reputation by feeding us poorly timed and inaccurate information for the entire weekend. We were almost clueless as to our students’ progress for extended periods of time, but all the while quietly confident that our teams had been rigorously trained and meticulously prepared for this event and would be almost unable to let us down. We were vindicated in our confidence as our first 35 mile team arrived back at the finish by lunchtime on Sunday, with our 45 mile team managing to come in only minutes after them, a massive achievement. The second 35 mile team returned slightly later having encountered an issue with some equipment which had cost them several hours and significant extra mileage!We were all as proud as the students' parents to watch them line up for the medal presentations on the finishing podium. Then, once fed and watered, the teams collected their belongings and were handed back to their parents for a thorough debrief.
This was the conclusion of a hugely successful season by all involved. As usual the students exceeded expectations and their enthusiasm, hard work and good humour totally justified the hard work and dedication of the staff involved. Congratulations go to: 35 Alpha team members—Christopher Adams, Joel Badcock, Cameron Fawcett-Hunter, Thomas Gosling, Curtis Hoskins and Edward Jones; 35 Bravo team members - Archie Bagwell, Charley Gardiner, Danni King-Keast, Ethan Mead, Oliver Perez and Tom Woodruff; 45 Charlie team members - Kai Brockway, Annabelle Brookes, Kirsty Harman, Joshua Hopkinson, Emily Ballantine (Cullompton) and Scott Harman (ex student). We look forward now to the next season which will begin soon with the current Year 9 cohort who are cordially invited to rise to the challenge.