Competitors start the Ten Tors. Photo: Sergeant Danny Harmer, Crown Copyright

Competitors start the Ten Tors. Photo: Sergeant Danny Harmer, Crown Copyright

More than 2,000 young adventurers will take to the hills of Dartmoor this weekend as part of a challenge to test their stamina and strength in trekking across the wilds of the national park.

Teenagers will tackle the Ten Tors challenge in 400 teams of six, in the 51st Army-organised event that demands use of navigation, camping skills and determination to cover distances between 56km (35 miles) and 89km (55 miles).

Finishers will receive a special certificate to mark the 60th anniversary of the Dartmoor national park.

An Army spokesperson said: “For many it will be the biggest challenge of their young lives: an unaided trek of 35, 45 or 55 miles across some of the toughest terrain in England. It’s a feat they must complete as a team and without any help from adults.

“They’ll have to rely on their navigational skills and, crucially, their teamwork to guide them.”

The 2,400 youngsters, aged between 14 and 19, many of them from local schools, will set off from Okehampton Camp at 7am on Saturday and will camp out on the moor. Scout, armed forces cadet, sports and rambling teams also take part in the challenge, named after the ten rocky outcrops they must visit during the event.

Other branches of the armed forces also help with the staging of the Ten Tors, along with St John Ambulance and the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group. Up to 1,000 support personnel will be in the area to help participants who get into difficulties.

The teams must camp out overnight on the moor and carry all the food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials they will need to sustain them, as they go. All will have been training for four months or more to make sure they are fit enough to complete it and have had to fight for a place in their teams.

Brigadier Steve Hodder, director of Ten Tors and commander of 43 (Wessex) Brigade, said: “I took part in Ten Tors as a Combined Cadet Force cadet from Exeter School, completing the 35-mile route twice and finishing the 45-mile route early on the Sunday morning in 1975.

“As I look back on it now I realise it was one of the most challenging, but also exciting things I did when I was growing up. I look back with pride on how we learnt how to cope with a waterlogged moor and the horrendous weather conditions of 1974. We learnt the importance of looking after each other and crucially how to work together as a team. As an individual I learnt that with determination and thorough preparation and training, anything was possible. Teaching youngsters the value of these life-long lessons is one of the most important legacies of Ten Tors and the Jubilee Challenge.”

The Jubilee Challenge will be undertaken by nearly 300 less able-bodied youngsters, many in wheelchairs, who will attempt to complete routes up to 24km (15 miles). The youngsters can enter either as a team or as individuals, each one accompanied by an officer cadet from Exeter University Officer Training Corps.

Ten Tors team managers are guided to encourage participants to develop respect and appreciation for the landscape, cultural heritage and wildlife of Dartmoor.

Its organisers said they work with the Dartmoor National Park Authority, landowners and commoners to minimise the environmental impact of the event and the associated training, to maximise the local economic benefits of Ten Tors, and to help those taking part to appreciate and understand Dartmoor’s special qualities.

Kevin Bishop, chief executive of Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: “2011 marks the 60th anniversary of the designation of Dartmoor as one of the first national parks in England and Wales.

“In this anniversary year, Ten Tors and the associated Jubilee Challenge provide a unique opportunity for young people to experience Dartmoor’s special qualities and the challenge of the natural environment. Equally, we hope that the training beforehand as well the event itself fosters a passion to help look after this very special place.

“To mark the 60th anniversary the authority will present all participants with a certificate and will have an information presence on-site throughout the event.”

In October last year, a jury delivered a narrative verdict into the death of Charlotte Shaw, a 14-year-old who died after falling into a Dartmoor stream during training for the 2007 Ten Tors Challenge.

Charlotte, a student at the private Edgehill College, now renamed Kingsley School, was with a group of ten when she fell into Walla Brook while trying to throw a rucksack across the water. She fell into the brook and was swept away. A post-mortem examination found she died of heart failure due to drowning and hypothermia.

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