Jubilation for one finisher on the Ten Tors. Photo: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown Copyright

Jubilation for one finisher on the Ten Tors. Photo: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown Copyright

More than 2,000 teenagers completed the gruelling Ten Tors Challenge at the weekend, in conditions described by organisers as near perfect.

The participants, aged between 14 and 19, walked courses of 35, 45 or 55 miles across Dartmoor, camping overnight and carrying all their equipment and food.

Only 156 people pulled out of the event, suffering from a mixture of cuts, bruises or the affects of the elements. More than 1,000 helpers supported the Army event, which is organised by 43 (Wessex) Brigade, but draws in volunteers from all three branches of the armed forces, along with St John Ambulance Brigade, Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group and Devon and Cornwall 4×4 Response.

The event starts and ends at Okehampton Camp, and 2,400 young people set off at 7am on Saturday, with the first team returning at 8.34am on Sunday after covering 45 miles.

The team, from the 28th Kingswood Scouts from Downend in Bristol were first to cross the finish line, surprised and delighted to be first home.

Team member Jacob Cooke, 16, said: “It feels very good, because we came down the hill and we just realised there were no teams in front of us and no one had seen any other teams. We didn’t think we were coming in first up until just then, it’s really good.”

His friend, 16-year-old Jack Ryan added: “’The highlights for me have been reaching the end and sleeping last night, because we were so tired, and my legs had been hurting for quite a while. It was definitely brilliant getting here; absolutely fantastic.”

Maynard School from Exeter was one of a number of all-girl teams to finish the Ten Tors, also completing the 45-mile course.

Briony Alford, 17, said of her team: “I’m proud of us all. They’ve done an amazing job.

“The toughest part of the weekend was when we had to practically ‘leg it’ between the tors before [number] eight last night, so we could go on. That was the worst bit.

“The weather’s been brilliant, really good: not too hot, not too cold. Last night we managed to find a valley to sleep in. It was quite flat so there wasn’t any wind and it was quite warm. We were fine. The only injuries are lots of blisters. We’ve all got those!”

Competitors in the Jubilee Challenge. Photo: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown Copyright

Competitors in the Jubilee Challenge. Photo: Sergeant Adrian Harlen, Crown Copyright

An event for less able-bodied youngsters, the Jubilee Challenge, saw 285 participants from 35 of the region’s schools, many in wheelchairs or on trikes, complete their course.

They finished routes of up to 14 miles either as a team or as individuals. Each was accompanied by an officer cadet from Exeter University Officer Training Corps.

“I’ve been excited about it, but I thought I wouldn’t get to the finish line that easily,” said 15-year-old Lydia Mooney from Kingsbridge Community College, who took part in the event. “When I saw the crowd I felt really pleased. It was perfect to do it with my friends.”

Ten Tors retirees were picked up by 4×4 vehicles or by one of the two Sea King Mark 4 helicopters from 848 Naval Air Squadron, Commando Helicopter Force based at RNAS Yeovilton.

The aircraft notched up 45 flying hours. Lieutenant Sam Hodgkinson from the 848 squadron said: “We’ve aided in the safe evacuation of a number of children from the moor and transported a lot of personnel and equipment to and from the tors.

“It’s our bread-and-butter work. We all volunteer to do it at the weekend because it’s great flying, in a great environment and we’re delighted to be part of Ten Tors.”

Brigadier Steve Hodder, director of Ten Tors and commander of 43 Wessex Brigade, said: “The weekend has gone very well.

“It’s been a massive team effort and I’d like to thank everyone involved for making both events such a fantastic experience for the young people taking part. All of our hard work is to give these young people something they’ll never forget and an achievement they will all take with them into their future lives.”

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

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