Well we have all made it. This weekend we are leaving school on Thursday evening to spend Friday in preparation for the event.
We arrived at Okehampton Camp at about 8.25 pm and were amazed to see that the whole of area surrounding the camp was filled with tents of all shapes and sizes; many different makes and models but with some organisations having matching tents all in straight lines.
Ben, Mike and Sally had travelled down earlier in the day and had already put up the Mess Tent, staff tents and our hike tents which we were using for Thursday and Friday nights so that our “best” tents could remain packed ready for packing into our rucksacks.
After unpacking our stuff, drinks and biscuits were available in the Mess Tent and we all went to bed at about 10.30 pm – very excited!
Friday morning we were woken at 7.00 am ready for a busy day ahead. For a change we had cereal followed by Pain au Chocolate, Croissants and a couple of different types of Brioche. Ben, Mike and Sally went up to one of the buildings to find out our allocated routes – B for the 35 team and V for the 45 team.
Our first activity of the day was to have our bags scrutineered by Ben and Mike ready for the official scrutineering later in the day. We individually went into the Mess Tent where we had to empty everything from our rucksack and then all was checked off from the official Kit List. After our kit was checked we had to pack it all away again and – for a joke – we were asked to give a blood curdling scream which few managed. It was difficult to decide who won the competition but as there was no prize it didn’t matter too much!
Part way through the morning Ben and Sally went off to complete the registration for the teams and pick up all the documentation needed – control card (to be stamped at each Tor); green card; numbers for putting on rucksacks and tents; sacks for our rubbish; wrist bands with team number etc. They then move round to collect our trackers which were switched on and ready to go.
Once all our kit was packed it was time for lunch – rolls with ham, chicken or cheese and crisps followed by chocolate brownie, flapjack and chocolate caramel shortbread. Over lunch we were told that the 45-mile team would not be officially scrutineered but the 35-mile team would go at 4.30 pm.
Our teams then settled down to route plan whilst Claire and Sally went shopping to pick up a few items missing from our kit list.
For the first time we were able to spend a considerable time over our route planning and luckily we had all visited most of the tors which were on our route. The 35 team’s route went in an anti-clockwise direction around the north moor, whilst the 45 team had to do a figure of eight around the moor, even having to go the same way across one bit of the moor twice.
At 4.00 pm with all kit ready packed we went up to be scrutineered whilst the 45 team went in for a briefing. There was quite a long queue at the scrutineering and we had about a 40-minute wait before we were seen. Apart from the gas burner being missing from one of the Trangias, everything else was fine. The 35 team then went to the other side of the building to wait for their briefing once the 45 team came out.
Back at the Mess Tent and dinner of meatballs in a tomato sauce with pasta, followed by either apple cake and custard or raspberry lemon crumble cake and custard was waiting for us.
After dinner and the clearing up was done, we all gathered in the Mess Tent for our final briefing by Ben. Then came the presentation of the customary yellow t-shirts bearing the following logo:
Next came a gift from Mike. On one of the weekend walks he had seen a trainer waiting for her teams and was sat knitting bobble hats. Mike thought that this was a good idea and suggested that Sally might like to make some! There was much fun handing them out and putting them on. Sally had also provided one for Mr Alsop who had arrived in time for dinner with us and for Mike (Ben did not want one so had been given a knitted Celtic knot cover for his mug instead) however Mike’s had the biggest bobble of all which cause much laughter – but being so tall, with the extra height of his bobble hat he was always easy to spot.
We all settled down to sleep by about 10.00 pm which was the official lights out from the Army. Unfortunately it was exceptionally windy which was very noisy and being very excited it is difficult to know how many of us slept through the night.
This time, we were woken at 5.00 am by music being played over the loudspeaker. The first song was a rap written by the members of the organising groups followed by Chariots of Fire then a variety of both modern and older inspirational songs.
The campsite was buzzing with nervous excitement as teams got themselves ready for the off. Although breakfast was prepared for us comprising porridge and then bacon rolls, nervousness didn’t make us appreciate it that much.
At 6.15 am we all gathered for a team photo, then it was off to the start. The 45 team were accompanied by Mike and Mr Alsop, the 35 team by Ben and Sally. Faith, as our reserve, also came up with us. At the 35 team’s starting point farewell hugs were given to the 45 team as they made their way to the other end of the field for their starting position.
A short inspirational talk was given by the Director of Ten Tors in which he said to remember that “pain was only weakness leaving the body and that the pain was temporary, memories last forever”. Then came the Ten Tors prayer and we all counted down from 10 when the cannons went off signalling the start of the Challenge. At this point 2400 eager people rushed down the hill to begin their big adventure.
For those left behind – Ben, Mike, Mr Alsop, Claire, Sally and Faith it was time to start the long wait. They first of all went up to watch the start of the Jubilee Challenge and then the Pony Challenge. It was then back to the tent to clear up the teams’ breakfast and make their own.
During the rest of the weekend the staff and Faith went up and down to the “stat shed” to monitor progress on big screens. Unfortunately, part way through Saturday afternoon one of the 45-mile team had to come off the moor due to ill health and Ben collected him from the “fall out shed”, then take him up to the medical centre and then to meet up with the rest of the staff. The student was monitored for the remainder of the day and taken back up to the medical centre by Ben and Sally at 10.00 pm to again be checked. He was then asked to go back again on Sunday morning to be re-checked by a GP who would be on duty.
During Saturday, Ben and Mike set up a board which showed the routes and progress being made by both teams and this was updated as times came in. As the teams returned home they were interested in the estimated timings on the board and the actual timings achieved.
On Sunday morning Faith was up bright and early and took not only her own tent down but all the other hike tents as well. It must have been difficult for Faith to see everyone off, however she was an amazing support to her team; she acted as a runner for the staff up and down to the stat shed – often coming back with new times, without being asked to do so. Although it was sad that one of our walkers had to come off the moor, at least Faith had someone nearer her own age to spend time with during the rest of the weekend.
Both teams pushed themselves and were very successful in achieving excellent times – well within the limit of 5.00 pm. Staff and parents were watching for the 35-mile team to come over the hill, however they had remembered what Ben had said during their first weekend walk about where the crowds would be to welcome them in and, instead of coming over the hill by the shorter route, they took the long way and walked through the whole length of the crowd. They walked in at 11.07 am which was well before that calculated by the trainers.
After they reached the finish line, the Control Card was checked and stamped, photos taken then off to wait for the presentation of their medals and certificate. They were then reunited with parents and went off to claim their pasty. As there was a little time to wait before the 45-mile team were due in the students with parents and staff went back to the tent (Ben, Mike and a parent having carried their rucksacks back for them).
Lunch was provided for those in need but most spent the next hour relaxing.
We all went back up to cheer the 45-mile team through the finish gate at 2.35 pm – another excellent time. The same process then took place for the 45-mile team of checking, photos, presentation of medals and eating of pasty.
Finally we all went back to the base camp to celebrate with some cake and then helped with the clearing up of the area before making our way home.
Well done to both of our amazing teams.
Written by Mrs Sally Pinner
To look back at the whole journey you can see all the previous training weekend writes ups here.