TWO Salisbury teams joined more than 2,000 teenagers from across the south west to battle tiredness, rain, wind and freezing conditions to take part in the annual Ten Tors challenge on Dartmoor.
Organised by Tidworth-based 43 (Wessex) Brigade, this 54th running of the challenge involved more than 1,000 regular and reserve personnel from all three services who helped to make the challenge as safe and enjoyable as possible for the participants.
Despite 40 to 50mph winds, driving rain and sub-zero temperatures, eight out of 10 of those taking part managed to complete the challenge.
They trekked unaided over 35, 45 or 55 miles of some of the toughest terrain and highest peaks in southern England, relying on their navigational skills and carrying all their food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials with them.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry manned safety checkpoints across the moor and helped youngsters who had to pull out.
Teams from Godolphin School Combined Cadet Force and the Old Sarum detachment of the Wiltshire Army Cadet Force both successfully completed the 35- mile route and a second Wiltshire ACF team completed the 45-mile route. Old Sarum cadets taking part were Cadet Lance Corporal Kiera Reavill, 15 and Cadet Freya Croager, 14; both attend South Wilts School.
Joining them on the team was Emily Payne, 15, from Grateley in Hampshire.
Taking part in the 45-mile route along with cadets from all over the county was Cadet Corporal Aiden Walsh, 16. Aiden, also from Salisbury, attends Bishop Wordsworth’s School.
Training for the event starts in January, with weekends spent on Salisbury Plain, in Wales and on Dartmoor, Devon.
The responsibility for the team management and training each year falls to Captain Mark Calaz, the adventure training officer for the Wiltshire ACF.
Capt Calaz said: “People don’t realise how tough it is. To walk 35 or 45 miles on normal terrain is tough, so to do it over Dartmoor as a team and in the time that they achieved was really tough.”
“I don’t think you can actually train these youngsters to get to the finish point; we train them to get to the start, it is then up to them and their efforts alone that get them over the finish line.”
Brigadier Piers Hankinson, commander of 43 Brigade, said: “They have really achieved something special here. They started out early on Saturday morning and had to cope with driving rain.
And the temperature on Saturday night was -10C with a wind chill factor and winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour; these were tough conditions and the youngsters were fantastic.”