2,400 teens rescued as storms hit Dartmoor challenge

Nearly 2,500 youngsters were rescued from flooded moorland after appalling weather hit the Ten Tors Challenge.

It was the biggest such operation since the annual event on Dartmoor was hit by a sleet and snow storm 11 years ago.

Run by the Army, the challenge is considered a character-building exercise for teenagers, who have to display endurance, teamwork and fitness to complete the course.

Youngsters from all over the country hike up to 55 miles in two days between ten of Dartmoor's granite outcrops or tors.

Soaking youngsters were airlifted from the moor

In March, questions were raised over the safety of the challenge after 14-year-old Charlotte Shaw fell into a rain-swollen stream and died during a training walk.

The teams taking part in this year's event set off on Saturday morning. Organisers halted it after Dartmoor was hit by torrential rain and strong winds.

Heavy rain had been forecast, but officials waited until Saturday evening before deciding that conditions were too dangerous to continue.

The 400 teams of six teenagers were ordered to stay undercover on Saturday night until the Army-organised evacuation could begin at dawn yesterday.

The Ten Tors Challenge was abandoned because of fears over swollen rivers

More than 700 military personnel and civilians were involved in escorting 2,400 children from the 368 sq mile moor in just over six hours.

They included 150 volunteers from Dartmoor Rescue Group, police and St John's Ambulance volunteers. Some youngsters were airlifted off Dartmoor in two Navy Sea King helicopters supported by two Army Gazelle helicopters.

Others were guided off the moor by soldiers or driven to the base camp in Okehampton, Devon.

Army spokesman David Harris said: "There are not many operations on this scale.

"The Ten Tors is the biggest outdoor event of its kind for young people, so when there is a perceived need to get people back, it will clearly be a big undertaking.

"Our priority here was to make sure that 2,400 young people are returned safely, and that is what we have done."

He added: "They came back looking a little wet and bedraggled, but we gave them a cup of tea and they were all OK. There were no serious injuries to speak of, which is incredible considering the atrocious weather conditions."

A statement from the organisers said the decision to end the event early was taken because of "deteriorating weather conditions" and a high drop-out rate.

Participants who camped out will still get medals for taking part.

Robert Illman, a controller for the Dartmoor Rescue Group, said: "A lot of the kids will be upset at it being cancelled, but after the tragic death it is the right call. The rivers are incredibly swollen. It's horrendous."

Adam Willcox, 15, a pupil at Writhlington School in Somerset, managed to reach seven of the ten tors and was disappointed not to complete the challenge.

"It's a real letdown to get so close to finishing but safety has to come first and the Army have done a fantastic job at getting us off the moor," he said.

"They led us in a line down a carefully chosen route away from any rivers with men all along the sides and did roll calls every five minutes. Everything was done to minimise the risks."

He added: "The rain was really lashing down and just did not let up. They did not have any choice but to cancel it, especially given the death that happened recently."

In March, Charlotte Shaw, a pupil at Edgemoor College, in Bideford, Devon, died in hospital a day after falling into icy water while trying to retrieve her backpack from the swollen Walla Brook at Watern Tor on Dartmoor.

She was part of a group of ten from her school on the training hike when the tragedy happened.

Edgehill College was given special permission to enter a larger team than the normal six members this year. Three boys and eight girls represented the college and were aiming to complete the 35-mile course, the shortest of the three.

The challenge, devised by three Army officers, is now in its 47th year.

A similar rescue operation took place when the Ten Tors was abandoned for the first time after Dartmoor was struck by a sleet and snow storm in May 1996. Teams taking part then had to contend with poor visibility and bitter cold.

Good effort to all those involved. Nice to see a positive article on the forces for a change.

Edited to add the link to the Article
Nice to see youngsters of the right 'type' in the news. Thought there none left in Britain.
All respect to the young 'uns who took part, and well done to all those who had a role in getting them back safely. It's not all burberry and chavspeak after all.
my friend's daughter was one of them,and despite the crap weather,se came down buzzing and can't wait to go again
The kids I met were in good spirits and mostly dissapointed they where not allowed to continue I think the swollen rivers where the main cause of concern they did rise pretty quick. as Lucky Jim said Respect to the Young 'uns who make a serious attempt on this challenge


Book Reviewer
Hats off to the participants, and to the recovery teams; it was a good call to bring them back during such appalling weather. The last thing anyone wants to see is youngsters get hurt or worse doing such a worthy thing.

Hopefully they'll be able to have another crack at it soon.
Good work by the young people (and the organisers).


Book Reviewer
shagnasty said:
Nice to see youngsters of the right 'type' in the news. Thought there none left in Britain.
There are a few. My lad and his mates in the Fire Cadets and Army Cadet force for several. They are outnumbered by their Chav colleagues in school, but they do great work for others, and have excellent manners and morals.
Yeah, respect to them and those who rescued them kids. I was out camping at the weekend and was peed wet through.

The kids would have been worse off then me on Dartmoor. Hats off to them.
Kudos to everyone involved from the kids who displayed intestinal fortitude and motivation to the military personnel who made certain these fine young folks made it back safe & sound. :)

No doubt many of the teens who endured the drenching will be leaders in business and society one day...
I did this event as a kid myself, I know how tough it is and that the kids would have been massively p****d off to not complete it. But it was the right decision after the sad death of one of the girls training for the event earlier in the year. Well done to all concerned, those making the decision to pull them off the moors, the kids themselves and the fantastic work that all the volunteers do helping with the running of the event and getting them off the moors safely!

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