AUDIO: Safety changes for Ten Tors moor challenge
The Ten Tors challenge in which teenagers trek up to 55 miles across Dartmoor is to undergo its first major change in 30 years in a bid to improve safety.
The Army, which organises the event, said there would be fewer river crossings and road routes in 2014, moves designed to reduce the need for air support and evacuation or cancellation of the event in bad weather.
It follows the mass evacuation of teenage walkers from the moor in 2007 – the year 14-year-old Charlotte Shaw died after falling into a swollen river while training for the gruelling event with her school friends.
Brigadier Piers Hankinson, director of Ten Tors, said moving some of the safety check points would “ease” dependence on helicopters, which were last year grounded because of bad weather, to evacuate people from the moor.
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He said: “It will ease the evacuation of participants who are unable to continue and, really importantly, it will remove the need to cross some of the major river features and also remove the need for some of these teenagers to walk on roads.”
He added: “We want these teams to be self-sufficient, we do not want to intervene at the river crossing points.
“Therefore I want to remove the dangers and also the possibility the event being cancelled because of heavy rain.”
Brig Hankinson, commander of 43 (Wessex) Brigade, said the routes for the event, which includes both 35-mile and 55-mile yomps, had not been changed since the mid 1980s.
And he said that while some of the hazards were being removed, the new routes would actually be harder for walkers to navigate.
He insisted the changes were not designed to save money with the event still having helicopter cover and the support of some 900 Army personnel, primarily reservists.
Brig Hankinson added: “I am making several improvements to Ten Tors with the intention, primarily, of sustaining the event for many years to come.”
After a review of the challenge, Brig Hankinson said he had hoped to make the alterations in 2012 but did not have the agreement of all landowners while some environmental assessments were not in place.
He said the harsh condition during this year’s event had highlighted the need for change.
He added: “2013 was a really, really challenging event.
“The weather conditions were extreme, the helicopters were grounded, we couldn’t use them, the water levels were increasing and there were a lot of challenges for the teams navigating.
“The path I chose to take two years ago was reinforced by events this last year.”
The Ten Tors Challenge has been running for more than 50 years and takes place each May. Teams of six, aged 14 to 19, face a two-day hike across Dartmoor.
In March 2007, student Charlotte Shaw, drowned after falling into the swollen Walla Brook corr while training with class mates during severe weather. She died the next day in hospital.
She was among 11 pupils from Edgehill College (now Kingsley School), in Bideford, North Devon, taking part in the challenge.
Her mother, Jennifer Wilkin-Shaw, lost her £350,000 compensation claim against the school after her five-year legal battle was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in April this year.