Exercise ARIES TOR is a large scale military deployment which facilitates the biggest outward bound challenge for young people anywhere in the UK. Hundreds of troops take part in the exercise, which is led by the Army’s regional Headquarters for the South West of England and is most commonly known as the Ten Tors Challenge. Approximately 2400 youngsters, aged between 14 and 19, participate with a further 300 youngsters with physical or educational needs taking part in the Jubilee Challenge.
The majority of the teams who enter Ten Tors and the Jubilee Challenge are from schools and youth groups from across the South West. These include scout groups, sports and ramblers teams and Armed Forces cadet units, all of whom train hard over months before the challenge.
Those taking part trek unaided over different 35, 45 or 55 mile routes and encounter some of the toughest terrain and highest peaks in Southern England. They rely on their navigational skills and carry all their food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials as they go. It is a feat they must complete as a team and without any help from adults and they’ll remain entirely self-sufficient during their arduous expeditions, including camping out overnight on the moor.
Immediately after the start of Ten Tors, up to 300 youngsters with special physical or educational needs - many in wheelchairs - start the Jubilee Challenge, competing routes up to 15 miles. The youngsters can enter either as a team or as individuals, each one accompanied by an Officer Cadet from Exeter University Officer Training Corps.
Safety is at the heart of the planning and execution of the Challenge. It is an exercise which is meticulously planned by the Headquarters South West over many months in advance working closely with other key civilian organisations, such as Devon and Cornwall Police, the Met Office, the British Red Cross and the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group, who provide almost 350 volunteers.
For the vast majority of the young people taking part in Ten Tors, the event itself is the culmination of months of training designed by Team Managers to ensure they are fit enough to walk up to 40 miles in one day across Dartmoor, but crucially are also gelled as a team and proficient at navigating across the wilderness of the open moor. Team Managers are also required to attend an Army briefing which focuses on the harsh extremes of the Dartmoor climate and their responsibility to ensure that their teams have the right equipment to keep them safe. Further briefings and kit checks are carried out on the day before the start of Ten Tors by military adventurous training experts and members of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group.
The Ten Tors organisers work closely with the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), landowners and commoners to minimize the environmental impact of the event and the associated training, to maximize the local economic benefits of Ten Tors, and to help those taking part to appreciate and understand Dartmoor’s special qualities.