Ten Tors Reflections

It has been just over a month now since the Ten Tors Challenge, and I have had sufficient time to digest and analyse the experience. I have calculated some of the statistics, but what is more important and interesting to me are my reactions.

I have included the raw data at the end of the post for information, but first I will state my reflections and what I learned.

1. The more I walk with and lead groups in mountainous areas, the more I realise that people management is as important, if not more so, than skills such as navigation and map-reading. I often felt like a Colour Sergeant, motivating the team to keep moving. I was daunted by the thought that if I abdicated responsibility for that aspect, whether because of tiredness or irritation, who else would fill the role? Responsibility lies heavily on a leader, especially when bad weather or accident increase the seriousness of a walk; my nightmare scenario was a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) call-out to a stricken ML aspirant.

    Map reading is unique on Dartmoor

    2. During the second day of the walk, my irritations increasingly affected me mentally, which worried me, as my role as a leader was to serve and protect the members of my party. It is often too easy to become emotional with those nearest to oneself – friends or family – but as a mountain leader, this cannot be the case. One’s care, and in certain instances, customer service, is to those who follow behind. I am learning now to treat every walk or trip with the same attitude of selfless care and responsibility.

      Crossing one of the many streams

      3. Although I felt the burden of care towards my team, there came a point when I did too much. Particularly at the overnight camp, I could have delegated better the various camp tasks such as cooking, water carrying and tent erecting. Part of the joy of leading in the mountains is introducing others to the ways and the crafts. Moreover, it was interesting to note that although we discussed the various individual roles before camping, exhaustion or forgetfulness meant they were not adhered to. I suspect that tiredness was starting to cause an onset of self-preservation – a real threat to team welfare.

      The joys of outdoor cooking

      4. In the current generation, people increasingly do not like to be told what to do. However, mountains are one area where it is imperative that order and hierarchy prevail. It was noticeable that our team had not clarified my leadership or any other roles. This often left ambiguity at decision times. Fortunately, we did not encounter any truly serious or life-threatening situations, but the lack of clear leadership caused me to feel somewhat impotent, and affected other members of the party.

      There were other, more minor reflections, but to finish, I was pleased to experience a real encounter with a wild place. My frailty and weakness as a human were soon apparent in the turmoil of the bad weather and demanding terrain. However, rather than feeling wounded or dismayed in the face of Dartmoor, I respected the moors for tolerating our brief foray. Indeed, my testing, physically, mentally and emotionally has increased my desire to sharpen myself in such an environment.

      Wet and tired feet

      Now, if you’re interest has not entirely waned by this point, here are the numbers from the Challenge. We followed an amended version of Route A of the official Ten Tors event which took place between Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 May 2009.

      Total Air Distance 52.49 km
      Total DMT Distance 52.62 km
      Min. Altitude 243.9 m
      Max. Altitude 581.2 m
      Average Altitude 450.9 m
      Total Ascent 1,479.8 m
      Total Descent -1,281.7 m
      Total Ascent Distance 26.33 km
      Total Descent Distance 20.02 km
      Total Level Distance 6.27 km
      % of Ascent 50%
      % of Descent 38%
      % of Level 11.90%


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