We have had our snow, overnight on Friday but for a short time only. Saturday was a bright spring day and by evening most had gone. In Exeter they had had no snow at all and looking east the hills were clear. The south west was a different story and the Moor is still white.
We should have walked yesterday but the prospect of watching the rugby at home was too attractive. So I sat with the boy and we saw the English deservedly lose to the Scots at Murrayfield. It was not a good game; certainly, with hindsight, not one worth missing a clear sunny day on the High Moor for. Instead, we said we would go today, that the weather would hold. Well we went, and it hadn’t. It was cold leaving the house, with the odd drop of rain. It was clear by Okehampton but colder, the streets completely empty; and as we climbed up towards the camp, there was ice on the road and snow across the Moor.
We weren’t the only ones out. There were a number of minibuses parked up, a sure sign that Ten Tors training has begun in earnest. Three of ours have been through Ten Tors, two doing the 35 mile route and the youngest girl doing both 35 mile and 45 mile. Each year, throughout the early spring, we see groups of six teenagers, the team size, with their adult ‘sweeps’, training hard at weekends. The Ten Tors Challenge takes place over a weekend in May, when 400 teams hike between ten nominated tors, covering either 35, 45 or 55 miles between 7.00 a.m. on Saturday morning and 5.00 in the afternoon on Sunday. Each team carries all they need for the two days they are out, and each team member has an allotted task – navigator, team leader etc. There have been years when it has snowed, and years when the temperature has been in the 80s fahrenheit. The Army run it superbly and for those who take part, it is something that they will never forget.
It is much the same for the parents. We have waited for the start gun on three May Saturdays and willed the children on. Last year, with filthy weather – rain and mist, Celia was taken off the Moor late on the Saturday evening, virtually unable to walk because of her blisters, having covered close on 20 miles in the day. She was gutted that she wasn’t allowed to continue but she and another team member, with a badly sprained ankle, were slowing the team up. It doesn’t always go right. Two years before, they had been one of the first 35 mile teams home.
Today was not much fun, either for those training or for us. The Moor was white and the sky steel. We parked where we could, warned that the military road ahead was like glass. Even in a four-wheel drive the going was hard. Having parked the Land Rover, and setting out south towards East Mill Tor, we were passed by a couple of saloons, ignoring the warnings and all too soon having to reverse and slide back down the road. It was not a long walk. We met the Falmouth scouts making their way back towards their minibus. It was their second day out and even though they had not been under canvas they looked tired. Walking was difficult, the wind bitterly cold and even on the road, it was slippery. We each have two poles but it is unusual to see these used by teenagers out training: probably because poles are seen as very much a piece of kit for the middle aged! But we kept our feet; they were having more difficulty.
Coffee on East Mill Tor and we turned back, the road ahead impassable with drifting snow and going cross country too treacherous. The snow isn’t hard enough to support you and there is little point to wading knee deep in soft snow. The forecast is for the cold to continue in the first part of the week but next weekend may be better.