Ten Tors can be a fairly all-defining and all-consuming thing. That might be hard to understand for people who don’t live in Devon, or even near Dartmoor. But it’s so much more than a 2 day event in May. Training seasons start as early as January officially and November unofficially. And if you’re in a local team who likes to train thoroughly, that’s nigh on every other weekend for half the year spent on Dartmoor… Which leaves a pretty big hole to fill when you’ve finished Ten Tors and are left asking – what next?
The Quick Answer
The chances are you’re done with Ten Tors because you got too old. If not, the answer is simple: do another one. Maybe you’re off to university or you’ve got a full hattrick of medals and need a bigger challenge. Although as someone with two 45 and two 55 medals, I’d encourage you to keep doing them as long as you can!
Another obvious suggestion would be to volunteer as a leader with your team, even if you can only make a few weekends they’d probably really appreciate the help. Do Gold DofE – you probably are already – or help out as a leader for that too, even if it just means sitting at checkpoints. If your original Ten Tors team doesn’t let you, find another local group who does.
But it’s not Ten Tors…
But although these are all excellent things, they probably won’t scratch your Ten Tors itch. They’re different. They’re less about personal challenge and suffering, more about giving back or enjoying yourself. So, as someone who experienced this Ten Tors shaped hole too once, let me see if I can help you decide what to do next.
From Year 10 until the end of Sixth Form, Ten Tors was a huge part of my life. Not just in terms of time, but identity. Sure I did 101 other things like playing badminton, choir, orchestra, art… But the two main things I did consistently were sword fencing and Ten Tors. I was the girl who did Dartmoor (and stabbed her friends on a Monday night).
So stopping doing Ten Tors can feel like having a part of your identity taken away from you. What can you do now that’s the same? And because Ten Tors is so South West focussed, there’s not a lot of handy advice out there. Assuming for some reason you can’t ask your leaders, this is my best attempt to answer that.
What did you enjoy about Ten Tors?
The first thing to do is consider what it is about Ten Tors that you liked most and build on it. I tend to split this into three directions: further, faster, higher.
Further means doing more distance. 55 miles not enough, eh? How about 150 miles over a week? How about walking 20 miles a day for a month? Or even 55 miles in a day? Whatever your current limit is, you want to walk further.
Faster is about speed. You’re becoming a trail runner – doing the same mileage in half the time. Not that you have to be going further too. Running 26.2 miles is still a marathon and no small achievement. Even if you’ve already walked it. Of course it’s easier to not be carrying a 60L rucksack – but there’s a whole spectrum here, from cross country running to fastpacking to skyrunning to ultralight hiking.
The other direction you can go is higher. There are two ways to interpret that. Either do more ascent in a day: same distance but bigger hills: Brecon Beacons, Lake District, Scottish Highlands… Or climb one single enormous mountain over several days. Everest is the highest mountain in the world at 8848m above sea level. People usually take over a month to climb it, all in. But there are hundreds of mountains at 3000m, 4000m, 5000m, 6000m, 7000m… And not all of them require technical mountaineering or climbing skills. (These are called trekking peaks.)
While you’re going higher, you might find that actually steeper is really your thing. You find it exciting when slopes get vertical. There’s a whole world of rock climbing, via ferrata and scrambling out there too. Plus as you get higher there’s often more snow involved – so winter mountaineering and ice climbing.
Can’t choose just one? That’s ok.
Maybe one area is a huge yes for you. Maybe there are elements of all of them that sound interesting. That’s okay, because luckily all these boxes blend into one another. Or maybe it’s none of those things that really get your attention. That’s okay, we’ll talk about that in a minute. But for now think of further, faster and higher as directions you can explore in. Here’s how it looks.
Essentially the three main directions you can go are:
- Further (multi-day, expeditions)
- Faster (running, adventure racing, ultramarathons, skyrunning)
- Higher (more technical, altitude, climbing, mountaineering)
But don’t let that restrict you. Pick one and try it, then pick another. These are just ideas and places to get started.
Another way of thinking
If that doesn’t work for you, here’s another way to get ideas. Consider the specific part of Ten Tors that you liked best. Or if not, lots of things you liked.
- Sleeping in a tent? Go camping more.
- Being in charge of a team? Do your Mountain Leader qualification.
- Medals and pasties? Enter other races and events (walking ones do exist).
- Seeing the world on foot, going to places that most people don’t? Heck, the world’s your oyster.
Sit down for a minute and write down the things you liked most about Ten Tors. I’ll try to do it for me too, right now. Nothing is too stupid.
Here’s my list:
- Walking until my feet were bleeding and carrying on
- Talking nonsense with my friends
- Medals and pasties (winning)
- Dartmoor: fog, bog and all
- Knowing I could survive no matter what was thrown at me -> or sometimes not knowing and finding out
I wish I’d had someone tell me to do this at the time. After 55 I went straight off to university and almost lost contact with my Ten Tors team entirely. So do it now while you’ve still got access to your leaders to give you suggestions!
What I did after Ten Tors
Okay, so you’ve got some ideas about further/faster/higher and maybe some specific things you loved. Here’s what I did after I finished 55 so you can see how this might look for you. Mine is a messy route, but that’s okay:
I’d already done DofE and frankly didn’t enjoy the expeditions. They were too easy, too slow and really boring compared to Ten Tors. When I went to university, I joined the walking club (most universities have one, but it might be called mountaineering or expeditions club). That was a bit of a culture shock, but it got me on day walks across the UK from Snowdonia to Glen Shiel and pretty much every National Park in between. [HIGHER]
That got me into leading – I did my Mountain Leader Training when I was 18. It felt like a natural progression at the time. The walks with the uni club were easy, so becoming a leader meant I could choose where to go on the weekend! I was doing lots of scrambling [HIGHER] but didn’t enjoy the attitude of the rock climbers. I tried via ferrata on a family holiday and loved it. While in the university club, I tried to set up multi-day trips [FURTHER] but didn’t gel with the setup at the time. I tried running a bit [FASTER] but that was mostly for running away from lectures and stress. I didn’t like it much, so I stopped. But my friends were doing mountain marathons.
After university, I came home and just went walking lots [DARTMOOR FIX]. I got on an Austrian Alpine Club tour designed especially for under 25s. That was my first experience of alpinism [FURTHER, HIGHER]. I liked the snowy mountains and glaciers but didn’t enjoy staying in mountains huts so much. I joined Dartmoor Rescue [DARTMOOR, out in all weather]. Then rejoined my Ten Tors team as a leader [friends, DARTMOOR, self-reliance] Leading is just like being a walker, but without most of the walking.
Then I started doing multi-day expeditions for fun [FURTHER]. You can take a look at my list of adventures for some ideas. And also got into doing a few higher mountains like Triglav, Toubkal and the Alps [HIGHER]. So far 4100m is the highest I’ve been above sea level. I also started to get Mountain Leading work, getting paid to take groups on walks, and started doing adventure travel writing work too. I also did a challenge called All the Tors, taking the attitude of Ten Tors and extending it as far as possible to every tor on the moor. [TEN TORS!] Some 55-ers have gone on to beat my time. Please do so too if you’d like the challenge!
Now I’m heading in the direction of wanting medals. There are very few walking equivalent races for adults so instead I’m trying to run [FASTER, medals]. I did the OMM with a friend and hope to have a crack at an ultra marathon one day [FURTHER, FASTER, medals]. I’m also leaning towards winter climbing [HIGHER, more miserable] and taking my Winter ML. Maybe I’ll do high altitude mountaineering one day, but it’s unlikely to be Everest (read this).
Where Next for you?
I hope that’s been helpful, or at the very least given you ideas about something you might want to try next. Here are a few resources that might help with some of the things I’ve mentioned. If you have any questions, please do email me! I’m still a Ten Tors leader for an independent outdoor group (the Dartmoor Plodders – come join us) and very happy to answer all What Next questions.
Resources and Inspiration
Here are some ideas from other people who also did Ten Tors. You can see what they got up to next!
- Beth Pascall is an ultra runner who did Ten Tors
- Alannah Travers did 35 and 45 and is now a journalist in Iraq
- Sam Jones of Cycling UK did Ten Tors three times
- Emma Cockford has been a high lever rower, cyclist and now triathlete
- Lorna Carter did Ten Tors and rowed across the Atlantic
- Will Robinson is now an ultra endurance runner/cyclist
- Tom Laws did Ten Tors and now runs campaigns for Trash Free Trails and Save our Rivers, plus DofE leading
GRANTS and SCHEMES:
- The Next Challenge Grant
- Vivian Fuchs Youth Award (under 18s)
- Young Explorers’ Trust (under 25s)
- Austrian Alpine Club UK has subsidised training courses and expeditions for members
- Camps International
- British Exploring Society
AND SOME STORIES
- “Ten Tors was the beginning of an amazing sequence of adventures and experiences: canoeing in Canada, fell racing in the Lake District, rock climbing and surfing throughout the UK. More importantly the skills, resilience and self-efficacy Ten Tors gave me made me who I am today. I’m determined to give something back and run Exmoor Challenge training for primary school children.”
- “I did Ten Tors and went on to do other adventures – one of which was a year biking through the Americas. My brother did TT and went on to work at Glenmore Lodge for years. We both did BES expeditions.”
- “I did it at school and it was an epic experience which opened my eyes to endurance and got me were I am now in sport. As a shy 14year old it really helped me get out my shell and find the outdoors. I was never academic but this allowed me to find something I was good at!”
Good luck and happy adventuring.
If you’re new here, hello! I’m Emily. I did Ten Tors and then went off (via a very wandering route) to become an adventure travel writer and mountain leader. You might want to start here first, but you’re welcome to dive into my blog and other adventures. If you want keep track of what I’m up to now, then join the Adventure Squad – my free monthly(ish) email newsletter. I’m on social media too.