Local entrepreneur, Tom Backhouse, has set himself the challenge of becoming the first person to walk the gruelling Ten Tors 55 Challenge solo as part of a year-long personal fundraising challenge for Devon Air Ambulance.
Tom will compete alongside the thousands of other competitors in the iconic event which takes place on the weekend of 6th and 7th May. The mission forms part of Tom’s year long Walk Wild UK challenge which will see him walk at least 45 miles across all 15 of the UK’s national parks in 2017, with the added task of reaching the highest point in each. Underpinning his challenge is a £5,000 fundraising target for Devon Air Ambulance who assisted in saving Tom’s sister’s life when she was critically injured in a car accident last year.
“Walk Wild UK presents the ideal challenge for me because I love exploring new places and my aim is to raise awareness of the Devon Air Ambulance Trust and ensure that people understand the critical difference that it can make in what are real life and death situations, a scenario that became a reality to my family last year,” explains Tom Backhouse. “The Ten Tors Challenge is part of Devonshire life and I feel honoured to be given the opportunity to participate once again as an adult, amongst all the other teams and challengers, as I did almost a decade ago with Teign School” he adds.
“The Ten Tors event which is organised by the Army, is aimed at youngsters who are keen to challenge themselves and to attempt complete a gruelling trek,” explains Lt Col Peter Bates, the army officer in charge of Ten Tors. “When I heard that Tom was doing a similar challenge but across all the National Parks – and for a really worthy cause - I thought it totally appropriate to allow him to use the same weekend and ride on the back of our unique event.”
Devon Air Ambulance fundraising Director Caroline Creer said “It’s an incredible challenge which Tom is undertaking, he is clearly a determined and enterprising individual. Not only is Tom’s expedition physically challenging it has undoubtedly taken a lot of commitment and organisation. Tom has personal experience of the importance of our service which clearly inspired him to undertake this fundraising challenge, but Tom is an inspiration himself and we are extremely grateful that he has chosen to support Devon Air Ambulance. We are pleased that Tom’s sister has made a good recovery and we would like to wish Tom the best of luck at the Ten Tors.”
The Ten Tors Challenge, believed to be the largest and most challenging national walking event of its kind, is in its 57th year and caters solely for young people from 13 to 19 years. Entry is limited to 2,400 individuals (four hundred teams of six) and the teams, depending on their age, face hikes of 35, 45 or 55 miles (56, 72 or 88km) over the rough terrain of Dartmoor, visiting ten nominated tors/check points in under two days.
Concurrent with the Ten Tors Challenge is the Jubilee Challenge that caters for mentally and physically disabled youngsters who complete shorter distances on the Saturday only. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jubilee challenge. The teams must be self-sufficient, carrying all that they need to complete their route and stay out overnight safely. The weather can be very changeable and at times quite extreme, and success or failure can depend very much on the extent to which a team has been trained for all eventualities.
Tom will stay at the camp with other challengers from Thursday in order to soak up the pre-event atmosphere. As the only adult walking the challenge he will be given a 55-mile route on Friday morning and then set off with the teams of teenagers on the Saturday morning. His aim will be to complete the 55 miles by Sunday’s 5pm deadline although his pursuit to reach the park’s highest point will see him walk further than any other competitors.
Tom is being tracked in real-time throughout the Ten Tors event and throughout the year and it is possible to follow his epic challenge by visiting the website: www.walknationalparks.co.uk. To donate to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust, please visit Tom’s JustGiving page, where all proceeds go to the charity: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/WalkGBNationalParks
In his professional life, Tom is the founder and Managing Director of Terrafirma, a specialist provider of mining risk and ground stability assessments to property and land in the UK. He is also passionate about contributing to geoscience community and working with students, universities and local schools. He coordinates Terrafirma’s education workshops has published papers on the geology of the South West and presents at local and regional conferences, whilst working towards his chartered geologist status. Tom, who was born and grew up in Devon, now lives with his fiancée, cat and puppy in Worle, North Somerset.