Adventurer, navigation workshop leader & GetOutside Champion, Jason Rawles talks us through how you can safely and successfully complete the 3 Peaks Challenge.
It’s the time of year when thousands of people will be taking part in the National 3 Peaks challenge.
As a GetOutside champion for Ordnance Survey, owner of a business that runs these challenges and avid lover of our beautiful mountains, I wanted to share some hints, tips and thoughts to help you along the way.
Decide what you want
Decide what it is you want from this challenge? As in, to achieve the time of less than 24hrs or absolutely smash it.
You’re likely to hit external challenges like weather and perhaps traffic so if you’ve made a decision about what you want to achieve then you can be cool about it all.
If you rush around the mountains you’re also likely to miss the lovely views (if weather allows!) and I’ve even seen people knock other people over and shout “sorry, we are on a time” as they run off in to the distance.
Work the daylight in your favour. Personally, I am a fan of starting around 07:00 on Ben Nevis which then means you could have sunset on Scafell Pike and then sunrise on Snowdon. That said, it depends on the weather and traffic conditions.
Consider this when thinking about the time of year as starting earlier on later (April or October) means you have less light to play with. Have a think and other options are available pending when you need to travel back to your home.
Consider the environment
Look after the environment. Because you’re working on a time it doesn’t mean you can leave litter around or disregard the country code.
I look at all this from a ‘life’ perspective as in, do the right things and the right things will happen.
Minimise the faff
Be slick rather than have to rush around. When you rush you massively increase your chances of injury and therefore a possible need for a rescue.
Be slick rather than faff around. If you save 10mins with things like poles, water, clothing etc. on all 3 mountains then that’s 30mins you’ve saved. If you faff 10 times, for 10 mins, that’s well over an hour. Be cool, be slick.
Routes and maps
Select the best routes and be great with navigation.
Ordnance Survey have a superb National 3 Peaks map that weighs less than even one of the Active maps so can sit in your rucksack as the paper back-up. I then have each route printed off on A4 waterproof paper so it’s always to hand.
Then I have OS Maps on my phone as another back-up with the route downloaded and then of course I have OS Locate (separate app) as another back-up.
In the minibus or vehicle, I have an external power pack, so I can keep my smartphone charged up.
Tourist track on Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike from Wadale Head National Trust car park and up PYG Track and down Miners Track on Snowdon are the favourites.
Fitness and attitude
Fitness is good as is your attitude. If you’re starting on Ben Nevis it can really wipe people out. It’s a long slog.
Get some training done in advance and also be mentally prepared for what’s to come. You can’t control the weather, but you can control your response. You’re going to be tired and it’s hard work so get in the right headspace.
Research and plan
Do some research in advance. You’ll need money for car parks perhaps. If you’re in a minibus and have a driver, will they drop you off and pick up at the same location. What’s the weather planned to do etc.
Planning will be 60% of the effort to ensure it’s safe and successful. There’s a plethora of information out there including things like Facebook forums.
If you’re worried, consider getting a mountain Guide who’ll help and support.
Food and water
Think carefully about food and water. Have some bits in the vehicle to top up when you’re on the move and don’t disregard the energy requirements on the mountain.
Take food and water with you (pending your personal needs) and drink/snack little and often. Don’t skimp on this.
Rest while travelling
Rest while you’re travelling. Yeah, this is easier said than done!
I may even take a blanket and pillow with me to get the best rest I can along with earphones or even ear plugs.
I’ll make sure my personal space in the vehicle is as clean and tidy as possible. If the weather is bad in the mountains I won’t compromise my personal space by making it wet and dirty. I’ll change in to dry warm kit and then get comfortable.
Smile and enjoy!
Enjoy! While this is a challenge you should never disregard the beautify of our wonderful island. Take a second to look around and soak it all up.
Personally, I’d happily take an extra 5mins and enjoy. I spend so much time in the mountains and am always seeing people run around, knock people over, trip and hurt themselves and then they don’t even see the views.
As said above, be cool, be slick and you’ll have time.
This isn’t the definitive guide it’s just some hints, tips and pointers to make your National 3 Peaks challenge more enjoyable and successful.
There are other challenges available or you could even complete the 3 peaks over 3 days and make it slower and more relaxed.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, worries or concerns. Be safe, be slick, be cool.