More than ever, people are getting outside, escaping their comfort zones and heading into the unknown to take part in one of the many outdoor challenges the UK has to offer. Whether it’s for a good cause, or just for the sheer sense of achievement, these challenges offer not only a real physical test, but also an unforgettable adventure, often in Britain’s most beautiful settings.
Totalling a walking distance of 23 miles and ascent of 3064 metres, the iconic National Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales - Ben Nevis, Scaffell Pike, and Snowdon. No mean feat, the challenge is one of the most popular in the UK, and if attempted in 24 hours, is both a physical and mental test. With limited rest and lots of steep climbs, the route will certainly push you to your limit. Want to give it a go? Here’s our advice on how to take on the Three Peaks Challenge.
It's all in the timing
Before attempting to train for the challenge, you’ll first need to know the best time of year to attempt it. Due to daylight hours and weather conditions, it’s recommended that the challenge is completed between the months of June and October. Three Peaks is a popular challenge, so weekends can get crowded. Though the crowds provide a lively atmosphere and a sense of team spirit, those who are after a quieter experience may want to attempt it mid-week.
If you want to fit all three peaks into 24 hours, you’ll need to do some preparation beforehand. The 24-hour time includes both the walking and the travel in between the three mountains. You should allow five hours for Ben Nevis, four hours for Scafell Pike, and four hours for Snowdon- leaving 11 hours for the driving in between.
The time at which you start the challenge can make a huge difference to how easy it is to complete in the 24-hour time frame. You’ll need to think carefully about traffic, rest, and which mountain you’d rather tackle at night time. To make sure that walkers get a restful six-hour sleep in the car, we recommend starting Ben Nevis at 5pm, to begin the journey to Scafell Pike at 10pm (when the team can sleep!), finishing Scafell Pike at 8am, arriving to Snowdon for 1pm, and (hopefully) completing the challenge at 5pm.
Train, train, train!
Three Peaks is an endurance challenge, and you should train in plenty of time beforehand to minimise the chances of injury and build on your fitness levels. By becoming a bit more accustomed to the increase in physical activity ahead of your challenge, you’ll also be able to relax that little bit more to allow you to take in and enjoy the sights that the three mountains offer.
If you’re new to mountain walking, it’s a good idea to plan a practice walk to test for aching muscles or weak areas. Regular practice walks will strengthen your muscles, and prepare you for any other issues such as the comfort of your shoes and clothes. Regardless of your fitness level, it’s hard to predict how you’ll feel when attempting the challenge. To get an idea for what’s in store, it may be worth visiting Snowdonia National Park, the Brecon Beacons, the Peak District or the Cotswolds to practice on the terrain. If you’re struggling to find the time, fit some training into your daily schedule- use the stairs whenever possible, walk or cycle to work, and get used to carrying your equipment by carrying it wherever you can.
As with all endurance challenges, if you’re prepared with all the essentials, you’re half way there! Although you’ll need to avoid over-packing, make sure that you equip yourself with the must-haves.
Perhaps most importantly, your walking boots should give you as much support as possible, and you’ll need to make sure they’re worn in before the big day to prevent them rubbing your feet. Make sure that you pack some thick walking socks, and don’t forget to bring spares! Just in case your boot laces snap, bring some more of those, too. Your clothes should be lightweight and breathable, and steer clear from cotton which will soak up any moisture. You’ll need to keep warm, so opt for baselayer tops and pants, as well as a fleece for the summits, and a lightweight, waterproof jacket.
Clothes aside, you may want to bring a walking pole. This will make walking downhill a lot easier, keeping you steady on your descent. As part of the challenge will be at night, it’s really important that you have a torch, as well as the essentials- a map, a compass, and a water carrier. Assign some necessities to the rest of your team- a first aid kit, some snacks for much needed energy, a camera to take photos of the breath-taking views, and a charged-up mobile phone with all emergency contact numbers you may need.
Due to the popularity of the Three Peaks challenge, there are some guidelines you should follow to ensure your walk has minimal impact on the environment and surrounding areas. These include limiting the number of walkers to no more than 200 per event, considering the timing of the walk, and using motorway service facilities rather than local water supplies and toilets. When organising your event, make sure you take a look at the full Three Peaks Challenge Code of Practice.