The Three Peaks Challenge
Adventure challenges in the UK
Why climb one mountain when you can climb three? The Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales – and this can be done over a few days but those who are up for a real challenge can tackle all three in 24 hours.
Although itineraries vary, the most frequent route starts in Scotland topping Ben Nevis. Then it’s on to England for Scafell Pike and you finish the challenge in Wales at the summit of Snowdon. All-in-all, that's over 3000m of climbing and 450 miles of driving in 24 hours.
Why do it? There are many reasons for attempting the Three Peaks – it might be to raise funds for a deserving cause, to challenge yourself against the mountains or just to get yourself amongst some of the most dramatic scenery in the world.
Obviously your itinerary will depend on the timeframe you opt for, but hey let’s go the whole hog – here’s what you can expect if you go for the 24-hour challenge.
Peak 1 – Ben Nevis
Before the challenge begins you need to make your way to Penrith in northern England. If you get your timing right should arrive at your destination late at night (but not too late for last orders!). Here you can take your pick from the hostels and hotels of Penrith – make sure you get a good night’s kip as you won’t be seeing a proper bed in the next 24 hours.
You’ll start the following day with spectacular views of the Yorkshire Dales and it’s time to treat yourself to a hearty cooked breakfast, and then continue the scenic drive north towards Ben Nevis. This is a really beautiful drive as you’ll pass along the shores of Loch Lomond and through the imposing Glen Coe Valley, towards the foot of Ben Nevis and the town of Fort William. If your schedule allows it, take the opportunity to explore the town as there’s plenty to see and make last minute preparations for the challenge.
At around 5pm you will start the event and begin the 1,344m ascent of Ben Nevis. The walk up and down takes around five to six hours and will have you arriving back at your vehicles after dark at about 11pm. And no – you won’t be having a swift drink and tucking yourself in to bed – you will now drive through the night, onto the Lake District to tackle Scafell Pike.
Peak 2 – Scafell Pike
Although Scafell Pike is the shortest of the three mountains on the Three Peak Challenge it’s far from the least strenuous. This is mainly due to the fact that you tackle this peak in the very early hours and will be climbing a large proportion in the dark. However, this does have an upside – the reward of watching dawn break over England as you make your way to the summit. The climb up and down Scafell Pike is about four hours and needs concentration on the navigation near the top – especially as you will be on the weary side at this point. When you return to the bottom, it’s back in the car again for the final leg of the challenge – Mount Snowdon in Wales.
Peak 3 – Mount Snowdon
By the time you reach the base of Mount Snowdon it will be around 1pm, so this leaves you four hours to complete the 24-hour challenge. This leg takes the direct approach and follows the Pyg Track which climbs steeply to reach the summit at 1,085m. Here you have two options; either finish your challenge here, take in the breathtaking views and bask in the glory of completion. Or you can include the descent to base for the full achievement – and a well-deserved cold beer!
Then all you need to think about is your drive back to your base for a rest, re-hydrate and clean up before heading to the local pub for dinner. And obviously the main topics of conversation are bound to be aching legs, monster blisters and of course the sense of satisfaction of completing the Three Peak Challenge.
How to get there
Pretty much with a car and a map! This is where a little bit of planning comes in as you need to work out the quickest route to take from peak-to-peak to ensure you hit the challenge in the 24-hour deadline.
You’ll need to arrange a night’s stay in Penrith before the start of your challenge and then a bed for the night in Snowdonia when you are finished. Ideally you’ll pick somewhere fairly close as the last thing you want is to face a long drive before you can get fed and a bed. Both Penrith and Snowdonia have plenty of accommodations to choose from – and it’s a good opportunity to treat yourself when you have completed the grueling challenge with a bed in a swanky hotel.
How much will it cost?
Taking on the Three Peaks Challenge will set you back around the £350 mark. But you may need to bung a few quid in to pay for your designated drivers, realbuzz.com strongly suggests that those who drive from peak to peak are not taking part in the challenge.
Who can do it?
Don’t be fooled, the Three Peaks Challenge is no ordinary endurance event. Although the distance you cover on foot is just less than a marathon it’s the time it takes to complete that is the real drain. The challenge puts a rollercoaster of demands on the body – one minute you are climbing up a freezing mountainside in the dark and the next you are being bundled into a mini bus – which really offers little respite.
The challenge is challenging and this plan has been designed to tackle The Three Peaks Challenge over a greater time span than the 24-hour manic endurance challenge. realbuzz strongly recommends a full medical check-up before deciding whether or not to tackle the Three Peak Challenge.
Another option is to do Three Peak Challenge for a charity. Get sponsored for your trip and raise loads of cash for a worthy cause. Not only will you have completed one of the most grueling challenges in the UK but you'll have helped other people too... the feeling of achievement will be fantastic!
As well as raising money for a worthwhile cause, if you do decide to go with a charity the good news is they take all the hassle out of organising the trip. You don’t need to worry about organising transport or accommodation and all the other stuff – all you need to worry about is getting in shape.