Whatever people’s opinions are on the Three Peaks Challenge, it’s a popular choice for many and you may be planning your own Three Peaks Challenge over the coming months rather than joining an organised trip. While there’s a BMC Three Peak Code of Practice, this recommends that organised charity groups are limited to 200 participants. We wouldn’t want to join in a group that big, and we’d question that figure as being way too high, despite the good causes that are collected for. Here are a few pointers to completing it responsibly and successfully.
Get fit – Don’t try it half arsed. If you’re reasonably fit, you’ll probably complete it but you’ll need to be hill fit to enjoy it. Don’t believe us? Read this Three Peaks Challenge article by the BMC, and see if this sounds like you.
Try and fit a few 20km+ walks in before hand, even if they’re on the flat. Visit Snowdonia or similar for a weekend in the month before and at least walk The Pyg Track on the Saturday, and something like Moel Siabod before travelling home on the Sunday – or the equivalent walk in another hilly area.
Get Organised – Find someone who’s organised, but not necessarily going to walk who’s job it is to make sure you’re keeping on time and well fed. They can make sure you keep to the timings below, and keep an eye out for the need to change plans if you’re running out of time. Get yourself a non-walking driver as well.
A typical itinerary it to start at 5pm from Fort William up the Mountain Track to the summit of Ben Nevis, descending as it gets dark, leaving the bulk of the travelling overnight to climb Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head. That’s one of the issues people have, with three peakers descending onto this village at the break of dawn, parking all over the place and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The Three Peaks Code of Practice recommends that people don’t ascend from Wasdale before 5am (though a few woke me up at the campsite a few weeks back a bit earlier than that!)
Get a decent head torch! You will probably end up on the hill in the dark. A puny led light will not cut it. Invest in a powerful Cree light and get a couple of night walks in over rough terrain before hand. You’ll probably be at your most tired at this point, making a tumble more likely.
Get Savvy – Know the routes you intend to walk and the timings (as mentioned above!). Make sure someone in the group is a competent navigator and can lead the group, ideally someone who knows the routes, or some of them. A competent hill walker should have no problems navigating these standard routes. You should also be properly kitted out for a day in the mountains -read this for more information Summer Hillwalking Checklist.
Get a Guide – Failing all that, pay someone to take you up. This is essential if you haven’t got enough experience in the group.
Give something back and Minimise your Impact. . You’re collecting for a good cause, but consider giving a percentage back to a mountain charity. Choose one of the local Mountain Rescue teams or perhaps contributing something towards the upkeep of the footpaths. You’re also adding to your carbon footprint, so why not make the trip as carbon neutral as possible and contribute a percentage to the Woodland Trust or similar? The National Trust maintains the footpath up Scafell Pike as well as sections of Snowdon, and the Snowdonia Society do a lot of good work in Snowdonia, whilst the John Muir Trust maintains sections on Ben Nevis.
Keep your group sizes small, much smaller than 200, that’s for certain! We think that groups of this size aren’t suitable for the mountains, cause much more impact (just think of the noise!) as well as reducing the enjoyment of the mountains for others.
And finally – Leave No Trace. Be a responsible 3 peaker, and don’t leave litter on the mountain. The fact that your’e reading this suggest you will be. Sadly, far too many do not respect the mountains (not just 3 Peak Challengers) as the litter and human waste on Snowdon’s footpath attests to.