Everyone loves a challenge whether it is running a marathon, swimming the English Channel, or even climbing some of the world’s highest peaks. It is what makes us humans always want to push ourselves to the limit or that little bit more.
Completing the Three Peaks Challenge took a different type of strength and mindset for me than when I was at Everest base camp and on the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro.
What is the Three Peaks Challenge
The Three Peaks Challenge (also known as the 3 Peaks Challenge) involves climbing the three highest peaks in Great Britain within 24 hours. These are Ben Nevis in Scotland (1345m), Scafell Pike, in England (978m), and Snowdon in Wales (1085m). It covers a distance of 462 miles from start to finish driving and climbing a total height of 3408m (10,000 ft).
Tips for doing The Three Peaks Challenge
This is a tough challenge and I saw a lot of people giving up when I was completing mine, especially in the middle of the night on Scafell Pike. So I thought I would share some of my tips and hints that I learned along the way to help you save time and hopefully make it more achievable.
Decide how you want to take part – Self-organised group or professionally organised group
You can take part in the Three Peaks Challenge in two ways — as a “self-organised group” (which is what I completed), or a “professionally organised group”. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, I would just weigh up your personal options before deciding.
A Self-organised group is often the cheapest way to take part but that is because you will have to organise everything from car hire to registering the group.
Professionally organised group
A professionally organised group is a great option if you do not do much climbing/hiking and are not overly familiar with the three mountains. Also, professional mountain guides are usually provided as well to assist.
I do a lot of hiking in these areas so I know the routes well and it took a lot to organise on our own. If you are unfamiliar with the routes it’s best to consider doing the Three Peaks Challenge with an organised company.
Best time of year to do 3 Peaks Challenge
The weather can be unpredictable on all three mountains at any time of the year. However, it is highly recommended that you attempt the Three Peaks Challenge between June and October.
This is when you should get the best weather and visibility to hike each mountain. We did our challenge in mid August and had good weather.
Have the right fitting Hiking/Trail Shoes
Just like my Everest Tips, you may think this is a silly point but you will be surprised how many people I have seen over time getting really bad blisters and limping as they did not have enough support in their shoes.
Remember, you’re climbing up three mountains, so you want your feet to be as comfortable as possible especially when you’re tired and pushing up that last mountain.
Buying hiking or Trail Shoes
Most outdoor shops will have experts that can professionally fit your hiking boots. They usually have a display area that you can test them too, just ask the assistant.
Wear them in beforehand
Wear your hiking or trail shoes at least a month beforehand or even longer. I used mine to even train in so I didn’t have any surprises and knew how they handle. It made a world of difference especially when you are getting tired of hiking in the middle of the night.
Organise a driver (This applies to self-organised groups)
Organise someone to do all the driving and to wait at the car in case anything happens during the Three Peaks Challenge. Do not try to share the driving amongst the group climbing, as you can become fatigued and run the risk of not completing the challenge and worse still crashing.
As I said before it is 462 miles from start to finish and in good traffic takes about 10 hours. Having someone else drive means you get to rest & recharge for the next summit.
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We hired a Van in Scotland and had someone drive for us all the way back to London. We chose a van because we were able to sleep in it between peaks.
- Most professionally organised groups will have a driver provided
Keep hydrated and carry a water bottle or water bladder
Carry a reusable water bottle or a water bladder to keep hydrated while hiking the 3 Peaks. This is an important tip because water intake affects your ability to perform and helps when you are getting tired.
You have two main options for carrying water and keeping hydrated in the Himalayas, water bottle and water bladder.
The water bladder is great for long distance activities and hiking challenges like the three peaks. Where you can’t always get water and when you’re constantly moving and don’t need to stop. Drinking water on the go will save you time.
Both my husband and I use a water bladder all the time for hiking or scrambling. I use a 2-liter one which is not too heavy and easily fits in my backpack. Sometimes we add some cordial (concentrated flavored syrup) to help with the taste.
Here are a few suggestions for water bladders that are reasonably priced.
Reusable Water Bottle
If you decided to use a reusable water bottle, try to use a large one for the challenge. You don’t want to be stopping and started to fill it up all the time. You can use the streams but you don’t want to be wasting time getting to them.
Also, apart from Mount Snowdon summit, there is nowhere to fill your water bottle on the actual three mountain peaks. I suggest taking a large water container in the car/bus that you are travelling in between the three peaks and refill at each stop.
Have a bright head torch
Having a bright head torch can make the world of difference during the night and when the sun is settling. When you are climbing in the middle of the night, your senses can be thrown right out and you could waste valuable time going the incorrect way.
I have been up Scafell Pike on a number of occasions before the Three Peaks Challenge, I thought I knew the route pretty well but in the middle of the night with a bad head touch my bearings were out of whack. We did not cross the stream when we were supposed to and we ended up losing over an hour trying to find our way back to the correct route.
- Ask your local outdoor shop for the best head torch, if you are unsure.
Keep your group to a minimum size that can be manageable (This applies to self-organise groups)
Remember you are only as fast as the last person and you can only go from one mountain to the next when everyone has arrived back to the car after reaching the summit.
It can be frustrating getting down and then having to wait around especially when you are on limited time and know it is out of your hands.
- Our group was only 3 plus a driver, which was a good manageable size.
Take a change of clothes or top
Make sure to take a change of clothes or top which you can leave in your transportation and change into between mountains. You will work up a sweat (some more than others) by the time you reach a summit and get back to the vehicle again. Being dry between mountain transfers can make the world of difference of getting a decent rest before the next summit or just generally being comfortable.
Unfortunately, a pack of Redbull’s smashed in my bag on the plane while on the way up to Scotland to start the challenge and everything I had was soaking wet.
I got a chill and could not rest as I didn’t have anything to change into, so the others lent me their clothes to warm up. This made the world of difference and I was able to have enough energy to do the last summit of Snowdon, Wales
- If you have quick dry clothes that you use for sport that is great to use. Also, don’t wear heavy clothes it will only weight you down and make you hotter.
Carry a small first-aid kit
Carry a small first aid kit with you in case of an emergency. The size of your group and fitness levels will determine a lot where you are going to be placed during the summits. For a professionally organised group, usually, there is a guide in front of the fastest person and a guide behind the slowest person. At times you can be a couple of hundred meters apart, so if something happens you need to be prepared.
As for self-organised group, it is something you should already have on your list. Maybe carry small kits on you and a larger one in your transport. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Take emergency foil blanket
Take an emergency foil blanket with you, it is not a necessity but a good option to have if needed. I saw a few people using the emergency foil blanket (also known as the silver blanket) to keep them warm when they had given up and were waiting for their team to return from the summit.
They only cost a couple of pounds but make the world of difference but are worth it. They are also small, so you might be able to put it in with your first aid kit.
Take a small music device like an iPod (Just an option)
When you need a little push and motivation especially in the middle of the night up to the summit (which is usually Scafell Pike), a bit of music can make the world of difference.
You do not have to have it in both ears blasting out but a little light music in one ear, while still using your other ear to listen to everything else around you. It is even good to help you relax and rest between mountains in the transfer.
- I listened to my gym playlist which was great to create a rhythm in my step, which also helped with my breathing.
Use a backpack for competing in the three peaks challenge
Make sure to take wear a comfortable day backpack when competing in the three peaks challenge. So you can carry all the necessary items that you might need on the three mountains, a first aid kit. As well as your water bladder to keep you hydrated.
I use a women’s backpack from the Osprey range, which is spacious and comfortable to wear. They are not cheap but I highly recommend them, as their backpacks are specifically made for the outdoors. I use mine for mountain riding and skiing as well. Here are some other good suggestions for their day backpacks.
Suggestions on what to carry in your backpack
Here are a few suggestions and ideas on what to pack in your day backpack for competing in the three peaks challenge:
- Head torch for using at night
- Energy drink to help with your sugar levels.
- A copy of your travel insurance
- Reusable water bottle or water bladder to keep hydrated
- Small first aid kit for any accidents
- Sweets and Nuts to keep fuelled in a reusable food storage bag.
- Emergency foil blanket to keep warm if something happens
Be prepared Physically for tackling the three peaks challenge
Being prepared physically can make the world of difference especially when you are tired and hiking in the middle of the night. This is a tough event; people participating should have the necessary fitness. You have to remember you are in a group and others are relying on you to make it.
You need to make sure you train and prepare and if you can familiarise yourself with the three peaks beforehand, I suggest doing so. If you can’t do any training on the mountains beforehand, then head to places like the Devils Punch Bowl which has trails. Otherwise, do various leg strengthening exercises, climb stairs instead of taking the lift, or do anything to build your strength.
- Create set goals of where you want your fitness level to be before you begin your challenge and a table to watch your progress.
The best routes to attempt the three peaks challenge
There is no official order of the routes or in which the three peaks challenge is done. However, most people do Ben Nevis first, Scafell Pike second and Snowdon last.
This is because Ben Nevis takes the longest to the summit and also it is the hardest, so best to do it first. Snowdon is the easiest to summit and the best one to do your final hike up. We also completed the three peaks challenge in this order and it was definitely the best tip we read.
Below are the most popular routes up and the order in which they are attempted.
- Ben Nevis– The Mountain Track (also referred to as Tourist Track)
- Scafell Pike– Wasdale Track
- Mt Snowdon– Up the Pyg Track and down the Miners Track
Remember to have fun doing the Three Peaks Challenge
With all the training and work that you have done to prepare, remember to still have fun along the way. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t make it in the required time. Just doing the three peak challenge is a major achievement in itself.
You can always do it again or you can do one of the many organised groups who offer the Three Peaks Challenge over the course of a couple of days or a week.
Good luck with doing the Three Peaks Challenge and enjoy your adventure 🙂
Some quick tips for three Peaks challenge
- Take a hard copy of the maps and put them in a water pocket, as well as a compass.
- Quick dry Hiking pants convertible shorts are usually the best to wear.
- Wear appropriate gear for all types of conditions (wet and hot), the conditions can change very quickly on the mountain.
- Layers are best (waterproof jacket, spare socks, hiking boots, and gaiters)
- Make sure that you have plenty of water, a bladder bag (Also known as a Hydration bladder) will do the trick.
- There is not much reception, so print out a map or have a GPS
Remember that you need to get some good Hiking Boots before your next adventure.
Thank you for reading this article ‘Helpful Hints for tackling the Three Peaks Challenge. I hope my suggestions and tips help you in achieving your goal of completing the three peaks challenge. If there is anything more you would like to know, please do not hesitate to message contact me.
For more information here is the National Three Peaks Challenge official website
Have you completed the Three Peaks Challenge?
Have you completed the Three Peaks Challenge before or know any other tips, I could add? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below or suggestions to help others.
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A special Thank you to Dataquest UK for donating towards our Three Peaks Challenge, which paid for our van hire.
Disclaimer: All views are my own based on my own experience.