3 Peaks Challenge Tips

The Three Peaks Challenge is something you may have been asked to do for charity, you might want to do for fun, or you might have no clue about. Whatever your level of familiarity with the 3 peaks, this article will explain how to defeat the peaks with advice from people who’ve been there and done that!

Ollie, Tom and Henry at the top of Snowden

The three peaks are Snowdon in Wales (1085m), Scafell Pike in England (978m) and Ben Nevis in Scotland (1344m) although you can also take part in the Pennine Range Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge on  Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in under 12 hours, however the aforementioned Three Peaks across England, Scotland and Wales are very popular. These aren’t the highest peaks, but they are the best for providing a feasible, logistical challenge to those who want to climb all three in a day.

After climbing up and down one, you travel, usually via a mini bus or car to the next one. The popular route is started at 6pm at the south of Ben Nevis’s sea level, where you drive to the walking point, and this route and timing allows you time to get to Ben Nevis when it is dark, Scafell at around 3am, and a finish with Snowdonia at the coast when it’s light. Most 3 peaks are undertaken within 24 hours and many people undertake it for charity so it involves some training to get prepared!

I asked Mark Rutter, 30, who is training for the 3 peaks in November about how he expects it to go.

“I wanted to take on the three peaks for charity in order to raise money for a local care centre with a friend. I’m not an experienced walker and in fact I have only just started walking during the past 2 months!  I have had a practice walk up to the top of Mount Snowden and I am using my treadmill at home to get fit. Over the past 2 months I have been gradually increasing the number of miles so that I am prepared and I’ve been reading various websites about clothing and which routes to take as they range from easy to very difficult! I have also been talking to friends who have completed the challenge before and staff at the GO Outdoors store in Stoke.

Our aim is to complete the 3 peak within 24 hours, however this will depend on traffic between each peak. After speaking to a number of experienced walkers I have been told that the hardest mountain will in fact be the smallest peak which is Scaffell Pike in the Lake District. Apparently the incline is very steep and there’s lots of rubble to lose your footing on!”

So loose rubble and traffic- what factors are key in surviving and successfully completing your goal of the 3 peaks?I asked and Ollie Kilvert, 26 who climbed the three peaks a few years back how it went and how he stayed awake!

“I ate bananas, flapjacks, and lots of high carb stuff like pasta to keep going but it was quite challenging and there were times when we did want to stop, luckily I did it with my Dad and brother and as we are all very competitive,  no-one wanted to show weakness and we pushed each other along!  Tiredness was expected, but it is okay as you do get the rest when you travel. Scafell at 3am is a bit much! But as soon as we got to the top it was sunrise, so it was worth the effort.

For me, training was a struggle given that I lived in Norfolk at the time with 100m high hills to practice on, so it was on to Mum’s cross trainer most nights! My advice for people would be to definitely pick the longest day of the year for the most sunlight, and to be careful that your designated driver is switched between drives, as having them exhausted on the road is not recommended.

We did the Three Peaks in aid of Cancer Research so we dyed our hair blue too and we raised about £4500 which was a success, and the only notable touch and go moment was at the final mountain’s car park, where my Dad passed out with exhaustion- still, we did do it in 19 hours so it was a bit of a push!”

We also spoke to Mark Jubb, 27 from Sheffield who got involved with the charity MIND for the walk, as well as for himself. Someone who wasn’t particularly ‘outdoor orientated’ we caught up with Mark to discuss the 3 Peaks from the angle of a complete beginner.

“It was a challenge that I wanted to do so I could feel I have achieved something. We also did it for charity which was an added bonus. The charity was MIND who help with mental health issues. I did this with work who made Community and Mental health software so the MIND connection was quite apt as we were actually helping a charity related to us. ”

What made you want to do the 3 peaks? 
The challenge of doing it. I felt I wanted a physical challenge to focus on that was actually quite difficult. I also did want to do something for charity and help others. As a team we raised just under £10, 000, which feels really good.  Also when the opportunity arose it felt like something that I would only do once and it would have been foolish to not get involved as the opportunity may not come by again any time soon.

Where did you find the information before you went on what it would be like? 
The MIND charity arranged a lot of the finer details for the team. There was 19 of us in the team. They used a 3rd party company named ‘Adventure Café’ who arrange a lot of out door activities, including the 3 peaks.  As such transportation, accommodation for the first night up in Scotland was all done by these guys. In fairness they were really good and all the little things were sorted. I was even able to hire some walking poles from them as I had ‘overlooked’ this when purchasing my kit.

Did you train on any local hills?
The team did about 6 training walks. These varied from simply starting in Hope and walking round the Yorkshire peaks out towards Derbyshire, to going up Snowdon twice in one day. They also did Scafell Pike about 4 weeks before the challenge.
However, I only did one of the training walks and separately went up Snowdon once. So- my training was not as in-depth as others in the team.

Was it what you expected? 

No. To be fair even though my training was a bit rubbish I felt my base fitness would get me through it, and I think it did. However, the lack of sleep is what makes it really, really difficult. As mentioned the first peak (Ben Nevis) is the highest and the longest but I found this quite good. Then we got on the mini bus to Scafell Pike and started this at about 5 in the afternoon.

Going up this was ok, but coming down in the dark and in the rain was really difficult. By this point I had been up since 6am and it was 11pm and I had quite poor rest on a cramped mini bus. Due to this I went to quite a dark place in my head…A little ironic since we were doing it for a mental health charity. The lies of the guide (saying it was 20 minutes ahead whenever asked!) were also not helping me either. He then decided we would go up Snowdon via the miner’s trial, which is steeper than the Pyg track.  We did manage to get up but my right knee was feeling every step and by the end it was shot. No way would I have been able to do another one, and to be fair a few of us were feeling it!

Overall I would say it was harder than I expected, but for different reasons. In a way it did make it more satisfying at the end as it was harder.

Tell us about the weather and how long it took you? 

The weather was varied. On Ben Nevis it was really nice, and I think this helped me enjoy it more. However it went progressively down hill and basically rained on the other two. When we got to the top of Snowdon (the last one) it was really misty and visibility was really poor which was a shame as it would have been good to get a group picture with the view.

Did you manage to sleep? 

No. As we were on the mini bus it was hard to sleep. That would be the one thing I would try and change. Use transport where you can sleep.

And do you have any advice for people looking to do the 3 peaks? 

Do lots of training, ensure you have the correct kit and food and if possible rest as much as you can in-between. Also make sure you really want to do it! Get some good gear.  The best kit was my boots. Obviously feet are really important when walking so having the correct socks and boots is a huge thing. Changing socks for each peak was also a good tip. I also changed my trousers and top for each one which helped me feel fresher. A head torch is a must for the night waking. One thing that really helped was walking poles. (Alternatively a helicopter would make this sort of thing a lot easier! )

If you want to get out on the 3 peaks challenge you need a strong kit.

Helicopters aside, a minimum kit list would look something like:

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof overtrousers
  • A good baselayer top
  • Walking trousers
  • A fleece midlayer
  • Gloves, a hat and spares
  • Headtorch
  • 35 litre rucksack
  • Walking poles
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Pencil
  • Whistle
  • First Aid kit and towels/emergency blanket
  • Snacks
  • Water/drinks container
  • Walking boots
  • Walking socks

Have you undertaken the 3 peaks and survived?  What time did you do it in? Comment below!