Top Ten Tips For the National Three Peaks Challenge…
The National Three Peaks challenge, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon back-to-back in under 24 hours, has become one of the most popular mountain challenges in the U.K. Although most complete the challenge succesfully, the event itself has attracted widespread criticism because of the impact it has on the landscape and the communities beneath the mountains.
If you want to maximise your chances of success, but minimise the impact on the landscape then you need to pay attaention to these top tips!
1. Plan ahead
You need to be aware of how much time you have. Work out your driving time between each peak, how to get there, where you can park and how much time that leaves you to actually get up and down the mountains! Expect to get tired and frustrated, and probably to get naggy with each other towards the end of the trip. Just remember the reasons you are attempting it in the first place!
2. Find a driver
Don’t even think about trying to drive AND climb the three mountains. A nominated driver can rest whilst you walk, and then you can sleep whilst travelling, safe in the knowledge that your driver is well rested and alert.
3. Obey the speed limits
Statistically, the most dangerous part of your challenge will be the motorways and roads between the mountains. Obey the speed limits and stay safe, no matter how tempting it is to gain a few minutes.
4. Sort your socks!
Take a fresh pair of socks for each mountain, and take your boots off at the earliest opportunity when you get to your transport. It’ll be tempting to leave them on and just fall asleep, but you’ll give your feet the best chance of success if they can dry out and ‘breathe’ whilst you rest
5. Treat your feet
Whilst we’re on the subject, make sure that you take care of your feet on the hill. Don’t bother with taping them up because you “heard once that it’s a good idea” or peeing on them every night to harden them. Just make sure that your feet are used to walking uphill in those boots, and that you have worn those socks before with no problems. Foot powder (available at Boots or Tesco) is a good idea every time you remove your boots, as it will dry them out and keep them healthy.
6. Blister Prevention NOT Blister Treatment
Blister plasters (Such as Compeed, the only choice in my opinion) are there to prevent blisters, not to go on top of an existing blister. As soon as you start to get a ‘hop-spot’, stop and sort it out with the appropriate sized Compeed. Taking an extra 5 minutes now is much, much better than taking an hour longer on the descent because of your crippling blisters!
7. Hydrate (or else)
Making sure that you are drinking enough water is never more important than when you are attempting something like the 3 Peaks. You’ll be wanting to get through about 2 litres of water per mountain, and using a hydration bladder such as a Platypus, Source or Camelbak means that you can drink on the move. Saving 5-10 minutes for every ‘drink’ stop soon mounts up by the end of the trip.
8. Work hard on your relaxation
Take an eyemask, a proper pillow (travel/inflatable ones don’t really work that well) and a blanket of some kind. That way you can sleep properly on the minibus/in the car whether it’s day or night. Earplugs can help too, and make sure that you eat early on in the transfer period between hills so that your body can digest it and replenish it’s energy reserves.
9. Eat well
Your appetite will drop as you progress through the challenge due to fatigue, just when you need to eat the most! Little and often is the key to eating when on the hills. Cereal bars are great, and you can stuff them in your pockets to eat whilst on the move. Don’t just eat sugary foods though, having something like pasta or similar waiting for you at the bottom of each hill is a great idea. Make sure that you keep an eye on each other during the challenge, and that you are all eating enough.
10. Make sure you know what you are doing and stay safe
Thousands of people attempt the 3 Peaks Challenge every year, and some of those people make some real howlers of mistakes. It isn’t unknown for people to try and climb the wrong mountain or to suddenly find themselves marooned as mist and fog roll in (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon are each only miles from the sea, and the weather can change from bright sunshine to 5 metre visibility in ten minutes). Navigating safely on all three mountains can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when you are tired and wanting to move quickly. ALWAYS carry a working headtorch and spare batteries, ALWAYS carry a map and compass AND know how to use them properly. The last thing you want is to become one of those people you hear about on the news, being retrieved by Mountain Rescue and becoming an example of the ill-prepared.
There’s lots more that I could tell you about kit choice etc, but most of it is down to personal choice, physiology and experience. All of the info above will hopefully prove useful.
Have fun, stay safe and make sure that you take plenty of photos of each other during the trip – this is something that you’ll want to remember!
Richard Prideaux (completed the challenge over 40 times, each time as a guide!)