Why you SHOULDN'T do the National Three Peaks Challenge...
AND... how to do it when you ignore our P.o.V.
If you are reading this, you already know something about the National Three Peaks – so the intro will be brief:
The National Three Peaks Challenge is an endurance challenge involving the ascent and descent of each of Scotland, England and Wales’ respective highest peaks on foot and by motor vehicle, within 24 hours.
We are going to tell you about why you should NOT choose to do this challenge if you want to test yourself.
Here are the reasons:
- The challenge encourages people to drive whilst fatigued.
- The challenge trail heads are located in places which require great care when driving
- You will arrive in quiet village locations at times when the local residents are probably sleeping, trying to sleep, or trying to go about their business. You will disturb them and you will get in their way.
- You will probably not spend any money in the localities where the trail heads are.
- You will probably encounter other vehicles on exposed, narrow sections of road – probably on single-track lanes.
- The mountains themselves are already incredibly popular in their own right.
- Your challenge team will probably leave traces (litter, food scraps, erosion, damage) in its wake.
- Your driver will probably not be able to park safely, or considerately.
- You probably don’t know how to safely navigate on the hills, in the dark.
- You will probably get pissed off with the slowest member of your team, and will want to leave them behind.
Now, we know that you will look at each of the reasons why you should NOT attempt the National Three Peaks Challenge. We know you'll convince yourself that it won’t be like that for you, but it will. You'll say that you'll be different, but you won't. We can say these things with a good degree of confidence. Carl has completed the National Three Peaks Challenge on three separate occasions since 2003. Each time since his first, Carl has organised the expeditions, and led his teams with the specific aim of completing the challenge with the least impact on the local environment and communities as possible.
Ok, you've convinced me not to do it - what should I do instead?
We’d recommend that you get a good quality map of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, The Highlands of Scotland, Snowdonia or somewhere with suitably challenging terrain and plan your own challenge. Something that will give the National Three Peaks Challenge a run for its money. Something with distance, that requires stamina, endurance, technical skills and focus. Somewhere you’ve never heard of. Pick an adventure that seems too hard for you to do and train hard for it. Train hard so you can be safe, whilst at the same time being stretched to your limits. Maybe you could do the National Three Peaks over three day hikes instead of within 24 hours now there’s a thought!
But, I don't know how to read a map or plan an expedition.
We've anticipated this, and we are in the process of putting together a collection of skills posts, or tutorials, where you can learn how to plan your own enjoyable, inspiring, and maybe even challenging routes anywhere in the world. We'll post a link back here when we post the first tutorial.
Nope. Not convinced. I'm gonna do it anyway!
Now, because we know that you still want to head up to the Ben and test your mettle against the National Three Peaks, we’ve laid it out for you. A way of doing it with the minimum of impact on the hills, the locals, the environment, and your team mates. Here’s how:
- Study the route! Making sure you know where you are going, how far it is, roughly how long it is going to take you in a wide range of conditions, and in varying stages of fatigue is vital. We’ll say it again; study the route!
- Understand the terrain. Know how long it takes you to hike the distance required, then understand that there are at least 3,000 feet (914m) of climbing to do (and as many as 4,413 feet (1,345m) of climbing on Scotland’s highest peak, Ben Nevis. This adds significant requirement for effort. The hills aren’t easy on their own, and you will be climbing three of them – two of which you will be climbing when you are tired. Factor this in!
- Understand your team mates’ ability, and be honest with them about yours. There will be times when you are either holding your team mates up, or you are being held up by others in your team. Tell them if you are struggling. Make sure you behave like a team – talk to one another and get the job done together. Help the person who is struggling, because at some point or another, someone WILL be struggling. If that person is you – ask for help and be clear about what will help.
- Pick a week day, outside of the Three Peaks season. Don’t try to fit it in on a weekend – the lanes will be choked. There will be litter everywhere. People will be peeing at the roadside. Teams will get in each others’ way and things will go wrong. Give yourself some space, and ease the strain on the localities of the trail heads.
- Get some good shoes and use them well before the trip. The lighter the shoe, the better for the environment in which you will be walking. If you haven’t tried trail shoes, borrow a pair or buy yourself a pair of last season’s model at half the price. Test them out, they’ll be softer on the trail, and probably softer on your feet, too. Big boots don’t always make sense – but make sure you are happy with your choice, as only you will know!
- Make the team a small one. Three hikers, maximum! It’s safer, there’s less likely to be conflict, and you’ll need a smaller vehicle.
- Don’t hire a minibus – the lanes, as we’ve said before, are small! Minibuses are tough to park and they don’t like tight bends on winding single-tracks. And, they can convey too many team members. Read point 6 again.
- Allocate a dedicated driver. Or better still, two drivers. It’s not safe to take part in the challenge, and to be the driver. It just isn’t. It’s a tough challenge and you will fall asleep at the wheel and that is never going to be cool. Make sure the driver knows the route well. They need to navigate just as well as you do on the hills. They need to be prepared for unexpected diversions. Carl experienced a significant diversion on his second expedition, costing many minutes delay. Add this time on to the 24 hour target time. It’s beyond your control, so don’t let it become a factor which causes you to make unsafe decisions.
- Stay local the night before the challenge, and the night after. Pick an independent business so the money you spend goes directly to the communities that you are disrupting. If you are hiring a professional guide (WE RECOMMEND THIS) then make it a local one. Give something back – it’s the least you can do!
- TAKE YOUR LITTER HOME WITH YOU. Don’t leave it behind, even if there are bins provided – you are a burden, make it less so! And… if you have to take a crap – do it responsibly. Well away from the path or any water course, dig a hole, bury it all. Don’t leave a trace, and don’t do it near a nice looking rock – that’s a day hiker’s lunch spot!
- Don’t be that guy/girl! Keep your noise down. The mountains are peaceful pockets of nature. People go there for all sorts of reasons, mostly those reasons involve serenity, tranquiity, peacefulness and mindfulness. Unless you are in trouble, leave the shouting for the pubs back at your home towns.
- DON’T DO THE NATIONAL THREE PEAKS CHALLENGE IF YOU CAN’T DO ALL OF THE ABOVE.
So, there we have it. Our reasons why you should avoid doing the National Three Peaks, and some tips for doing the National Three Peaks responsibly and considerately if you really can’t (or don't want to) find an alternative challenge that suits.
Get in touch with us if you have any questions about this or post a comment below. And don't forget to follow our social media channels - @FindYourAdv on Twitter, Facebook, Insta, YouTube, and more.
We hope you'll share your adventure with us by tagging @FindYourAdv in your posts or hashtagging #FindYourAdventure