Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon – the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales, done in 24 hours. That’s the Three Peaks Challenge. But how hard is it, really?
To complete the Three Peaks Challenge, you must climb and drive between the highest mountains in each country in mainland Britain, usually in 24 hours. It’s one of the most popular charity walking challenges in the UK. To do it, you’ll walk 36km (22 miles) climb 3353m (11,000ft), drive 462 miles and sleep… not a lot.
Almost all challengers begin in the north with the highest peak and head south but it’s up to you what time you set out. Starting at about 5pm means you can walk in daylight but will be driving in the dark while a midday start tends to avoid the worst traffic but means you’ll be climbing Snowdon in the dark. Of course, you can spread this over three days for a more leisurely route and time to explore the areas more thoroughly. If you do want to complete it in 24 hours, ask a friend to do the driving rather than risk driving tired.
Buy the Ordnance Survey Three Peaks Challenge Map, £12.99, amazon.co.uk
Fancy it? Here’s what you can expect from the three highest peaks:
At 1344m, the highest mountain in the UK provides a straightforward but relentless challenge. The main mountain path, also known as the Pony Track, is the only walking path up. It traverses steeply upwards before reaching Halfway Lochan. From here, it zig-zags up through loose rock to the summit plateau. Though broad, careful navigation is needed in winter or low visibility with sheer cliffs dropping straight down the north face but in good weather the views are glorious. Head back down the same way.
Start/finish: Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, NN125730 (PH33 6ST)
Distance: 16km (10 miles)
Ascent: 1337m (4387ft)
Time: 5 hours
The most straightforward route starts at Wasdale Head campsite and follows Lingmell Gill up to Lingmell Col where you turn upwards for a short, steep climb through scree slopes. Your biggest danger is in taking a wrong turn on your way back down, whether that’s off the summit or at Lingmell Col, which can send you off miles in the wrong direction. Always double check, especially in poor weather. Otherwise, you’ll follow well-made paths all the way to the top of England.
Start/finish: Wasdale Head, NY182074 (CA20 1EX)
Distance: 8km (5 miles)
Ascent: 922m (3025ft)
Time: 4 hours
The last hill in the challenge is usually tackled via the classic PyG track and the Miner’s Path back down. Both are generally clear and easy to follow but by this point your legs and mind will be weary and, depending on when you arrive, parking may be a challenge. The scenery though is spectacular all the way to the top.
Start/finish: Pen y Pass, SH647556 (LL55 4NY)
Distance: 12km (7½ miles)
Ascent: 1094m (3589ft)
Time: 4½ hours
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