Preparing for The National Three Peaks Challenge

The National Three Peaks Challenge – climbing Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon in 24 hours – is the most revered mountain climbing challenge in the UK.
BCH Camping regularly kit out climbers preparing for 24 hours of gruelling physical torment. Being hardy, adventurous souls, the majority are actually relishing the Challenge at the point of visiting us, particularly if they’re using The Three Peaks to raise money for a charity close to their hearts.
So, what is the Three Peaks Challenge all about?
Firstly, let’s bust some Three Peaks myths:
  • You don’t have to be crazy to do the Three Peaks Challenge (but it helps).
  • The three peaks aren’t the highest three peaks in the UK. They are each the highest peak in their respective countries; Snowdon in Wales, Ben Nevis in Scotland and Scafell Pike in England.
  • Trainers are not adequate footwear (yes that did need to be said!).
How difficult is the Three Peaks Challenge?
Adventurers of all levels of experience attempt the Three Peaks Challenge. The difference is often that the experienced climber knows what is involved and rarely underestimates the challenge ahead. Less experienced participants are in blissful, enthusiastic ignorance so may need to put more effort into the preparation process.
Here are a few daunting facts:
  • Snowdon is 1085m high
  • Scafell Pike is 978m high
  • Ben Nevis is 1345m high
  • The total walking distance is 23 miles (37km)
  • The total ascent is 3064m (10,052ft)
  • The total driving distance is 462 miles (743km)
So, in a nutshell the Three Peaks Challenge is of course difficult and a major test of stamina, but isn’t that the point? You can organise your own Challenge if you’re confident in your ability, or take part in an organised Challenge event if you’d rather someone else took the reins.
What to consider when organising your own Three Peaks Challenge
Study the route
Put time in to studying the routes to the peaks and make sure you have a road map. For climbing the peaks, every member of the group should have a walking map and know how to navigate it with a compass. For the duration of the event don’t rely on Satnav or Google maps!
All members of the walking party must be physically fit to meet the challenge. A training plan in preparation is always a good idea, and it could also be an opportunity to try out some of the kit you’re taking.
Walking Group
It is recommended that your walking group doesn’t have less than four members. If this is the case, you should carefully consider joining an organised event instead. Likewise, having more than thirty members might make the group difficult to coordinate.
Because of the distance between the sites, you will need two drivers who are not walking. This is extremely important to ensure all participants get to and from each peak safely.
The starting point is either Ben Nevis or Snowdon, although Ben Nevis is the most popular. The largest suitable vehicle to use is a 16-seater minibus because of narrow roads.
Take time to organise accommodation well in advance of the Challenge. Suitable accommodation gets booked up very quickly.
Safety First
When you know your peak arrival and departure times, give your itinerary to someone who is not travelling with you, including your driving routes and paths you will be walking. Then text or call them at the end of each peak. This way it will become obvious if you have run into difficulty and they can call for help.
Climbing at night
As the middle peak, Scafell Pike will be climbed at night. This means you will need a head torch and layered clothing for greater warmth when needed. Getting used to using the head torch on night time walks ahead of the Challenge is advisable.
What do I need to take on a Three Peaks Challenge?
BCH Camping stock a wide range of clothing and equipment ideal for the Three Peaks Challenge, some of which can be viewed through the links below.
Clothing – remember layering will accommodate all temperatures and conditions
  • Walking boots. As already mentioned, trainers are not suitable for the demanding and ever-changing terrain. We’d also recommend leather rather than fabric boots for the Three Peaks simply because they are so durable and can withstand impact that little bit better.
  • Walking trousers rather than jeans or tracksuits.
  • Breathable wicking top. Don’t wear cotton as this doesn’t breathe and you will end up sweating and potentially getting very cold.
  • Wind and waterproof jacket. Again, your jacket needs to be breathable, whilst also protecting you from the elements.
  • Fleece jacket for layering options in cooler conditions.
  • Thermal base layers. In colder times of the year you may wish/need to wear thermal base clothing.
  • Hiking socks
Items for your rucksack:  
Things to be kept in the car:
  • Food
  • Water - 4 litres suggested per person
  • Change of clothes
  • Change of shoes
  • Sleeping bag and blanket
The Three Peaks can be such a game-changing experience. When you’ve conquered Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis you feel like you could conquer anything, but you must be well prepared and equipped.
All of our staff at BCH Camping are experienced walkers, and many of them have done the Three Peaks Challenge themselves. They enjoy helping customers prepare for the Challenge and swapping stories when they return. The above list of necessities is just a snapshot so our staff would be more than happy to offer further advice if you visit one of our three shops, or contact them by email or phone.
Remember, if you are a little overwhelmed by everything you need to think of for a successful challenge, there are many reputable, organised Three Peak Challenge events that you can join for peace of mind where a guide is with you for the duration of the travel and climb.
Whichever you way decide to go about your Challenge, we wish you the best of luck, and if you are using the Challenge for fund raising purposes we hope you raise a lot of money and feel inspired to do more – maybe less daunting - challenges in the future!