Three Peaks Challenge
Scotland / England / Wales
Start: Fort William, Scotland
End: Snowdonia, Wales
Distance: 24 miles (38.6 km)
Time: 24 hours
Ben Nevis: www.visitscotland.com
Scafell Pike: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Stepping from your car at 2AM in unappealing darkness at the foot of Scafell Pike, the Three Peaks Challenge suddenly doesn’t seem such a good idea. By lunchtime, however, hopefully staggering down from the summit of Snowdon, your aching limbs are rewarded by a great sense of achievement. The concept is simple enough: walk up the three highest mountains in Scotland, Wales, and England often within twenty-four hours. The details are trickier, You need a driver willing to rush you between the Scottish Highlands, English Lake District, and Snowdonia in North Wales, a total distance of 450 miles (724 km). So most attempts are made in teams, often for charity, with a designated driver resting during the climbs.
The accepted starting point is the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. The “tourist path” doesn’t involve any scrambling but is a serious mountain walk with the hazards that implies: it often involves navigation to the summit in snow and whiteout conditions. Ideally, you survive and descend at sunset, to be driven through the night to England’s Scafell Pike. The lowest of the three peaks is nevertheless the hardest, with a boulder-strewn route and a rocky scramble to the summit made more demanding by the darkness and bleariness of the early hours.
Most Three Peak attempts happen in midsummer and, if all goes according to plan, the sun is rising as you descend, compensating weary walkers with a glorious view of the valley below. Another long drive then takes you to Snowdon in Wales. This midday walk has the greatest chance of good views, but care is needed on the initial descent down the Miners’ Track, where exhausted muscles can lead to mistakes.