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Difficulty

Extremly hard

Duration

25h

Distance

36km

Elevation

3064m

3 Peaks Challenge: 24 Hours To Stand on Top of Scotland, England & Wales (Self-Guided)

Now and again you gotta shake life up. Break the routine. Test yourself. Push your boundaries until they start to push back. Well, say hello to the National Three Peaks Challenge.

Set the clock, you’ve got 24 hours to summit the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales respectively.

Those of you who know your geography will know those mountains aren’t exactly next to each other. That’s right, in addition to over 20 miles of hiking, you’ve got 462 miles of driving!

Still interested? Well read on and I’ll break it down for you.

Navigation

The National Three Peaks Challenge: What is it?

You’ve probably heard of it, even if you don’t know exactly what it is. In a nutshell, The 3 Peaks Challenge involves climbing the highest mountains in Scotland, Wales and England in under 24 hours.

In order of height, that’s Ben Nevis at 1345m, Snowdon at 1085m and Scafell Pike at 978m, for a combined ascent of 3,064 metres (10,052ft).

It’s not to be confused with the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, which some (likely from God’s Own County) argue is a more enjoyable hiking experience.

Guided vs Self-Guided + The Controversy

There are two ways to take on the challenge, guided and self-guided. What’s the difference and why is one option a little controversial?

Guided

There are two types of guided Three Peaks Challenge, private and open. Private means you hire mountain leaders, drivers and a vehicle. Open is the same setup but you join in with other hikers.

Private is more costly than open but neither is cheap. From my research you’re looking at a minimum £300 a person for budget options, up to £500 for premium options. I’m presuming premium means you get Marks and Spencer’s sandwiches instead of Lidl.

Now those prices might seem a lot but there is a lot of logistics involved, plus the time and expertise of the mountain leaders and drivers, so it’s probably fair enough.

Self-guided

(the controversial one)

Self-guided means you do it yourself, with no mountain leader, no private vehicle, and no hired drivers. It’s you and whoever you choose as your hiking partners.

This option is cheaper but it comes with more risks and as a result, it rightly has its critics.

This is also the option we did. And it’s the one I’m going to detail for you (in length) below.

But first, why do the 3 Peaks Challenge?

Why do the Three Peaks Challenge?

The 3 Peaks is iconic. It appealed to me long before I started a hiking blog. But when I started HikerHero it resurfaced as a must-do.

I had no desire to do it as a part of a group, it only appealed to me as a self-guide. I think it’s because I’m a logistics nerd. I enjoy planning almost as much as the event itself.

Now, I’m very aware the self-guided 3Ps is controversial. And if I’m honest I’m pretty worried about the backlash publishing this article might get. Possibly rightly.

Why is “Self-Guided” Controversial?

Hiking a mountain is more dangerous than not hiking a mountain. But the real controversy over the self-guided 3 Peaks challenge is more to do with the driving sections.

Over the 24 hours, there’s an absolute minimum of 10 hours in the car. Most likely more.

If you have an accident on a mountainside it’s only you you’re going to hurt but if you have an accident on the road you are putting others at risk too. Hence the controversy.

So why post this article if it’s controversial? Well, people have been hiking the National Three Peaks Challenge self-guided long before hiking blogs existed. So I figured it’s better to get advice from someone who has done it than from someone who hasn’t but thinks it’s dangerous on a forum.

 
 
 
 
 
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Planning for the 3 Peaks Challenge

A self-guided Three Peaks requires heaps upon heaps of planning.

If you are not a logistics-orientated person then please don’t go anywhere near this challenge.

Every single part of the day must be planned so all you have to do is concentrate on hiking and driving. If you are rushing around looking for things or panicking about addresses and car parks you are going to make mistakes and mistakes have consequences.

If you love hiking but haven’t got a head for planning then choose one of the great guided options out there.

Itineraries

After researching I concluded there are three main itineraries, the “Walk in Daylight”, the “Avoid Traffic” and the “Long Day”.

We opted for the “Long Day” option as it felt the safest for self-driving.

Starting at 6 am, we’d summit Ben Nevis before the crowds and midday heat.

We’d then summit Scafell Pike in the evening after the heat and crowds but before sundown. Hike day was July 4th and sunset was 21:50.

We’d then arrive at Snowdon around 2 am, giving us 4 hours to get up and down before the clock struck 6 am again.

As the name suggests it’s essentially one Long Day with only one driving session in the dark.

3 peaks Itinerary

Other timings suggest starting at either midday or 6 pm. Which respectively give you a better chance of missing traffic or walking in daylight. We considered neither of these suitable for self-driving attempts due to excessive night driving and an increased risk of tiredness.

3 Peaks Accommodation

We stayed in Fort William for a few days before the challenge, which gave us time to rest up after the initial drive up to Scotland and to make sure we were fully prepared with last-minute supplies. We stayed at the Clan Macduff Hotel which was 20 min drive from our bed to the start line.

At the Snowdon end, we booked accommodation in the village of Rhyd Ddu just 15 mins from the finish line at the Pen Y Pass car park.

Routes and Navigation

I basically always use AllTrails for my routes and have always found them excellent. I would advise you to do the same – This link has all the routes we did.

Ben Nevis

For the 3 Peaks Challenge, you will be using the so-called “Pony Track” or “Tourist Trail”. It’s no-nonsense, well marked and you can likely do it without navigation.

The Pony Track is 9.8 miles (15.8km) up and down with a meaty 1,340 metres of ascent. The aim is to do it in around 5 hours.

Scafell Pike

There are several routes up Scafell Pike but the Wasdale route is the shortest ascent and therefore most suitable for 3 Peakers.

This route is easy to follow at the beginning but easy to lose near the summit so some sort of navigation is essential.

The Wasdale Head route is 5.8 miles (9.3km) up and down and includes 931 metres of ascent. The aim is to do it in around 4 hours.

Snowdon

Mount Snowdon has options galore. Some are longer and gentler, others shorter and steeper but most of the official paths clock in around a similar time.

Most 3 Peakers opt for the PYG Track due to it being the shortest. The PYG Track is 6.7 miles (10.8km) up and down with 753 metres of ascent. The aim is to do it in around 4 hours.

I’ll cover Snowdon and the issues with the PYG Track in more depth below but with hindsight, I’d strongly recommend the Rangers Path for self-guided attempts. In the dark and bad weather, the Ranger’s Path is very easy-to-follow.

Weather

You obviously can’t control mountain weather. Outside of the obvious which is hiking in the summer months to at least give yourself a fighting chance.

Three peaks over 24 hours could give you three completely different weather systems. To be honest this is the UK, you might get four different seasons on the same mountain.

While you can’t control it you can keep tabs on it. The most accurate is Mountain Forecast. But it can be very changeable. Especially Snowdon at night. Always do a final weather check just before setting off.

Food and Drink

One of the great pleasures of long-distance hiking is how many guilt-high energy snacks you get to eat. And you must take this part of it very seriously. Hitting the dreaded wall or “bonking” is common and often has to do with under-fueling yourself.

Calculate your Calories

With so many variables at play, it’s very hard to come to an exact number. And I studied this at Uni. I used this calorie calculator and cross-checked against this guy’s numbers which seemed legit.

Being a 230lb chap with a 15lb backpack I worked out I’d need 2500-2700 kcal additional calories per hike. That’s not over the day. That’s per hike.

Fuel up Wisely

Flapjacks, Haribos, trail mix, and Kendal Mint Cake are all classics and a way to hit those high-calorie targets but there will come a time when you can’t force another jelly baby head into your mouth.

That’s where liquids come in. Huel drinks are great but I was unable to get my hands on any beforehand so we made do with high-calorie milkshakes instead. For once motorway service stations are your friends.

A cart full of food and drinks for the hike

Water

Water is extremely important. During our training climbs up and down Snowdon on sunny days I was drinking a minimum of 3 litres. For this challenge, the weather was much cooler and I drank 1.5 litres per mountain. But I drank bucket loads whilst driving.

Which did mean there were quite a few pees behind trees.

That’s me though everyone’s intake requirements are different. Just make sure you don’t run out. 

Packing List

The stuff you bring is important but so is having confidence that the stuff you bring is going to work when you need it to work.

The 3 Peaks is not the time to be testing anything for the first time. Every item on your person or in your bag should be tried and tested. This is not the time to be breaking in a new pair of shoes or shorts. Blisters or chafed nipples are going to seriously impact morale.

You should also be very comfortable with your load. However much it is. That’s what your training hikes are for. To get your body used to a pack.

For me, it was 15lb and I’d hiked with it so many times I didn’t even feel it was there.

Clothing

  • Lots of light thin layers are better than 1 thick layer. Windproof, waterproof, and breathable.
  • Buff. To protect your neck from the sun as much as keep you warm
  • Light rain jacket
  • Woolly hat covering ears for warmth & peaked cap for sun protection
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Waterproof trousers/shorts that you know don’t chafe
  • Quick dry t-shirts
  • Thermal top
  • Hiking toe socks
  • Hiking boots

Travel Bag

  • Hayfever tablets
  • Suncream
  • Pain killers
  • Change of clothes
  • Massage gun
  • Food (easy to digest)
  • Drinks (caffeine, etc)
  • Toiletries
  • Towel
  • Basic first aid/ice packs/pain relief/blister plasters,
  • Pillow
  • Phone charger
  • Spare batteries for the head torch
  • Spare laces for walking boots
  • A thermal flask of hot coffee/chocolate

Hiking Bag

  • Backpack (approx. 20-40 litre size)
  • Water container (bottle or Camelbak-style, 1-2 litres)
  • Snacks (flapjack, sweets, etc)
  • Drinks (electrolyte/energy),
  • Tissues
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Head torch
  • Lip balm

Driving

The drive between the mountains is 462 miles long and it should take over 10 hrs.

Download Google Maps for OFFLINE use as there’s no signal at any of the mountains to be able to load up the maps on the spot. Pen Y Pass has wifi but you should not be relying on this.

Take careful note of the car parks for each hike.

Pre-book for the car park at Pen-Y-Pass if doing the Miners or PYG Tracks. It gets booked up early. And yes, you still need to book if you are arriving at 2 am.

I highly recommend you use Waze as part of your route navigation as it knocked 30 mins off of our ETA when compared to Google.

Fill up with petrol the day before. You’ll likely need to fill up again on the way down, ideally, combine this with one of your toilet or fast food stops for efficiency.

Toilets

You could go hardcore and bring a bucket into the car but I don’t think anyone needs to be that extreme. Below are some suitable spots.

  • Pen Y Pass and Glen Nevis have toilets in the car parks.
  • Well-placed trees en route

How Many Drivers

For this challenge, I wouldn’t recommend doing it with any less than 2 people. That way you split the driving 50/50 so 5 hrs each. It also allows you to do all your foot and packing admin while it’s your turn in the passenger’s seat.

Driving Rules

As a self-drive, it could be tempting to speed up to give you more time on the mountains.

Don’t do this!

It’s dangerous. It’s illegal. It’s stupid. And it’s also cheating.

If you’re sticking to all the road traffic safety regulations there it’s unlikely your driving time will be less than 10 hours.

If the drive takes under 10 hours and you complete the challenge in under 24hrs it doesn’t count.

Our Driving Splits

Drive Ben Nevis > Scafell Pike = 6hrs 08 mins

Drive Scafell Pike > Snowdon = 4 hrs 23 mins

Total Drive Time = 10 hrs 32 mins 05 secs

Route Description: My 3 Peaks Experience Experience

06:00 – Ben Nevis Car Park

It was just before 6 am. We’d arrived at the visitors’ centre ready to begin the challenge. However, the pay and display machines were out of action with signs telling us to pay at the visitors’ centre. Which wasn’t open yet. Hmm.

A minor hiccup. We found a nearby layby just back down the road. All good.

06.15: Let The Challenge Begin

We crossed the bridge over River Nevis at 6:15 am which marks the start of the hike. I hit the timer and we were off to the races.

We had lots of nervous energy as we set off. We’d been planning this for a while, and talking about it for longer. The big day was finally upon us.

The car park with the broken pay machines was completely empty. So we thought we might be the first on the mountain, however, as we passed the Ben Nevis Inn there were some folk just packing up their tents ready to hit the trail.

Yesterday in Fort William we’d heard someone saying the weather on Ben Nevis was meant to be terrible today. And the forecast kinda agreed so we decided to arrive fully layered up. However, the weather was fair and after ten minutes we were boiling.

Not wanting to lose any time we delayered in motion, the guys in a Formula One pit crew would’ve been proud.

Sara on an upper zigzags to the Ben Nevis

Red Burn and Leg Burn

After passing Lochan Meall An T-suidhe, or the Halfway Loch for those of you who don’t speak fluent Scots Gaelic. We reached the falling waters of Red Burn Allt Na n Urchaire. It was great to splash some water on the face and to fully wake up from the early start.

After the waterfalls, the upper zigzags began. It was steep for sure but nothing like the grades we’d been training on Snowdon with.

We were making good time and Sara found having a sweet in her mouth at all times an excellent way to keep the pace up. I have no idea why that helped her but it did!

The upper zigzags to Ben Nevis summin

We’ll Be Cairning Round the Corner

The zigzagging here was a little deceiving in that the summit looks constantly in view but there’s still quite a way to go. I counted a total of 8 switchbacks in all.

The corners are marked by large cairns. I added a few little stones for luck.

The corners marked by large cairns

As we got closer to the top, we were met with spectacular views. We went from being worried about the weather on this climb to the sun piercing through the mist and creating a mystical scene in front of us.

It was simply awesome. In the true meaning of the word. We were awed and some.

The sun piercing through the mistThis pic gives you a bit of an idea but it was ten times more magical in person.

In certain areas, as we got close to the summit there were still pockets of super compact snow. This was July. Which makes you think just how crazy this place must be in the wintertime.

Pockets of super compact snow close to the summitDo you need a little ice for your drink?

We passed a cairn with a bird perched on top of it chirping merrily away. I got right up to it with my camera but it didn’t seem bothered at all.

A bird perched on top of cairn

09.25: Ben Nevis Summit

We hit the summit after 3 hrs 10 mins 34 secs of climbing. We’d tagged the trig point at the exact moment as another couple. She was celebrating her 40th birthday! So we sang a very quick slightly out of breath happy birthday.

They also kindly took a lovely photo of us.

This one…

Sara and Mike after reaching Ben Nevis SummitOne peak down smiles still intact.

Ahead of the crowds, Like a Pair of Knobheads

We soaked in the atmosphere for less than 5 minutes before starting our descent. At this point, we’d only seen the birthday couple and 1 other group on the entire mountain. So we thought  Ben Nevis was having a quiet day.

However, as we began our descent we met hundreds of hikers coming up the track. We realised it wasn’t quiet, we were just early.

It was fun saying good morning to them all. Some people asked how much further it was, what the weather was like, etc…

Nearing the car one Glaswegian-sounding couple asked if we’d already reached the summit. When we answered yes they seemed shocked and asked what time we’d set off. When we replied at 6 am the girl instantly replied “Oh, like a proper pair of knobheads” with a big smile.

Seemed like a fair enough assessment.

11.46: Back to the Car

The descent took 2 hrs 21 mins 16 secs, which means the whole mountain took us 5 hrs 31 mins and 50 secs.

I’m not going to lie, we were already aching. But instead of heading off to sit in the pub like sensible people post-hike, we had a 5-6 hour drive ahead of us “like a proper pair of knobheads”.

Sara went to collect the car from the layby whilst I collected some coffee from the visitor’s centre. With that, we were off!

The Commute Pt 1: Fort William to the Lake District

One of the issues with the “long day” itinerary we’d opted for is traffic. And today seemed to be no different.

As we made our way out of Fort William there were very long road work traffic lights due to a landslide the day before.

We’d already decided not to stress about the drive. It would take as long as it takes. We’d long ago decided we’d rather fail the 24 hours by driving sensibly than succeed by taking risks.

Plus we we’re looking forward to the drive. We chatted and listened to music while Sara did her foot admin which consisted of rubbing in Essential Oils followed by using a Theragun to massage.

After a few hours of driving through the Scottish Highlands, through the magnificent Glencoe – think the drive to James Bond’s house in Skyfall and you will have an idea of the scenery – as that’s exactly where it was filmed. We passed Glasgow and swung into a McDonald’s.

We grabbed some Big Macs and swapped the drivers. Now it was my time to give my feet a little TLC with the Essential Oils. 

17:54 Wasdale Head

After the busy traffic coming out of Fort William, we were lucky not to hit traffic in the Lake District. I knew from personal experience how easy it is to get stuck behind a caravan on the windy roads here.

The roads coming into Scafell Pike are very narrow so go slow. You’re also likely to experience sheep on the road so take it steady in case they decide to create woolly mischief.

We pulled into the car park after 6 hrs 8 mins and 25 seconds of driving.

We’d both used our respective passenger time wisely to have our bags repacked and ready to go. So we were on the trail within minutes of stopping the car.

Don’t Tell Em, Pike!

On a hiking trip to Ullswater in the Lake District the weekend before the 3 Peaks Challenge a fellow hiker friend had told us a horror story of climbing Scafell Pike. Both of their legs seized up with cramps and they weren’t able to reach the summit.

So we were a little nervous about this one!

We bounded out of the car park and set off at a steady pace but it was difficult to sustain as the route got steeper. So we adopted a new technique of climbing in shorter bursts. Picking a target in the distance and going for it. Once there we’d rest for a few seconds before repeating the process.

This seemed to work excellently!

The start of Scafell PikeThe start of Scafell Pike

19:57: Scafell Pike Summit Completed

England’s highest mountain is steep for sure but the climb is relatively short without any scrambling. This seemed to play into our strengths as hikers.

The ascent went to plan, and we reached the trig point in just 2hr 02 min and 32 secs. As we did the weather took an immediate turn for the worse.

As you can see from this classic trig point selfie. The mist had rolled in.

Mike and Sara Completed Scafell Pike SummitSummit two, smiles still intact.

The Scafell Pike Descent

The route near the summit isn’t the most obvious. The cairns aren’t that easy to see in poor visibility. And the mist that clouded our selfie was now joined by rain. So we took extra care to make sure we were heading in the right direction.

I’d read (and watched) multiple reports of hikers getting lost here and I didn’t want that to be us. For one nobody likes being lost on a mountain, and two, Snowdon was waiting for us.

I had my phone in its very useful waterproof case around my neck and I checked it frequently to make sure we were on the right track until we made it out of the higher section and back onto the more obvious path.

You’ll notice there aren’t many pictures on this one as we were in hiking zone.

Be Careful, Accidents Happen

As we made our way down we started to notice a few familiar faces that we’d seen on Ben Nevis a few hours before. It seems as though a few other groups were attempting the Three Peaks today but must’ve started a couple of hours after us.

The rain was pretty steady at this point and as a result, the rocks were a little slippy so we had to take it steady as we came down. Towards the bottom, I looked back and saw some people racing down and then one of them slipped and fell.

He got back up again but he looked a little shaken and I’ll bet he has an impressive bruise to show for it.

22:03: Scafell Pike Descend Completed

As we got towards the bottom of the hike I ran on ahead to get the car to meet Sara on the road where the trail meets it. The rain felt like it had relented.

I pulled up to the entrance. Jumped out, quickly changed out of my wet clothes and put some shorts on. Sara jumped into the driver’s seat and we were off after a 1 hr 46 min and 5 secs decent and a total time of 3 hrs 48 mins and 37 seconds to complete.

We’d defeated Ben Nevis. We’d defeated Scafell Pike in the mist and rain. Two mountains down. Only one to go. And it was our old friend Snowdon.

At this point, our timings were looking promising. We had around 4 hrs and 30 mins to get to Snowdon to give us the required 4 hours to get up and down it before 6 am.

I dared to dream. We were actually going to complete the challenge within 24hrs!

Commute Pt 2: Scafell Pike to Snowdon

Just as we pulled away from Scafell Pike the Hiking Gods decided things weren’t going to be that easy.

Cue torrential rain.

The type of rain where the windscreen wipers are on at full speed. This coupled with the winding sheep-filled Lake District roads meant we took it very very very steady.

We couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guys and gals still hiking Scafell Pike! Not a fun one.

As we got out of the mountains we were back on the main roads we found a petrol station en route. We filled up, coffeed up and swapped drivers for the last leg to Snowdonia National Park.

Whilst here I stocked up on some last-minute Haribo for our final destination.

It was around midnight and I imagine that if I was to going to feel tired now would’ve been the time. I’m not sure why – probably a combo of coffee and adrenaline – but we were both wide awake and full of chats.

02:27: Pen Y Pass

We pulled up to Pen-Y-Pass car park after 4 hrs 23 mins and 41 seconds. We signed in with the car park attendant and parked up.

We’d repeated the same strategy as before, preparing our bags whilst taking our turn as passenger. So we were ready to hit the trail with zero faffing. Our setup was exactly the same apart from now we had head torches strapped on.

Let’s do this!

Trail Envy

The enthusiasm and adrenaline didn’t last long. It was miserable. Not just cold. But cold, incredibly misty and with 45-degree rain.

I thought I’d already been on Snowdon in the worst weather imaginable. This was like that hike. But at night. So twice as bad.

Add to that our choice of route. The PYG Track. It’s the shortest route of the lot but that comes at a price, it’s relentlessly steep.

We quickly regretted not opting for the Snowdon Ranger Path or even the Llanberis Path. In daylight, these are typically thought of as the plodding “boring” routes. But in the pitch dark, interesting is not exactly something you aspire to.

A Light Going Out

If it had been a beautiful clear night the PYG Track would’ve been ideal but it was about as far from clear as it could be. Visibility was a few metres at best. Which meant we moved slowly.

My headlight was firing on all cylinders but Sara’s was proving much less effective than when we’d tested it before. Even a change of battery didn’t give it a boost. Now this is when we should’ve pulled out our backup head torch but…

What is it the Navy Seals say? “Two is one and one is none.”

Here Comes the Bonk

I think we both knew at this point up and down in under in the required time was beyond us. Whether it was this realisation kicking in that triggered it I don’t know but Sara hit the wall.

She turned to me and said, “I have no idea how I’m going to do this!”

To be honest I didn’t either.

Merely getting up this hill started to seem like an impossible task. But on we plodded.

Salvation

At this point another self-guided group doing the 3 Peaks Challenge overtook us. A pack of them and they were armed with mighty headlamps. We mustered the energy to tag onto the back of this gang and the adrenaline boost of other people carried us up.

As we got closer to the summit we knew there was no way we’d get back down before 6.15 am. Not unless we sprinted down and there was no way we were doing that.

With the pressure of having to race the clock removed and the dark turning grey around us, we started to enjoy life a little again.

Snowdon Summit

Just like Ben Nevis, the summit of Snowdon was cloaked in mist and felt otherworldly. As we stood on the trig point we were overcome by a great feeling of accomplishment and slight disbelief we’d made it here.

We took the mandatory summit selfie without having to queue up which any Snowdon regulars out there will know is very unusual for July.

In all of the excitement of reaching the summit, I shamefully forgot to hit the lap time on my watch. So I don’t actually know how long it took us to reach the summit. My guess is 3 hours.

Sara and Mike at the Snowdon Summit

The Final Descent

Although it was super early we met a few other hikers on the way down. Two separate groups of people were taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge which is now added to my to-do list as well!

Freed from the shackles of the countdown clock we opted to take the Miners’ Track back to our car. We knew from our training climbs that Miners’ involved less scrambling and more ambling than the PYG so we felt we deserved a little relaxation.

As we crossed the stone causeway over Llyn Laidlaw we both perked up at the idea of making it back to the car in under 25 hours until we realised we still had over a mile to go and less than 15 mins to do it in.

We hobbled into Pen Y Pass at 7.08 am. 25 hrs 04 mins after we crossed the River Nevis to start the hike in the Scottish Highlands.

3 peaks time tracker

Relief followed by Debrief

With that, we got to the car, cranked up the heaters as high as they would go, rolled down to our accommodation at the bottom of the hill and passed out until about lunchtime then went to the pub to have a massive meal and go over our crazy 25 hours adventure.

The overwhelming feeling we had was achievement rather than disappointment. I think this was all to do with how hard the Snowdon climb was. We had been very close to giving up but had somehow found that extra little bit to reach the top.

What Could We Have Done Differently/Better

Looking at our splits we could’ve gone at Ben Nevis harder and shaved maybe 20 minutes off the time.

We were a little unlucky with traffic out of Fort William. We were unlucky with the storm after Scafell Pike. But we still arrived at Pen Y Pass with a doable 3.45 to get up and down Snowdon. And I knew from personal experience it was doable in under 3 hours.

Had conditions been perfect we may have still done it. The only thing under our control was the choice of route. Had we opted for an easier one to navigate in the dark than the PYG Track would that have made a difference?

But to be honest, I don’t think so. Given the mist and driving rain whichever route we’d opted for would’ve been brutal. I feel the stars do need to align and everything needs to go your way to complete the 3 peaks under 24hrs.

But I have no regrets. This is something Sara and I are going to remember long into our wrinkly years. It was a great bonding experience. This is something to consider too. Whoever you decide to do this challenge with they’ll likely be a friend for life.


FAQs I Can Now Answer with Hindsight

Now I’m a self-guided Three Peaks Challenge veteran. I feel more qualified to speak on a few things.

Is the Hiking Part Dangerous?

Yes, climbing hills is dangerous, so climbing the three highest mountains is a risk. Especially at night in the mist and rain.

It’s a tough event for sure. I tried to find stats on injuries during the Three Peaks vs injuries during normal hiking but alas they don’t seem to exist. It turns out hiking isn’t like football, there are not that many stat keepers.

This said. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the type of people who take on the Three Peaks are probably into hiking in a big way already and are less likely to give themselves an injury than people who decide to hike Snowdon in flipflops on a whim because the sun’s out.

Is the Driving Part Dangerous?

We were lucky in that our first two climbs went well. Which meant we weren’t behind schedule for the night drive.

However, had we been in that storm on Scafell Pike and been delayed would we have been tempted to speed? No. Because we’re not dicks.

But I can imagine others would be. But here’s the thing, the type of person who is going to speed and drive dangerously isn’t just going to do it because they are doing the 3 Peaks, they are going to do it driving to Aldi or if they are 3 minutes late for the cinema.

What about Falling Asleep at the Wheel?

Ah, but you don’t have to be a dick to fall asleep at the wheel? You just have to be tired. Yes. This I concede. Of all the risks I’d say this is the most legitimate.

Personally, neither of us felt remotely like falling asleep on either driving leg. We were well caffeinated and had so many Haribos in us that we were on a constant sugar high. We had also trained a lot for the hike, so we were achy but in no way exhausted from the climbs.

Would we have had the awareness to stop had we been feeling overtired?! I like to think so.

Is the Three Peaks Actually Fun?

This is type 2 fun in its purest form. The type of fun that doesn’t always feel enjoyable while you are doing it but feels incredible once you’ve finished it.

As a pure hiking challenge, there are harder ones out there. Or more enjoyable ones, take the Yorkshire Three Peaks for a start.

I think to really enjoy a self-guided National Three Peaks you have to derive at least as much enjoyment from planning and logistics as you do hiking.

Can you do it solo?

I’m not going to lie. Yes, you can.  I’ve seen a youtube video of a chap called Imsocraigy who did it. His video was very useful for all our planning so big thanks to Imsocraigy.

But honestly don’t do it on your own. Everything is easier with a hiking partner or two.

Final Thoughts: Happy Failures

We failed. We are failures. Yet as I write this I don’t feel like that at all. I feel the exact opposite. I feel like a champion. And I know Sara feels the same.

I regret nothing about our National Three Peaks Challenge 

I certainly don’t regret our decision to do it as a self-guided personal challenge. The logistics, the route planning, the timings, the meal and snack preparation, all that was as enjoyable as the hiking itself.

And I think that’s the heart of the matter. You have to love the “shit bits” as most people would view them as much as the hiking…

Thanks for reading. I hope this article helped clarify your thinking either way about taking on the National 3 Peaks Challenge.

Mike out!


If you’ve read this whole guide and have any further questions please email me at Mike@hikerhero.com. If anyone wants to give it a go and thinks they can do it under 24hrs let me know as I might be tempted to have another attempt one da

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