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I'm going to be participating in the UK National Three Peaks Challenge at the end of next month. For those who are unaware; the Three Peaks consists of hiking the highest peak in England, Scotland and Wales, all within 24 hours (travel between included). These are: Ben Nevis in Scotland (1345m), Snowdon in Wales (1085m) and Scafell Pike in England (978m).

I signed up for this three months ago and immediately began training four to five times a week in the gym. I would consider myself to be a relatively fit and healthy person, and have successfully trekked Kilimanjaro with little training. When the time limit is taken into consideration, the Three Peaks becomes a much more demanding challenge and it will probably be one of the most difficult challenges I've faced to date. However, I live in a completely flat area and don't have time to travel to higher land to train properly.

Without access to mountains for some sort of test-run, how can I be sure that I'm ready for the Three Peaks?

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    I imagine the biggest challenge would be congestion, both on the trail and on the travel between them. – gerrit Aug 17 '17 at 21:47
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    You do not want to drive yourself! Have a minibus with a driver so you can rest/sleep/tend to minor injuries, – Rory Alsop Aug 17 '17 at 22:26
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    I know all three peaks well (especially Snowdon as I live up the road) so if you want any pointers give me a shout in our chat room. – user2766 Aug 18 '17 at 9:51
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    It is worth pointing out that the National Three Peaks Challenge is becoming more and more controversial due to many reasons. Among these are vast numbers of participants descending in the early hours of the morning on Wasdale which is a small village without the facilities to cope, also a strain on local Mountain Rescue teams who are left to pick up the pieces when things go wrong - and they too are charities and do not benefit from most of these events. – Paul Lydon Aug 18 '17 at 11:13
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All 3 main paths up Scafell Pike, Snowdon and Ben Nevis are well marked maintained and straight forward. I'd suggest anyone reasonably fit should be able to do anyone of these (up and down) in 3-4 hours (my fastest time up and down Snowdon is 2 hours). The hardest bit of the 3 peaks is the driving. Google thinks it's about a 10 hour drive so you're likely going to spend 9 hours walking and 10 hours driving.. Can you walk for 9 hours? Can you endure sitting in a car for 10?! :)

I'd say this is possible for pretty much any fit and healthy person and 1000's complete it each year. But an increasingly large number are getting themselves into difficulty, mostly due to poor planning. Have a look though the various mountain rescue teams blogs and you'll see a lot of 3 peakers getting lost, etc. and having to be rescued by mountain rescue (Llanberis MRT blog).

Many locals now dislike 3 peak teams due to some bad practices, always follow leave no trace ethics.

Here's a brief checklist of what you should be prepared for/be aware of:

  • I'd invest at least as much effort in the organisation side of the driving as I would in training for the walking.
  • Be aware of daylight! Lots and lots of people get caught out by the sun going down.
  • Know your route, have a map and compass with you.
  • Make sure at least one member of your party is comfortable navigating in the hills potentially in the dark, especially this time of year (you've missed the longest days now).
  • Injuries, carry a good first aid kit and be prepared to turn around if you need to.
  • Parking, sounds silly but this time of year all 3 mountains are incredibly crowded. I know it's virtually impossible to park in Pen-Y-Pass (the closest car park to snowdon) pretty much any time of year. Ben Nevis is very remote and has very limited parking. So plan how you're going to get to the foot of the mountains. You may need to use public transport unless someone can drop you off and park further away. If you park badly expect a ticket (and possibly a shouting at from a disgruntled local)
  • Plan toilet breaks. Don't defecate into the bushes, etc.

For those interested a much more environmentally friendly version is the Yorkshire 3 peaks, no driving between the mountains. Just because the hills aren't as big doesn't make it easier BTW, I did this in training for the welsh 15 peaks (more on my blog :) ) and it was pretty gruelling taking about 10 hours of solid walking.

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    Brilliant answer Liam! Wish I could give you more upvotes for this! – Rory Alsop Aug 18 '17 at 18:34
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    'Remote' is relative, I can get to Ben Nevis by the end of my lunch hour if the tourists aren't driving down all the A roads at half the speed limit :) Parking at Ben Nevis is limited, but again, that's relative. There are100+ spaces, not counting those for coaches and minibuses (I know this because I redesigned the layout to triple the capacity about 15 years ago ;-) ). Fort William itself has lots of parking and if there is a lack of capacity in the Glen the driver should drop off the climbing party and park in the town for a nap. The car park in the Glen is now pay&display. – Spagirl Aug 23 '17 at 11:27
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I have a few colleagues who have done this, and one team who did it with a colleague in a wheelchair. They are all reasonably fit, but the day job is desk-based, so if you have managed Kili easily, and train regularly, I can't imagine you will have many problems. I'd suggest you go for it.

You will have no issues with altitude, as the three peaks are not high, but some parts of the route are over scree, so it is worthwhile finding a local scree slope to train on, to help avoid injury when travelling fast.

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