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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ashby

Could You Do the National Three Peaks Challenge?

Updated: May 4, 2023

The National Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing three iconic mountains in Britain: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Snowdon. These mountains are, respectively, the tallest mountain in Scotland, the tallest mountain in England, and the tallest mountain in Wales. All of this in 24 hours! That means sleep deprivation, hard work, exertion, and a lot of planning! Could you do it? Read on to find out.


Ben Nevis is one of the three mountains to conquer on the the National Three Peaks challenge.
Ben Nevis in Spring

Photo: Ben Nevis in Spring


Mountain 1: Ben Nevis: 1,345 metres/4412 feet


Ben Nevis is not just the tallest mountain in Scotland; it’s the highest mountain in the UK and the British Isles. This iconic mountain is the furthest north of the three peaks, located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains in Lochaber, close to Fort William.


Since Ben Nevis is the highest of the three mountains in the challenge, it makes sense to climb it first when your energy levels and enthusiasm are at their peak.


Starting from the Visitor Centre at the foot of the mountain, the distance to the top of Ben Nevis is about 16km, or 10 miles. There are two main walking routes to the summit, the Mountain Track, which is used by most walkers, and the more challenging Car More Dearg Arête route, which is for more experienced hikers.


Mountain 2: Scafell Pike: 978 metres/3,209 feet


Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, is located in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. Although it’s not as high as Ben Nevis and Snowdon, many people say Scafell Pike is the hardest climb of the three. That might be because it’s a steep incline, or it could be because of the mental challenge of knowing you’re on the second of the three peaks in your challenge.

There are three main routes to the top of Scafell Pike, each one starting from a different side of the mountain. Wasdale is the shortest and most direct ascent. The Wasdale Head route is about 9.5km or 6 miles there and back.

Mountain 3: Snowdon: 1,085 metres/3,560 feet


Located in Snowdonia National park in Gwynedd, Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa, is the highest mountain in Wales. There are at least Ben Nevis . The Pyg and Miner’s Tracks are among the most popular routes, especially for people on the Three Peaks Challenge. Both of these paths start from the Pen-y-Pas car park and present a distance of around 11 to 13km, or 7 to 8 miles, in total.

What About The Driving?


As well as covering over 3400 metres of ascent (11,155 feet) and more than 36 walking kilometres (23 miles), participants in the National Three Peaks Challenge will need to drive around 700km, or 435 miles.

-The distance from Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike: Approximately 250 miles/5.5 hours.

-The distance from Scafell Pike to Snowdon: Approximately 185 miles/4 hours.


Therefore, the National Three Peaks Challenge involves around 10 to 11 hours of driving. So, if you want to complete the challenge in 24 hours, that leaves you with around 14 hours to climb, or 4-5 hours for each mountain. You would probably want more time for Ben Nevis, since it’s the highest and the furthest, so you might allocate 5 hours or less from your tight schedule. As well as driving and climbing, you will also need to factor in traffic delays and how busy it will be on the mountains, according to the time of year and weather.


How to Work Out Timings


There are many different ways to complete the challenge. The right plan for you will depend on your commitments and those of your team, as well as personal preference, including whether or not you prefer to climb in the daylight.


Make The Most of The Daylight


If you prefer to climb in daylight, and it will certainly help you if you do, you should start to climb Ben Nevis in the early evening at a suitable time of year. After Ben Nevis, walkers can sleep in the car on the way to Scafell Pike, and start this second hike at dawn. You will then make it Snowdon in the early afternoon, aiming to finish the challenge in the early evening.


What Else To Consider When Doing The National Three Peaks Challenge


However you decide to do The National Three Peaks Challenge, you will need dedicated drivers so those who are climbing can sleep, rest, and refuel between climbs. You will also need to research, talk to people who have completed the climbs, and maybe practice walking on some of the paths. Careful planning of routes, kit, food and drink, and recovery is absolutely essential. And of course, you’ll need to check the weather and reschedule if necessary.

The National Three Peaks Challenge is a gruelling test of endurance and no one should take it lightly. How many people do you know that have actually managed to do it?


Just think of the sense of achievement if you were to complete such an incredible challenge!


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