top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ashby

Three Mountains, 24 Hours: The National Three Peaks Challenge in Winter

Updated: May 7, 2023

Challenge: The National Three Peaks Challenge. To climb the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales in 24 Hours, in winter, to raise money for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF).


The Three Peaks are: Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in Cumbria, and Snowdon in North Wales.


Total ascent: 3064m (10,052ft)

Total walking distance: 23 miles (37km)

Total driving distance: 1,080 miles


Four climbers on Ben Nevis.
Ben Nevis was the first mountain to tackle on the National Three Peaks Challenge.

On the 2/3 March, Ashby’s Adventure Trails and Treks supported Tom Smith and Rob Lomax in tackling the National Three peaks Challenge. Known to be a particularly gruelling challenge, Tom and Rob chose this event to push them mentally and physically, while raising awareness of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation (RCLCF).

Team: Dean Ashby, Nikki Glover, Tom Smith, and Rob Lomax.

Supported by: Stephanie Ashby, Patrick Treacy and Elizabeth Treacy.

Completing the National Three Peaks challenge is tough, and participants need to be physically fit. Dean and Nikki felt ready to tackle it since they have taken part in endurance races and mountain climbs, and Dean has previously completed the Three Peaks Challenge in 24 hours.


Rob is a football coach and a marathon runner; he competed in the London marathon in 2022. Tom plays football regularly, and works out. Further, as lead singer of the Haciendas, a Manchester indie rock band, Tom has performed in front of crowds and is used to pushing himself outside his comfort zone.


Result: The event was a success due to good planning, determination, encouragement, and teamwork. We completed it in less than 24 hours!


“It’s a difficult challenge,” Dean stresses. “And anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or hasn’t done it. But Tom and Rob had absolutely the right mindset. The whole team did an amazing job, and I’m extremely proud of every one of us.”

Here’s how we did it and what we learnt. And, if you’re considering tackling the Three Peaks yourself, you’ll want to read our tips below.


On the road: 06.00

We hired a Ford Tourneo nine-seater vehicle and left Coventry at 6am on Thursday morning. Picking up Tom and Rob from a place near Manchester where they could safely leave their cars, we drove to Scotland.

We arrived at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre at around 14.50 and walked across the car park to stretch our legs after the long drive.

Two walkers were changing their boots, leaning against their car. They had just finished climbing Ben Nevis. Wearily, they told us it had taken them eight hours…
We tried to smile.

Instead of starting the climb from here, we moved the vehicle to a small car park a couple of kilometres away, next door to the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. This location was directly opposite Ben Nevis, saving us a couple of kilometres of walking and valuable time.


Ben Nevis: 15.07 - 19.35


After checking our kit, we started to climb at 15.07. Feeling positive and optimistic, we strode out cheerfully. Our support team could see us winding up the steep path, and they watched us disappear into a copse of trees, then re-emerge the other side and get smaller and smaller as we climbed higher.


The climb:


Ben Nevis stands at 4,412ft and is the highest mountain in Scotland and the UK. Since you start the climb from virtually sea level, the ascent is brutal, especially in winter.


The conditions were arctic for the last couple of kilometres, and the temperature was -14. With thick-packed, compacted snow and ice, we needed crampons on our walking boots for traction.

Snow on Ben Nevis.
Rob and Nikki needed crampons to negotiate the icy terrain on Ben Nevis.

It was great to get to the summit while it was still daylight. Coming down the mountain, the light was fading. On the final descent, the support team could see our head torches in the dark.


We could see them, thanks to the lamp they put on the roof of the vehicle to act as a beacon.


Back at the car park, we stripped off our boots and socks, had a recovery drink and a high calorie chicken curry meal in a pouch, and were back in the vehicle and on the road.


Ben Nevis took us 4 hours 28 minutes.


Drive to Scafell Pike: 19.40 - 01.30


This was by far the toughest part of the challenge for all involved. The winding roads approaching Scafell Pike car park were deserted in the dead of night. The only signs of life were a scattering of woolly grey sheep lying by the side of the road. Raising their dozy heads to look at us, we caught their startled eyes in our headlights.


We were the only souls in the car park. We parked in the pitch black, and the climbers set off at 01.35.

After tidying up the vehicle, the support team tried to nap. They woke up shaking with cold at 3.30am and hastily started the engine to generate some warmth.


Scafell Pike: 01.35 - 05.05


Scafell Pike stands at 3,209ft and is the tallest mountain in England. According to the Lake District National Park website:

..it’s “a particularly complex mountain… It’s main ridge is a roller coaster of rocky summits and narrow cols buttressed by a multitude of towering crags and deeply indented (streams) …
High, wild and rocky the main crests always throw up a challenge…”

The climb:


Again, the starting point is relatively low and it’s a steep climb, to say the least. There was no reception on the mountain so it was not possible to use our phones to navigate.


When climbing in the dark, you are dependent on good navigation skills, and you’re concentrating on putting one foot in front of another. It’s mentally draining and psychologically tough. All we could see were one another’s head torches and the green glow sticks we had on our rucksacks. And, heading back to base camp, the lamp on the vehicle.


Back at the vehicle, the support team handed us our recovery drinks and high-calorie pasta bolognese meal. Again, we took care of our feet as a priority. We then changed our clothes because we were soaked through, and settled down for our journey to the Lake District.

We completed Scafell in 3.5 hours in complete darkness.


Drive to Snowdon: 05.10 - 09.40


We drove from Scafell Pike to Snowdon early on Friday morning.


The roads were very winding, and everyone felt very cold and tired. Drifting in and out of sleep, we wondered when we would hit the motorway so we could swallow up some miles and get closer to Wales.


We felt better when it started to get light at about 6am. Driving along the North Wales coast, we could see the sea. Then, we headed inland to Snowdonia.


Snowdon: 10.00 - 14.12


We parked at Pen-Y-Pass, and the climbers got ready to scale the Pyg Track. We felt confident at this point, perhaps because this is a mountain we’ve climbed many times before - and it’s Wales’ finest. Also, because, it was daylight and a bright, clear, cold day.

The support team was happy during this climb because they could use the toilets and cafe in the Youth Hostel opposite the car park.


The climb:


We started our third and final climb at 10.00, and once again, we were glad we had the right kit. It was freezing on the summit with hard snow and ice, and we needed our crampons to stay upright.

Four climbers on the peak of Snowdon in the snow.
The summit of Snowdon.

On the way down, some of us felt a bit low with stomach issues due to exhaustion. We kept each other going.


“Without Nikki, I’d never have finished Snowdon,” said Tom. “She was a massive help to me finishing that.”


Towards the bottom of the mountain, it was a little warmer, and we felt a bit better.


The support team were keen to track us coming down and finishing, but there was no reception and we were off-grid for a while. However, they did locate us in time to know we were due to come around the corner.


Seeing our support team at the end, we welcomed the final downhill stretch, and jogged over the finishing line with smiles on our faces.


Total time achieved: 23 hours, 05 minutes!


Could You Do The National Three Peaks Challenge?


Afterwards we were cold, tired, and very sore, but elated. And in Tom’s words, proud as punch. After a quick end-of-gig meal and drinks at the gorgeous Tal Y Bont Uchaf Farm, courtesy of Claire Kelly from the RCLCF, we headed home. We were back in Coventry for around 8pm.


The Three Peaks in 24 hours is a good test of how far people are capable of pushing themselves. It meant a lot to us to complete the challenge as a team.


“It was an emotional weekend for Rob and I,” says Tom. “The achievement of doing this in less than 24 hours really is beyond what I thought we could do. Thank you all so much, you’re amazing people.”


The team in Pen-y-Pas car park with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation flag.
Challenge completed!

The team at the finish.


And these words are from Claire Kelly, Head of Corporate Partnerships at the RCLCF.


“A heartfelt thanks Dean, Steph, and team for making this happen. It’s a first for the charity, it’s never been done before. Your excellence, professionalism and experience shone through; you really could show a lot of operators how to deliver through passion and service… Watch this space, there could be more exciting things to come…

.....not another 24 hour 3 peaks challenge, though - Tom and Rob can own that one!"

Tips:

  1. You should invest in a good pair of crampons if there is any chance there could be snow on the mountain; it’s always worth carrying them in your rucksack in winter just in case you need them.

  2. Check the weather - and check again. Mountain-Forecast.com is a good site.

  3. You need £10 in change for the pay meter in the Scafell Pike Car Park.

  4. It’s £10 to park at Pen-Y-Pass in winter and you can pay with a debit card.

  5. There’s no reception on Scafell Pike, so you can’t rely on navigating from your phone. If you’re using OS maps, you’ll need to download an offline map.

  6. Always carry a paper map as a back up.

  7. Consider hiring an experienced mountain guide unless you are a very experienced and competent navigator. It’s not expensive and it could be the difference between success and failure.

  8. Toilets: At Ben Nevis, there are toilets in the visitors centre and Glen Nevis Youth Hostel. There is a toilet block at Scafell Pike, and it was open in the middle of the night. At Snowdon, there are toilets at Pen-Y-Pass.

  9. You can use the showers at the Youth Hostel at Pen-y-Pass for £2.50, and use the toilets for free.

  10. You can get a hot drink and a cake at the cafe at the Pen-y-Pass Youth Hostel, but when it comes to food, breakfast finishes at 9 and lunch doesn’t start until 1pm.

  11. It’s a good idea to take a pillow and blanket to get comfortable when travelling. You need to sleep!

  12. The key to success is, look after your feet; take sliders and as soon as you finish a mountain, take your boots and socks off and powder your feet.

  13. Take three pairs of good quality walking socks.

  14. Remember to refuel after each climb and carry snacks on the mountain.

  15. Consume an energy drink pre-climb for a better chance of a successful trip.

  16. Always carry the correct kit in your rucksack.



267 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

コメント


bottom of page