My colleagues at work are organising a charity event and plan to walk the Three Peaks. For those who don’t know what this is, this is when you climb to the summits of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowden within 24 hours. I believe that equates to the highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales, but someone correct me if I’m wrong.
I’ve been asked to join the team, but here’s the thing - I’m really unfit. They are planning to go last week in September/first week in October, which doesn’t give me long to get in shape. I am obese according to my BMI. In the last few months I have started myself moving a bit more - I use a pedometer and make sure I do eight to ten thousand steps a day, and do 30mins swimming before work three times a week. I’m also on a diet, but honestly haven’t lost more than a couple of pounds, mostly due to my own lax attitude.
So anyone who has done the three peaks, I’d love to know:
-What training did you do?
-Did anyone on your team struggle?
-Do you think I have a chance of doing this, or should I bow out gracefully before I let people down?
I’m willing to work for this. I need to sort out my fitness anyway, and this will be the push I need. That said, if my best just isn’t going to be good enough in the time I have left, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else.
And as a bonus, any hints on what type of exercise programme I should be looking into? Should I be changing my diet beyond cutting out the junk?
If you don’t feel very fit I would think very carefully about doing this. Even if you are fit, your team needs to remember that at the end of September it is dark more than half the time. You will have to do some climbing and descending in darkness, which is something even experienced mountaineers will try and avoid. I think mountain rescue teams have in the past criticised people doing the 3 peaks challenge for taking too many risks.
Going back to fitness, I see that you live in Manchester. You will have to go out and start climbing Pennines or Lake District mountains to practice. If you haven’t been hillwalking before you may be surprised at how difficult descending a mountain is - walking poles may be beneficial. Bear in mind that Ben Nevis is much higher than any of the English mountains, it is at least the equivalent of climbing 2 Pennines in a day, given that you start from little above sea level.
I would think that you would have to be able to do at least 2 of the Yorkshire 3 peaks in one day (leaving the car in one place) before you could think about doing the 3 highest peaks.
(“Climbing” here means hillwalking - there may be scrambling but ropes are not required.)
I’ve never done the Three Peaks but I’ve been up Ben Nevis a few times. Be careful on Ben Nevis, it’s only 4406 ft high, but about 4400 ft of that is going up! I’ve only ever gone up on the path from Glen Nevis and that’s pretty easy, but beware the weather up there at any time of the year. Vizibility just goes, and there are big cliffs on the other side Rocky death cliffs if you get lost. Dress for potential weather at 59 degrees latitude up a hill facing the weather off the North Atlantic.
For any potential tourists reading, it’s a better bet to go up on a gondola at Aonach Mor which is nearby. There’s a much better chance that you will be below the cloud cover to see the view, and they do a decent cup of tea and a bacon roll at the cafe up there.
Closer to 57 degrees after consulting a map, but point still stands.
My school organised this trip successfully.
We had a qualified Mountain Leader, plus a couple of fit staff leading a group of teenagers (also in very good condition).
As others have said, part of this will be in the dark. There’s also little chance to rest, unless you’re really good at relaxing in vehicles.
And walking on the flat is not the same as climbing slopes.
Depending on who’s in charge, I think you need to consider very carefully whether to go. For example, if you run out of steam halfway up a mountain, who’s going to stay with you?
As an alternative, do they need ‘support staff’ e.g. drivers?
Some good friends did the Three Peaks last year - I was planning to join them but had to drop out.
They said it was hard work - the climbs themselves are hard enough, then you add on the time pressure to get up and down as fast as possible, and there’s the looooong car journey after you’ve done Ben Nevis to get down to the Lakes. They were shattered at the end of it, and with a couple of twisted ankles and knees they weren’t in the best of moods at the end.
Don’t want to put you off too much as it’s a great achievement and is easily manageable, but the chaps I know said it wasn’t “enjoyable”. They are glad they’ve done it once, but they’d never do it again. Part of climbing mountains is the joy of the views, the unexpected detours, the mug of hot tea by a tarn etc. With the Three Peaks it’s just a mechanical exercise to get up ‘n’ down as fast as possible… no time to enjoy the view, no time to rest and soak up the smells and sounds of the mountains, it’s head-down and one foot after another relentlessly until you tap the top and head straight back down.
For me (personally) that defeats to point of climbing - half of it’s done in the dark, then you spend hours on a motorway in the back of a minibus.
But if you try to get out at least once a month to the Peaks or the Lakes you’ll be fine… as a wise man once said, “the only good training for walking up and down hills is walking up and down hills”.
thanks for all the comments.
I know that it won’t be fun when we’re actually doing it, but I’m hoping the sense of achievement would make it worthwhile in the long run. It’s also a very worthy cause to raise money for.
There is a support team worked out - the company is providing a minibus and two people are lined up to do all the driving and provide food etc. The actually walking team contains a trained paramedic and we have a couple of experienced navigators amongst them.
The walking in the dark doesn’t frighten me, nor does the cold. I have been hillwalking before, so I do have some idea of what to expect, but it was back when I was 16 or so doing Duke of Edinburgh awards, so I am well out of practice.
One very important thing to consider is exit strategy.
No matter how well planned you are, things can go awry, from map reading wrongly to weather closing in to a minor injury becoming a real issue.
If you are prepared with well planned routes, equipment and communication, this is at the very least, reassuring.
On this type of trek, there is always pressure to meet the target and perform, this often gets folk into trouble, you need to be very pragmatic and understand your limits and be ready to turn around and give it up.You must be ready to say that further progress is possible but too dangerous, despite team and peer pressure.
Reporting in is a useful precaution, letting a controller know your progress and location. GPS can be useful, but you must understand how to use it well before you try it for real.
I would suggest you consider trying a few of the long distance walks in your area, there is no possible better preparation, forget diets, forget lots of other stuff, practice and practice again, get out most weekends and walk 40 miles across 2 days, you will not need much more than that, but you will need to make several practice walks.
You will see people of all sorts of shapes and sizes, so do not be worried about physique - its experience that matters - go out and get it, make sure your footwear and rainwear works, practice in the rain, practice on moderate ground in mist on routes you know well - it gives you confidence.