The Three Peaks Challenge – when to do it

March 9, 2011
Three Peaks in June

Ben Nevis Summit in June!

One of the most common questions we get asked is “when is the best time to attempt the Three Peaks Challenge?”  A very good question! There’s no hard and fast answer but there are a couple of major issues to consider.

Weather – People are often surprised how long snow will remain on the summit of Ben Nevis.  There is usually still a significant amount of snow covering the summit plateau well into May/June.  The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) still conduct avalanche surveys in mid-April! This alone should answer part of the question!  The major consideration for us as event organisers is not rain but wind; 60mph gusts on any of the Three Peaks Challenge summits could have catastrophic consequences.  Before an event we keep a close eye on various weather resources (such as Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) which gives comprehensive, clear forecasts daily); any indication of strong winds always sets alarm bells ringing. Generally speaking this would normally be an issue from around mid-October.

Daylight  – obviously the closer to the Summer Solstice you attempt your Three Peaks, the more daylight you will have.  Scafell Pike catches many walkers out in darkness, particularly if mist descends on the route. That said, the experience of climbing a mountain in the dark is something not to be missed!  If you have one of our Mountain Leaders guiding you’ll be left to enjoy the experience, without having to worry about navigating your team.  We would discourage anyone reading this from undertaking the Three Peaks Challenge on the weekend(s) closest to the Summer Solstice as Wasdale Head and it’s surrounding narrow roads are chock-a-block with minibuses around this time.  This not only impacts on the local communities but makes for a pretty poor Three Peaks experience!

Training – Many people undertake the Three Peaks early in the year when the only training they’ve had is in the gym because the winter weather has made training outdoors impractical.  In our experience you need to have a balanced training programme behind you when you attempt the Challenge.  We provide our customers with a 16 week training programme, prepared by a Sports performance professional as we believe that this is an essential part of your preparation. We would encourage anyone considering the Three Peaks in 2011 to give themselves plenty of time to ensure an adequate level of fitness and stamina to climb (and descend!) around 10,000 feet of rough terrain.

In summary:

  • Choose a date between the end of April and mid-October. 
  • Be aware that snow may still be on the summit of Ben Nevis and prepare accordingly.
  • Avoid the Summer Solstice for your Three Peaks Challenge.  Don’t follow the crowds!
  • Consider hiring a professional Mountain Leader http://bit.ly/gHjUdK
  • Ensure your preparation is adequate: this is as important as your kit!
  • Tweet us if you need any advice!
man