On Your Marks … …
The Scafell Pike walk forms the middle leg of the “Three Peaks Challenge”, in which walkers attempt to reach the summits of Ben Nevis in Scotland (4408 feet), Scafell Pike in England (3208 feet) and Snowdon in Wales (3558 feet) within a 24 hour period. To be successful in this quest you need to be well-prepared, pretty fit and have support from people prepared to drive and feed you between ascents.
Many Three Peak Challenges are organised to raise funds for charity by experienced hill climbers or event companies and, although usually attempted by using motorised transport between the three peaks, can be completed by foot (record 54 hours, 39 minutes and 14 seconds), by bicycle (record 46 hours and 30 minutes) or by yacht (record 3 days, 18 hours).
Get Set … …
There is no organising body with whom you have to pre-book your Three Peaks Challenge, so you are free to attempt your challenge at any time of year. However, bear in mind that although you will have more hours of daylight and better weather in June or July, you will be approaching peak holiday season and the roads may be more congested – especially on the approach to Snowdon.
Amongst your preparations, make sure that you have sufficient quantities of food and water with you, so that you are not reliant on bars and restaurants being open at unsocialable hours of the morning. A particular problem exists at Wasdale Head – the most commonly used starting point for the Scafell Pike walk – where there is a lack of mains water.
Also be aware that if you have chosen a particularly busy time to attempt your Three Peaks Challenge, (or unfortunately synchronised it with a group of 200 charity walkers) you may encounter bottlenecks on the mountainsides as well as on the roads. Plan your routes with the potential for delays in order that you are not trying to ascend Snowdon in the dark!
The Three Peaks Challenge route which most people choose starts at the foot Ben Nevis at around 5.00pm in the evening. The summit is an ascent of 4,331 feet, and can be reached via the pony track within three hours. It is considerably easier to descend this path, and you should be back at the bottom by 10.00pm. The drive to Scafell Pike will take six to seven hours through the night – so try to get some sleep!
The quickest route for the Scafell Pike walk starts at the Wasdale Head car park and should be completed within five hours also. To stay on target to complete the Three Peaks Challenge within 24 hours, you will need to start the Scafell Pike walk at around 5.00am – returning to the car park by 10.00am to drive the 200 miles to Snowdon. Bear in mind that many of the roads beyond the M6 (particularly the A55) are not roads on which you can put your foot down, so you do not have time to admire the view at the summit of Scafell Pike.
Provided that you reach Snowdon by 1.30pm in the afternoon, the summit can be reached via the Pyg or Miner’s route by 15.30pm – allowing an hour and a half for your descent to complete the Three Peaks Challenge within 24 hours. This is the leg on which most injuries occur, due to fatigue and rushing up the side of Snowdon to catch up on time you may have lost previously. Remember that your health is more important than completing the Three Peaks Challenge, and if it takes 24 hours and 10 minutes it may be disappointing, but it is better than spending six weeks on crutches!