What Are The 3 Peaks Mountain Challenge?

Several years ago you would have had to explain the concept of the National 3 Peaks to most people but just a few years on it has become a house hold name and one of the go to UK events to both challenge yourself whilst fundraising for Charity.

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The challenge consists of climbing the 3 highest peaks in the UK within 24 hours. The tallest, longest and arguably hardest is Ben Nevis. With an elevation of 1,344m above sea level it rises high above Fort William on the western coast of the Highlands.

Ben Nevis, Scotland

The usual trodden pony track requires no technical ability to reach the summit however you can expect to be ascending constantly for around 3 hours. The views from the summit on a good day are epic reaching right across Scotland and the surrounding peaks.

The route up the mountain starts in Glen Nevis and works its way up the side of a neighbouring mountain before crossing over to Ben Nevis itself. A small lochan and waterfall marks the half way mark where the terrain takes a turn to feel rocky and mountainous.

Near the summit of Ben Nevis

Zig zags work their way up the western side of the mountain until they spit you out just a couple of hundred vertical metres from the summit plateau. The plateau and route onto it can be a precarious one if in poor weather or night as several aspects of the plateau lead to large gullies and sheer cliff faces, not a place you want to end up!

Good navigation or a guide will help keep you right path. The chances of a view are said to be 1 in 12 so if you get one count yourself lucky! On the summit you’ll find the ruins of an old scientific observatory which if you have time you can explore. The route descends back to Glen Nevis via the same path.

Scafell Pike, England

The next in the line after Ben Nevis is Scafell Pike. It’s the shortest of the 3 peaks with a height of 978m but with a starting elevation of around 90m the ascent is still considerable.

Views from the trail up Scafell Peak

The route to the summit is around half the distance of that of Ben Nevis making for a steep ascent which will take most only about 2 hours. Added to the fact that most groups scale the mountain at night make it ripe for a cracking challenge and if the sky is clear it can be a real night to remember. Sat in the west of the infamous Lake District and nestled next to the deepest body of water in England (Wastwater) Scafell Pike is an incredible peak.

Like Ben Nevis the true summit lies on a flat rocky plateau but nevertheless the views across the Lakes and surrounding fells are incredible with the Isle of Man also visible on the clearest of days.

The landscape on all 3 mountains generally feels very similar. You start in lush valleys with trees and rivers but quickly after starting your ascent you’ll find the trees fall away to leave shrubland and grass before turning to a rocky landscape. The Hollow Stones area of Scafell Pike resembles what most imagine the moon to look like and it can feel like it too with rocky boulders and craggy humps to negotiate. Where paths have not been engineered and managed the higher levels of the peaks are often made up of loose rock known as scree but this is generally easily negotiated.

Although last in line most people know or have heard of Snowdon. Regarded as the easier of the 3 peaks, due to the elevation of the main starting point being just over 300m making the ascent the shortest out of all 3 peaks. Snowdon sits in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park and really does stand out. Its pointy summit gives it a true mountain feel and added to the legends of dragons and fire make it a really great way to end the challenge.

The mountain has multiple routes to the summit but the PYG track is arguably the easier route being the shortest and with the least overall height gain. If completing Snowdon as part of the 3 peaks and you’ve timed it all correctly you’ll hit the summit around sunrise and the views across Snowdonia, Wales and the west coast will be to die for.

Mount Snowdon, Wales

The ascent up Snowdon via the Pyg track is probably the most different from that of Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. Firstly because the path is well managed due to the large amount of footfall it gets.

Snowdonia National Park

Some 500,000 people ascend the mountain on foot every year so the path takes some looking after. You’ll find steps, polished smooth rock and the odd small crag to negotiate but it’s nothing to worry about especially if 1 of our guides is with you.

On reaching the summit ridge you’ll notice the railway heading to the summit station and you’re almost there. Built by the Victorians the railway is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe and continues to bring hundreds of thousands of people to the summit every year. If walking isn’t an option then the railway is a unique way in which you can still reach the summit of this iconic mountain.

Other than Scafell Pike the mountains have become honey pot locations with hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars all nearby. For example Fort William also know as the adventure capitol of the UK is the perfect base for the start of your National 3 Peaks or just a day on Ben Nevis.

Likewise in Wales, Llanberis is just 15 minutes from Snowdon with it’s characteristic multi-coloured buildings and is a great location to start from. Scafell Pike is however somewhat out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the Lake District but Keswick, Ambleside and Whitehaven are all within an hours drive.

If taking on the 3 mountains as part of the National 3 Peaks challenge you’ll add the driving in between each peak to your itinerary. This is usually done via minibus as any other vehicle is simply too cumbersome around the country roads, in the Lakes especially.

The bus will be your home for the weekend where you’ll eat your meals, get changed and sleep. If using ourselves to support your challenge we provide 16 seat minibuses with a boot or trailer for the kit to ensure you have space in the cabin to stretch out a little.

Transfer approx. times between each peak are as follows:

  • Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike – 6.5 hours (includes a driver rest break)
  • Scafell Pike to Snowdon – 4.5 hours (includes a driver change over)

The introduction or European driving regulations and the tachograph mean challenges must follow the legal driving rules. This is no great shame as it means transport is completed safely and within the law after all, the mountains have been around since at least the last ice age, they’ll wait for you!

At the summit of Snowdon

Why not take on the 3 Peaks Mountain Challenge with Mountaineerin?

Mountaineerin run several guided 3 Peaks Mountain challenges throughout the year which includes transport from the North West of England. You can join an open group trip with other people or we can organise a bespoke trip for your group. If you fancy a different kind of challenge, why not take on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks?

When you book with Mountaineerin you’re not just booking someone to walk up and down a mountain with. You are booking years of experience and knowledge of how to get the most of the environment, stay safe whilst there, look after it and most of all enjoy it!

Find out more about our fully supported National 3 Peaks Challenge or Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge Treks, or contact us to organise a private trip or challenge for your group.


Simon Ogunlana – Founder

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