5. Accommodation: Getting a goods night sleep before the challenge helps significantly, and stopping over after the challenge allows everyone to enjoy a celebratory drink without worrying about the long drive home. Fort William and Llanberis both have a large selection of campsites, hostels, bunkhouses, B&B's, Guest Houses and Hotels. Book early, especially around the school holidays, and for the end of June when many people choose to attempt their challenge. Some links to help find accommodation can be found here.
4. Transport: During the challenge you will spend some 11 hours and over 450 miles in your vehicle, trying to get some sleep, so it's important you use something big enough to be able to spread out, and store all of your kit. 5 people in a Ford Fiesta is not comfy. As a guide for larger groups, try to leave some 25-30% or seats free, ie. 15 seater minibus = 11 people maximum. If hiring a minibus, bear in mind most are now restricted to 62mph, your driver will need D1 catagory on their licence, and some hire companies will charge a mileage excess. You MUST have at least one driver (ideally two) that will not be taking part in the walking. Have breakdown cover, check you've got a servicable spare wheel, wheel brace and jack, don't run out of fuel!
3. Get The Right Equipment: Our seasons now are only determined by the temperature of the rain! You need clothing and equipment for all weathers - just select what you need on the day. It is very possible to encounter sub-zero temperatures and near arctic conditions on Ben Nevis on Saturday, heavy rain and high winds during the night at Scafell Pike, then hot and dry conditions to finish with on Snowdon. Take plenty of fresh base layers, underwear and socks, and something comfortable to travel in. Walking boots are essential - don't even think about training shoes. You should always have a bivvy bag, some extra food, and a head torch with spare batteries in your rucksack, even if you expect to finish in daylight. A full kit list can be found here.
2. Navigation: Ben Nevis and Snowdon are relatively straight-forward in terms of navigation. Paths are well established, and in good, clear conditions should not pose any real problems, assuming you have good basic navigational skills. Extra care should be taken on the summit plateau of Ben Nevis which may be covered in snow well into the summer (summit map and information here), and groups using the Pyg Track on Snowdon should ensure they don't stray onto Crib Goch. Scafell Pike, however, presents walkers with many more problems - especially in darkness and/or mist. It is highly recommended that you take a dry run on Scafell Pike before you attempt the challenge. If in doubt, employ a mountain guide.
Three Peaks Challenge
(Organising Your Own Challenge)
To enjoy a safe, low impact, successful challenge, you must be prepared to put in some time and effort before the event to ensure that you have the required level of fitness and experience, the right kit suitable for the conditions you may encounter, and the right vehicle and drivers for safe and comfortable transport. You should have completed at least 2 or 3 mountain days together, as a team, so that you are aware of each others stregths and weaknesses - and you need to agree on a plan of action should one of your team become slightly injured, or not be as fit as they thought - thus slowing the team considerably. Remember - not sticking together on the mountains can lead to disaster..!
1. Group Experience, Fitness and Training: Spend some time together, as a group, walking and navigating in the mountains. You can increase your mountain fitness, get used to foul weather conditions, try out new items of kit, improve your navigation, but most importantly - see how you work together as a group. Anyone a bit slower than the others should not simply be left at the back, as this can cause resentment and extra fatigue throughout the group. Keep swapping places, and ensure the pace and rest breaks are suitable for everyone. On the challenge you MUST stay together whilst on the mountains, especially in darkness or poor visibility. A suggested fitness training programme can be found here.
Just back from the challenge, which we completed in 22.48 hours. Not too bad for a bunch of unfit challenge drivers...
The minibus we had was a 54 plate Transit, 15 seater. This left loads of space for our team of 5 walkers plus 1 driver, and meant we could easily spread out and find somewhere comfy to sleep. Unfortunately it was restricted to 62 mph which seemed incredibly slow on the motorways. However, despite this - we managed the target drive times of 6 hours from Ben Nevis to Wasdale, and 4.48 hours from Wasdale to Pen-Y-Pass (so it can be done..!).
These drive times included being stuck behind a motorbike doing 40mph all the way from Tyndrum to Sterling, and having to use a B road instead of the M74 to avoid a 60 minute traffic delay (advised by overhead motorway information signs).
Our transition times from mountain to minibus, and vice-versa, were very quick, the longest taking just 15 minutes. This is where many teams will lose a lot of time without realising it, and you need to get the transition sorted as quick as possible.
Starting Ben Nevis 0915 we had a great walk, despite a very misty summit, we reached the top in 2.15 and it took a further 1.45 to descend - total time of 4 hours. On the road 15 minutes later, we encountered some traffic and some delays, but reached Wasdale by 19.30.
It was not raining at Scafell Pike, but the ground was wet and slippery, and the mist was low and thick. We saw a few head torches in the Hollow Stones area as we set off. As we arrived at Hollow Stones, we saw the head torches starting up Mickeldore before dissappearing into the mist.
From Lingmel Col we were also in the mist, which became extremely thick as we climbed onto the summit plateau. Visiblity was down to less than three metres, meaning we could only just see the person next to us, and following the path was very difficult. Even when at a cairn, you could not see where the path went to next...
This meant very slow progress to the summit, and slow progress back. The mist had dropped down to Hollow Stones, so progress was painfully slow. Once out of the mist, even our descent with visibility was slow because the path was so slippery. It was more like a controlled fall back to Wasdale than a walk down the path. Lots of slips and falls, and a few minor injuries.
Eventually we returned to the minibus in 3.30, and were nearly straight back on the road. It was now 11.30 pm, and 13 hours since starting Ben Nevis. Still on track...
The drive into Wales was good, with little traffic and no delays. We arrived Pen-Y-Pass, and started up the Miners track at 4.30am. It was raining, and quite blustery and cold, but nothing too severe to worry about. As we climbed the track to Glaslyn, the mist had come down and the wind got a bit stronger. We found the base of the zig-zags easily and started to climb the final section. Unfortunately, visibility once again became problematic, and we made a few mistakes trying to stick to the path, which cost us around 30 minutes.
Even on the top path (Llanberis Route) it was difficult to identify the path, and progress was slow to the summit. We had a fairly quick descent, but still kept straying off the main path now and again.
Halfway down we met the three guys we had seen on Scafell Pike. They had seen us too on Scafell, and said they lost a lot of time using the Mickeldore route. It was unlikely they were going to make the 24 hours now, but I hope they finished OK.
We arrived at Llanberis Mountain Railway Station at 7.57am, and stopped the clock, 22 hours 48 minutes after starting Ben Nevis.
Some photo's at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=55108&id=598625926
Good luck with your challenge..!