Three Peaks Challenge Route
In order to take advantage of the better weather and long hours of daylight, the vast majority of attempts are made during the summer months, and follow a common pattern, employed because it has proven to be the easiest way of achieving success. According to this method (times used here are very approximate, offer only a rough indication of the timescales involved and apply to fit walkers!), the challenge begins with the start of the climb up Ben Nevis at 1700 hrs, with the summit being reached via the Mountain Track at around 2000 hrs, and arrival back at the bottom of Ben Nevis at approximately 2200 hrs.
The Mountain Track involves a climb of approximately 1,320 metres (4,331 ft) of ascent.
Care must be taken to minimise turnaround time at the base of mountains. This is where the drivers (who are not walkers) generally come into their own by preparing food for the Challengers in anticipation of their return from climbing Ben Nevis, with the food then eaten on the road on the way towards Scafell Pike.
The trip down through Scotland to the Lake District is the longer of the two road journeys and takes around six to seven hours, depending on driving conditions. Walkers are strongly advised to get some sleep during this period.
Once Scafell Pike is reached (around 0500hrs) it can be climbed via a choice of routes, arriving at the summit at 0730 hrs. Walkers most typically begin at Wasdale Head (see Criticisms), although the route from Seathwaite may also be done in the alloted time.
While it may be the lowest peak of the three, Scafell Pike is often considered to be the hardest, possibly because it has to be climbed first thing in the morning after having done the punishing Ben Nevis climb the previous evening and having had little sleep in between, and possibly because the usual Wasdale route provides the steepest climb of all three mountains, with 900 metres (2,953 ft) of ascent over only 4 kilometres (2.5 miles). If care is taken to keep to the correct route it should be possible to depart by 0830 hrs.
There then follows a journey of several hours to Snowdonia, during which walkers are likely to feel tired, stiff and hungry, and all the while worrying that the time they have available for completing the third peak is slipping away. This is especially true of the last few miles to Snowdon, which are the slowest of them all due to the nature of the smaller A-roads approaching Llanberis and the possibility of traffic bottlenecks from summer tourists.
If Snowdon is reached by 1330 hrs the summit can be reached by the Pyg or Miners' tracks by 1530 hrs, leaving an hour and a half to return to base within the 24 hour time limit. The route from Pen-y-Pass features approximately 720 metres (2,362 ft) of ascent, totalling around 3,000 metres (9,843 ft) of ascent on the challenge. Teams who for some reason lose time on an earlier stage may find themselves pushed to the limit of their abilities on Snowdon, particularly if they have picked up injuries or fatigue over the course of the first two mountains.
The great flaw in the Three Peaks Challenge is that success is to a great extent dependent not on the ability or fitness levels of walkers but on the speed of driving (stay within the law!) and the state of traffic and other road conditions. One major delay or major roadworks anywhere en route could seriously compromise all those well-laid plans.
Confinement to cars or minibuses for long periods of time between mountains may lead to muscles stiffening and the possibility of injury so a gentle stretch and warm-up is a must!