What is the Three Peaks Challenge?

The National Three Peaks Challenge is a gruelling test of endurance that sees participants attempt to climb the tallest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours. Want to know more? Read on.

23 August 2022

A gruelling 24 hours. Over 20 miles of hiking. A total ascent of some 10,000 feet. And in excess of 460 miles of travel in between. All to conquer the three highest peaks of England, Scotland and Wales. That’s the National Three Peaks Challenge and it’s taken on by an estimated 30,000 people every year.

For some, it’s a tick on the bucket list, for others a way to raise money for a good cause. And then there are those that just want to prove they can.

Want to know more? We’ll examine the 3 peaks challenge from all angles, from where are the three peaks to how long does each of the 3 peaks mountains take to climb. We’ll start by looking at what’s involved.

National 3 Peaks Challenge: An Overview

Snowdon, Wales: One of three mountains in the three peaks challenge (Photo: Osian Rees via Getty Images)

The National Three Peaks Challenge is to climb the highest peaks in each of Scotland, England and Wales, traditionally within 24 hours. This time limit encompasses the entirety of the challenge, including around 13 hours of hiking plus approximately 11 hours travel between climbs, with participants being driven to each location.
The 3 peaks mountains are:

  • Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland
  • Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England
  • Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales

A popular variation of the Three Peaks Challenge is to complete it within 3 days. Known as Three Peaks In Three Days, it entails climbing one mountain a day with two overnight stays.

Conversely, the record time for finishing the National Three Peaks Challenge along the modern route is reportedly 14 hours 36 minutes.

National 3 Peaks Challenge: Route

Snowdonia, Wales - A group climbs Snowdon during their three peak Challenge (Photo: Christopher Lee via Getty Images)

There is no single set route for undertaking the Three Peaks Challenge, but it is most commonly completed from north to south, beginning with Ben Nevis then Scafell Pike and finishing with Snowdon. Time estimates for each mountain are as follows:

  • Ben Nevis: 5 Hours
  • Scafell Pike: 4 Hours
  • Snowdon: 4 Hours

Let’s look at each in turn.

The National 3 Peaks Mountains: Ben Nevis

Sunrise on Ben Nevis. Scotland, UK (Photo: john finney photography via Getty Images)

Rising 4,413 ft above sea level, Ben Nevis is not just the highest mountain in Scotland, but in all the British Isles. Known in Scottish Gaelic as Beinn Nibheis, it is part of the Grampian Mountains. There is one main path in climbing Ben Nevis, known as the Pony Path and amongst the steepest in the challenge. The highlights of the climb include the views from the north face cliffs and the ruins of a 19th century weather observatory at the summit. It takes around 5 hours to complete the 10.5 miles round trek which includes approximately 4435 feet of ascent.

The National 3 Peaks Mountains: Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike mountain in the lake district. (Photo: © Peter Lourenco @Getty Images)

Set in Cumbria’s Lake District National Park and with a summit at 3,209 ft, Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain, but 13th highest in the British Isles. There’s no single path or route up Scafell Pike, but one of the shorter options is around 6 miles. Many consider Scafell Pike the trickiest of the 3 peaks mountains, both due to its rocky terrain and the psychological element of it being the midpoint of the challenge.

The National 3 Peaks Mountains: Snowdon

Sunset over Snowdon (Photo: Thank you via Getty Images)

Snowdonia National Park is the home of Yr Wyddfa. Better known as Snowdon, it is the highest mountain in Wales and 3rd highest in the British Isles, at an elevation of 3560 feet. Depending on the route taken, the distance is between 7 and 8 miles and ascends some 2372 feet, taking around 4 hours to complete. The good news for those who take on the National Three Peaks Challenge in the summer is that there is a kiosk at the summit.

We’ve reached the summit of this summary of the National Three Peaks Challenge, complete with a breakdown of the 3 peaks mountains and a summary of the route. That covers all the bases, and there’s myriad versions and additional twists and turns which some people choose to factor into their treks. Even at its most basic however, there’s no doubt that the three peaks combined really do represent one significant challenge. For those who conquer them all within 24 hours, it’s an achievement that won’t quickly be forgotten.


You May Also Like

Explore More