I am now just two weeks away from my attempt at the UK Three Peaks Challenge. For anyone unfamiliar with the challenge, it involves scaling the highest mountain in Scotland (Ben Nevis), the highest mountain in England (Scafell Pike) and the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon), all within 24 hours. This, of course, includes the travel in between each mountain.
It’s a difficult one to train for really. Aside from climbing the mountains to practice, which isn’t at all practical in my case, you cannot replicate the additional factors which will impact the body, such as cramping in between climbs and sleep deprivation. Also, living in the Midlands, there aren’t a great deal of summits nearby where you can do some meaningful training. I may complain about the hills around Rugby but they are nothing compared to the elevation gain that I will be experiencing on the challenge.
So, with a lack of event simulation, my training has involved the only thing that I know…running. The one thing that will be required during the event is endurance, so I’ve been working on making my long distance runs longer, up to a maximum of 15.6 miles, achieved this week. It’s still not what event advisers would consider as endurance. That, apparently, is anything over three hours.
I did however, last September, complete the Yorkshire version of the Three Peaks Challenge. This involved climbing Ingleborough, Pen-Y-Ghent and Whernside, including walking in between the mountains, in under 12 hours. The challenge included 24 miles of walking with a total elevation ascent of just under 1,400 metres. In comparison, the national version takes in around 22 miles of walking, with an ascent of just under 3,000 metres. I completed the Yorkshire three in just under 9 hours (8:52), although I was in some pain afterwards and during the following days. I also tend to walk Snowdon at least once per year so, given that is the final mountain, I should leave Scafell with a hint of confidence for the final leg. Of course, I could always train more for the event, but I’m confident that what I have done will be sufficient.
I banded the idea of attempting the challenge around a few of my friends. Ideally, given the conditions of the event and the fact that you will likely be climbing at least one mountain in the dark, you want a team of three or four climbers, with an additional dedicated driver, who can sleep whilst the rest climb. A few people showed an initial interest although no one came through when pushed for a commitment. Therefore, the only option I had left was to book through an agent. Having experienced a similar situation with the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and having been impressed with the agent that I booked through, I decided to go with the same company. I’ve been booked up for a while now and received the final itinerary this week. Here is how it looks:
10am – meet at Fort William, complete registration and meet the guide team
11am – challenge begins with the ascent of Ben Nevis from the Glen Nevis visitor centre
4pm – complete Ben Nevis and begin 6 hour drive to Scafell
10pm – begin climb of Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head
2am – complete Scafell Pike and begin four hour drive to Snowdon. A “hot breakfast” is supplied at this point
6am – arrive at Snowdon Pen-y-Pass car park and begin ascent via the Pyg Track. Descend via the Llanberis Track
11am – complete the challenge
Post challenge – transport provided to Chester train station, where onward journey’s are our own responsibility
If I said that I wasn’t interested in time, and that I would be happy just to finish, I would be lying. An 11am finish is certainly not the goal for me. Sub-22 hours is the ultimate goal, although walking as part of a group, I can only be as quick as the slowest person, and I understand that. I imagine that groups based on fitness and pace will be formed after the first mountain, as there won’t be much chance to move up into a quicker group after this, as I did in the Yorkshire Dales. With that in mind, I need to try and get in a quick group early on, without going so quick that I end up being the slowest one in the group. It’s a tough one to pace, particularly so early on in what will be a difficult challenge.
To be honest, the only concern I have surrounding the event really is in between the mountains. Having the fitness to scale the three I don”t believe I will have any trouble with. The same goes for the sleep issue. I don’t require masses of sleep and, on the occasion where I get very little (I have young children), I still manage to function fine the next day. So the only concern really is cramping up or becoming stiff during the minibus journeys. Again, there’s not really much that I can train for in this regard, but a good stretch after each mountain, providing time permits, should help prevent any troubles.
All in all, I’m looking forward to the challenge.