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Three Peaks Challenge
Remember to take the right maps with you..!
The Twenty-four Hour Challenge
Some basic info...
So you've decided to attempt the challenge? Because there are so many organised challenges, with differing rules and routes, there is no definative record time that I am aware of. However, a trawl through the Guinness Book Of Records website may provide an answer. Generally, the aim is to climb and travell between the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales within a 24 hour period. I know of fell running teams that have completed this (with the minimum drive time of 10 hours) in under 15 hours, and I'm sure there's much quicker teams...
But I'll start with a more realistic view of what mere mortals can expect. The minimum drive time referred to above is an attainable journey time between the hills - Ben Nevis to Scafell : 5.30 hours - Scafell to Snowdon : 4.30 hours. These timings are quite standard for a challenge and allow for petrol/toilet stops. Anything quicker than this would involve speeding, not a good idea for a tired group of walkers! More info about this on the driving page.
How long on the hills?
The following timings are based on an average walker attempting just one hill. You should be aiming to complete these hills at a quicker pace than stated.
Ben Nevis - 6 hours
Scafell (Wasdale) - 4 hours
Scafell (Seathwaite) - 6 hours
Snowdon - 4 hours
As you can see, the three hills at a normal walking pace could add up to 16 hours, plus your 10 hour drive, and you're outside the challenge 24 hours!
Prevailling weather conditions can have an effect on your times, Scafell involves a certain amount of route finding and navigation in good, clear weather conditions. Mist and darkness require a far more experienced navigator. Ben Nevis has claimed many lives in poor visibility. Do not underestimate conditions at the top, even when the sun is shining in the car park!
Taking into consideration that from where ever you live, you will face a long drive before or after, or before and after the challenge, a dedicated driver would be invaluable. He/she would face hours alone in a car park waiting for you, unless they had a co-driver or companion, and hey - you've got yourself a support team! If this is not possible, then book accommodation before and after the challenge for your own safety.
Once you have your chosen few assembled, go out and try the nearest mountain to you. None of the three peaks are particularly hard in themselves. Then look at your time - is it within the expected pace? And could you rest in a car for a couple of hours and do it again? Twice? Yeah? OK.
Between yourself and your fellow walkers you must aim to carry every item that may be needed on the hill, from a first aid kit to a bivvy bag. But there's no point taking too much.
Here's a list of what I would take with me as a group member:
fleece or other warm top
hat and gloves
water bottle and steri-tabs
food and sweets/chocolate
....and as a team leader would carry the following as well:
map and compass
first aid kit
mobile phone and spare battery
This is my personal kit list and is only a guide. When deciding what to carry with you, consider what you have ever actually used, and what you would need if a member of your party became immobile on the mountainside. ie, a mountian knife may look handy, but what would you actually do with it? ....and... pertex jackets keep you nice and warm when running or fast walking, but what if you have to stop?
Food and Drink.
Two main problems can evolve from ignoring this : dehydration and exhaustion : possibly leading to mountain exposure, hypothermia and death. So it's quite important. Whilst on the hill it is important to keep drinking little and often, if you can't carry enough water with you, top up at streams and use steri-tabs if you need to. If you can't stomach sandwiches whilst undergoing physical activity, try eating small chocolate bars or a bag of mixed sweets. When you get back to your transport it is important that you replace energy that you have just used. I have found that 'pot noodle' type meals go down best, but it's up to you. Make sure that you have a decent calorie intake well before the next hill, or else you'll bonk out, leaving your team mates to try and get you back to the car park. If you have a support team, they can sort out your meal whilst you're on the hill. Buy them a pint at the end....
Enviromental and Ecological Stuff....
Freedom of access means that you can stage your attempt whenever you wish. However, you should consider that you will be one group of many that pass through small communities who live and work in the areas you may visit. Speeding cars and vans at three o'clock in the morning past your front window doesn't impress anyone. The campsite at Wasdale is there for the benefit of the campers, and not passing three peaks challenges. If you need to use toilets or top up water supplies, do it at the M6 motorway services. Keep quiet when at Wasdale, don't slam car doors, shout to friends the times of your team, or set up a communications centre next to a support team who wish to get some sleep!
Nearly all mountainous areas in Britain are covered by voluntary rescue services, mostly made up of mountain guides, climbers and mountaineers, fell runners, cavers etc, who use their expertise and knowledge of local areas to search for missing persons, and effect rescue of injured climbers or walkers. Unfortunately, some incidents have been highlighted where mountain rescue teams have been called upon in the early hours to lead dis-orientated three peaks walkers to safety. Being lost is no reason for requesting emergency help. Don't let it happen to you.
So Where Are We?...
Many orienteers will run with the map folded in their hand, their thumb pointing to their current position. It is very important for them to know where they are during the entire race. Of course, this level of navigational accuracy is not required for a days walk in the hills, however, you should always know where-about you are on the map.
Note what time you start walking, and pick an objective where you will check the time again. Make a note of features that you pass, walls, gates, streams, etc., until you reach your next objective. Now you will have an idea how fast you are walking, and can predict the time it will take to reach a further next objective.
If you are still walking somewhat longer than expected, stop and identify your position on the map. Remember the last feature that you passed to try and help you. If visibility is poor, use the topography of the land, steep slopes, crags, forest, etc., surrounding you to narrow your possible position. Use your compass to set the map correctly.
If you can work out your mistake, retrace your steps and correct the error.
If you have become totaly lost then DON'T PANIC !!! Decide which grid square, or squares, that you are likely to be in. Each square is one square kilometer. Find a large, unmissable, defining feature - such as a river, minor road or track, edge of forest etc., and then set your compass and map, and carefully head towards it. Beware of hazards in the area and note any that you see. Once you reach this feature you may have to travell along it to identify your exact location.
If you have a mobile phone, and it is finding a good signal, then that's that. If not, you must send a message via one of your party. If you have enough people in your group, send two people together with a message. Remember that as soon as they leave, the message cannot be ammended, so it's important to include all relevant information with the first message. Also bear in mind that it may take a couple of hours for the message to get to the police or mountain rescue.
If you walk solo or in a pair, what would you do?
Always consider this when packing your rucsac....
If The Worst Should Happen...
If a member of your party becomes injured, or you meet someone who needs help, then offer any help and first aid that you can. You must then decide whether the injured person is immobile and must be left on the hill, whether they need proffesional medical help as soon as they are off the hill, or if their condition allows you to take them to a doctors or hospital yourself.
For the latter, contact anyone who may be expecting them, as soon as possible, and let them know what is going on so no unneccessary search is started.
For someone who can continue down the hill safely, but needing more urgent medical help, contact the police and give them details of your position, intended route, injuries, number in party, etc. Follow any advice they may give you.
For someone who has become immobile, if possible move them a short distance to any available shelter, put them into a bivvy bag with another person, use any sleeping bags or tents you may have, and get one person to monitor them, noting any change in their condition. Pool all equipment and food. Notify the police of your position, injuries, numbers, equipment and food available to you, and follow any advice given. Consider the well being of the whole party, not just the injured person. Try to make your position as clear as posible, and try to attract the attention and help of other walkers by using your whistle and/or torch.
Whether you like them or not, they can provide you with a link to the emergency services, saving valuable time if things go wrong. Dont rely on them however, as in many places they won't work.
Getting lost - or poor navigation is the number one reason for a three peaks failure or mishap...
Many people fail to recognise that mistakes are commonplace when the navigator is fatigued. In fact, many adventure race organisers rely on this when route planning...
You should pay special attention to navigation, especially when in poor visibility.