National 3 Peaks Preparation

Several months ago I was approached for some advice about an attempt at the National 3 Peaks Challenge. This has become very popular for charity events over the last 10 years and involves walking to the top of the highest mountain peaks in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Snowdon) within 24 hours. In this case, it was a local church group looking to use the event as a means of social outreach as well as raising money.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at the logistical aspects of the challenge. Group sizes, routes on the mountains, routes on the roads, suggested timings to make maximum use of daylight, or avoid heavy traffic, accommodation requirements, back up team, number of and types of vehicles, suggested practice in the build up. Each of these may seem fairly trivial, but it’s often the logistics that fail on something like this.

Today was about preparing certain members of the team for the practicalities on the hill. With this being such a popular event, it’s easy to think that the routes are obvious and simple to follow. This is the case for most of the time, but there are certain points where things are not so obvious and, once off the usual path, it can become very disorientating in poor visibility.

We started the day by looking at a variety of maps that are available and the pros and cons of each. Before leaving the car, we also looked at methods of orientating the map and identifying significant features. Time was spent practicing timing, pacing, bearings, poor visibility techniques, recognising contour features and emergency procedures.

It was a fairly productive day, with a lot covered given the limited time available, but not that much opportunity for practice and refining skills. Like them, I’ll be hoping that the weather is kind to them when they go for the challenge at the end of June. Otherwise it could be a fairly emotional event as well as a physical one!

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