What is my new National Three Peaks challenge?
Starting on Monday, August 9, I will attempt to complete the National Three Peaks on foot, climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – and walking every mile in-between them – in a self-supported, solo adventure. It’ll involve 777km of fast-hiking (almost 500 miles) and 14,509m of ascent (the equivalent of 15 ascents of Scafell Pike). My goal is to walk 17 marathons in 17 days to set a new record.
Will my challenge be a record?
The Fastest Known Time (FKT) website doesn’t list an official record for a self-supported completion of the National Three Peaks, although extensive internet research has uncovered a potential record of 19 days 18 hours and 35 minutes held by Tina Page. The main record, with support, is currently held by ultra-runner Tom Mountney with an incredible time of 9 days 11 hours and 39 minutes.
What do I mean by self-supported?
The FKT (Fastest Known Time) website provides a clear definition of self-supported, as follows: “Self-supported means you may have as much support as you can manage or find along the way, but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water. Most long thru-hiking routes are done self-supported.”
My challenge is classified as self-supported because:
• I will not have a support crew
• I will not have any vehicle support
• I will walk solo at all times
• I will be self-reliant at all times
• I will carry everything I need on my own back
Where will I sleep and how will I re-supply with food?
In terms of accommodation, I will camp for seven nights (including four wild camps), and stay in hotels for the remainder. I will re-supply with food at supermarkets and shops along the way.
When will my challenge take place?
I will start on Monday, August 9, and finish at Snowdon on Wednesday, August 25 - all being well.
What route will I be walking?
My route begins at Ben Nevis before following the entirety of the West Highland Way to Glasgow. Next comes a long section through south-west Scotland, including part of the Southern Upland Way, to Annan and beyond to Carlisle, before enjoying the best of the Lakes on the Cumbria Way (with a quick detour up Scafell Pike). Then it’s a rather long urban slog from Kendal via Lancaster, Preston, St Helens, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port, before enjoying the coastal paths of North Wales and detouring inland to finish on Snowdon.
How did I create this route?
I have created this bespoke route myself, but it mostly follows the established route used by other competitors (and thanks to ultra-runner Alex Staniforth for sharing his route with me, after he narrowly missed on the record by just over an hour). The main route change I have made is to take the coastal paths of north Wales from Ellesmere Port towards Bangor via Prestatyn and Conwy, rather than opting for a more direct (but boring) road route through north-east Wales. Some runners also choose to take a ferry or train across the River Mersey at Birkenhead over to Liverpool, but I have chosen to walk across the Runcorn bridge further east – thus ensuring my entire journey is self-propelled. Throughout much of the route, it’d be faster for me to power along an A road, but I want to enjoy the hiking and have selected quieter trails wherever possible. Looking at stats on a navigation app, I think about 20-25% of the route will be on roads and 75% following off-road trails.
Which direction am I walking?
You can complete the National Three Peaks northbound or southbound, but I have chosen to start in Scotland and work my way south (mostly because it looks downhill on a map!).
What are the official start and end points?
I will start my tracker at the base of Ben Nevis next to the YHA – the official start of my route – and turn it off once I descend off Snowdon and arrive at Victoria Terrace in Llanberis, the official end. This approach is considered the most ‘authentic’ and mirrors how Alex Staniforth took on his running record attempt. The only official checkpoints I have to go through en-route are the three summits, but my online tracker will track my every move and log me through daily checkpoints.
What are the daily distances and ascents?
Day 1: Glen Nevis Campsite to Kingshouse, 48km, 2,391m
Day 2: Kingshouse to Beinn Glas, 50km, 705m
Day 3: Beinn Glas to Garadhban Forest, 42km, 744m
Day 4: Garadhban Forest to Glasgow, 42km, 196m
Day 5: Glasgow to Lesmagahow, 53km, 324m
Day 6: Lesmagahow to Brattleburn Bothy, 50km, 634m
Day 7: Brattleburn Bothy to Annan, 58km, 353m
Day 8: Annan to Caldbeck, 53km, 253m
Day 9: Caldbeck to Angle Tarn, 52km, 1,694m
Day 10: Angle Tarn to Kendal, 44km, 900m
Day 11: Kendal to Lancaster, 40km, 263m
Day 12: Lancaster to Preston, 45km, 33m
Day 13: Preston to St Helens, 45km, 375m
Day 14: St Helens to Ellesmere Port, 44km, 293m
Day 15: Ellesmere Port to Prestatyn, 51km, 50m
Day 16: Prestatyn to Penmaenmawr, 43km, 216m
Day 17: Penmaenmawr to Llanberis, 48km, 1,587m
How you can follow my journey?
You can view my live tracker here. I will also be updating my social media accounts throughout the journey.
A note about sponsors
A big thank you to Inov-8 for being the headline sponsor of my challenge.