Climbing The British Three Peaks in the Dark
Q. We have a party of five attempting British 3 peaks in a couple of weekends. Obviously with the days becoming shorter we will need to walk one of the mountains in darkness. I am interested to know if for any reason, any of the three mountains are not permitted to be walked at night?
Darren Radford, Yeovil
A. Well, if you are going to complete the challenge in 24 hours, your will have to climb at least one of the mountains in the dark. And because Scafell Pike lies between Ben Nevis and Snowdon - and because climbing Scafell Pike is the shortest walk with the lowest ascent of the three - most people choose to do the climb up Scafell Pike in the dark.
There is no law preventing you from doing this - but the locals in the Wasdale area are starting to get mighty sick and tired of people tearing through their villages in the dead of night every weekend, banging car doors, playing loud music and generally being thoroughly inconsiderate and obnoxious.
I have heard tell that on occasions when it all gets a bit too much all access routes to Wasdale get mysteriously blocked by abandoned tractors and assorted farm machinery!
So, while there is nothing to prevent you from climbing mountains in the dark - a little respect for the people who live there is an absolute must.
There isn't a single walk that includes the highest points in England (Scafell Pike), Scotland (Ben Nevis) and Wales (Snowdon) because the distance between each mountain is too great. (Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike is some 300km (188 miles) and Scafell Pike to Snowdon is another 240km (150 miles) or so!).
So you can either do all three mountains as a one day challenge - i.e. climbing all three mountains within a single 24 hour period by driving between each mountain and running up and down. This is of course quite tiring and you'll be doing at least one of them in the dark!
Alternatively, you can walk to all three summits as three separate walks on three separate days.
If you want to go for the 24 hour challenge option - then you will need to follow the shortest, straight-up and down route (and no sneaking a peek at the scenery):
For Ben Nevis (Scotland) walk: h100 Ben Nevis via The Tourist Path from Achintee, Fort William
For Scafell Pike (England) walk: c111 Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head, Wast Water
For Snowdon (Wales) walk: gw100 Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) from Pen y Pass
If you prefer to climb these three mountains at a more leisurely pace (and in the daylight) then any one of the following routes would suit your purposes.
NB. All the above walk routes have downloadable GPS Waypoint files.
NNB. The Carn Mor Dearg Arete (Ben Nevis) and Crib Goch (Snowdon) are narrow edges with steep drops on both sides. They are not for the faint hearted and not recommended at all in thick weather.
Hope this helps
A. Hi Neil,
Having recently completed the Three Peaks (one a day over three days) I would agree with the recommendation of following the walks listed above.
I do not know if you have walked any of the mountains before and just how happy you are with the routes?
Ben Nevis is a straight forward yomp following a very established track, and as long as you turn right rather than left when you reach the tarn you will struggle to go wrong (excepting terrible weather of course), especially with the long line of fellow pilgrims that will no doubt be trekking up ahead of you.
It is lovely to reach the peak when it is crowned in snow, and this is by far the hardest and highest walk. Eat at the pub (looks like a barn) at the bottom, cracking food!
Snowdon again is walking by numbers, just follow the PYG track and do not make the mistake of going all the way up to Crib Goch as that will make your walk a whole lot more interesting (again easily avoided, just head left and continue past Llyn Llydaw - the lovely lake at the bottom of the mountain).
Do not buy a sausage butty at the cafe - poor quality and overpriced, even to a hungry walker.
Scafell Pike from Wasdale is far shorter than walking from Seathwaite, although a lot more up. Once you are on the route up it is straight forward, with a great scramble up a pile of scree.
At the top of this, turn left to head up to the peak and note the reddish rock colouration around here, as this really helps you on the way down (I have heard tales of walkers heading down into the wrong valley, so keep your eyes open - easy if you are watching out for it).
Make sure you eat at the Wasdale Inn - if the lamb stew is on it is great!
Good luck and enjoy them all.
Michael Love, Morecambe
A. My answer would be climb the mountain you know the best, which was my mistake, after doing the three peaks solo. I got slightly lost on Scarfell Pike [sic] in the dark, but lucky I took a compass reading to help off the power station (probably Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant, Ed), which again luckily I could see because though it was dark it was not foggy....lucky me.
If your going to climb all three and you don't manage it in 24hrs, don't feel disheartened, I did it solo and it took me 36hrs 26mins.
But climbing in the dark, I would say make sure your well equipped for a night out if all fails. It is better to stay where you are and know your position, or even close to where people know your going to be, than miles out of your way.....Stay safe and don't let your desire be your disaster. .....Don't forget mountains will always be there, you might not, stay safe and be well equipped,
Gareth Stevens, Newport