24 hour 3 Peaks... is it possible?
We’ve been organising the 3 Peaks Challenge for a decade now so I guess I am as well placed as anyone to have a go at tackling this question.
The first time I completed the 3 Peaks Challenge myself, I was part of a 3-man team with a dedicated car driver. We completed the challenge in less than 18 hours so the starting position for me is that I know first-hand that it is achievable.
But what about with groups and with slower moving vehicles; is the 3 Peaks Challenge possible within the 24-hour window? Well, the simple answer is yes, I’ve seen it done. The more interesting question is however, is it probable? Well that depends…
There are so many variables that can influence timings during the challenge including weather, road works, injury and fitness levels. For the purpose of this blog and to estimate the probability of success I will analyse just two variables that are always there – group size and vehicle type.
Small group with car - 80%
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that chances of completing the challenge are best with a small group in a vehicle that can drive at the speed limit with no restrictions.
The problem with this option is that you are left to your own resources to organise, navigate and support the challenge. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this option without someone in the team having prior experience of the challenge and a dedicated driver. Ideally someone in the team should have navigational skills and first aid knowledge to provide the very basic level of support on the mountains.
Small group with 9-seater – 75%
A medium size vehicle is a good option for completing the challenge in 24-hours. With enough space for a mountain leader and other equipment, the speed of the vehicle can be the same as a car with no limiting restrictions. Additional seats enable the cost to be spread more broadly across the group making the challenge more affordable to do with a professional company.
10-14 participants in 17-seater minibus – 50%
Here is where the task gets more challenging because the two variables have been stretched significantly. The pace of the overall group can ultimately only be the same as the pace of the slowest participant. With more group members, the chances of a slower speed naturally increase. Along with the potential of a reduced pace, there is now a larger and slower vehicle which is restricted to 60mph.
15-28 participants in 17-seater minibuses – 30%
Whilst the vehicle speed is no different from the previous option, we are now faced with potentially double the number of participants. This therefore brings a significantly higher chance of a slower pace and an increased risk of some sort of issue within the group such as injury, sickness or someone not keeping time at a service station. With a larger group of people, it isn’t just the pace that becomes the problem but the transition time. The more people there are in the group, the higher the chances of delays in transition and service stops.
Whilst I don’t want to talk myself out of business, we do have an obligation to be realistic about the chances of success on our open 24hr 3 Peaks Challenges.
It is possible to complete the challenge in less than 24 hours with all group sizes and different vehicles, but the probability does change based on different variables.
We have organised the 3 Peaks Challenges for groups of 6 participants all the way up to 75. Of all the 24-hour attempts, I would estimate about 40% have been achieved within the time frame.
2018 24-Hour Timings
From 2018, we will be changing the way we measure our 24-hour attempts and set the driving time to 11 hours, therefore leaving 13 hours to conquer the three mountains. This means we have more flexibility in transitions and pressure is removed from the driving legs of the challenge. The change will also protect our time from many potential delays from circumstances out of our control.
There are multiple factors that can affect group speed on the mountains but as a rule of thumb we loosely use the following as a guide for a 24-hour pace:
Ben Nevis – 5 hours
Scafell – 4 Hours
Snowdon – 4 hours
In some circumstances, it may be necessary for us to turn participants around on the mountain if they are unable to keep up with the required pace and the rest of the group.
As well as our public 36-hour and 24-hour challenges 3 Peaks Challenge, Challenge Central also provides private challenges with bespoke itineraries.
Let’s get on those mountains!