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3 Peaks Challenge - Should you attempt the 24 or 36 Hour pace?

Challenge Central offers two versions of the 3 Peaks Challenge, either the 24-itinerary or the 36-hour challenge, so which one is for you?

It probably goes without saying that the 24-hour pace is more challenging than the 36-hour version but how much harder is it really?

Obviously the toughness of the challenge is subjective and depends on personal factors of the participants including fitness level and trekking experience to measure how tough someone finds the challenge.

Essentially the 24-hour is achievable but it is very demanding, not only do we need to move quickly on the mountains but also the transition time between the mountains needs to be slick. With 12 hours allocated to driving and 30 minutes in total for transition time between mountains, we are left with just 11.5 hours for actual trekking. Ben Nevis takes the lion share of the time with slightly less for Scafell and less again for Snowdon but the average time for each mountain is just under 4 hours each.

With the timing in mind, a great assessment of your current fitness level would be the ability to complete a mountain over 1000m (and back to sea level) in less than 4 hours. This is by far the best type of fitness assessment as it is relevant to the challenge at hand. That said, this challenge involves three big mountains so you should still have plenty in the tank after the assessment.

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks and Welsh 3 Peaks are two other challenges we organise, which would be excellent training weekends or valid assessment for the 24 Hour National 3 Peaks.

Fundamentally, the 24-hour challenge is tough and training must be taken seriously to prepare for the event. Training in the gym is better than no training at all but relevant training is always best. Our advice is to get out in the hills and get walking with your kit on, focusing on a descent pace throughout.

In contrast, the 36-hour pace is less time pressured and much more relaxed with plenty of time for photos and enjoying the scenery. In most cases we are finished before the 36-hour mark but the extra time is there if we need it.

Whilst still a tough challenge, the absent of the time pressure allows participants with a reasonable level of fitness to take on the challenge whilst keeping a steady pace.

In summary the 24-hour challenge should only be attempted by challengers with a high level of fitness and preferably with trekking experience, even if it’s just as part of your training. Ideally we like to meet all challengers beforehand either at one of our Information Evenings or another trekking challenge which is perfect preparation - Welsh 3 Peaks, Snowdon Trek, Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Here our guides can see you in action and you can receive some key advice on training, preparation and equipment.

For those less worried about the pace and more focussed on the achievement of the challenge itself then the 36-hour itinerary is perfect for you. The challenge is much more suitable for mixed ability groups and a favourite for charity fundraising and corporate team building.

If you’re opting for the 36hr version, this doesn’t mean you get out of the training unfortunately, as it is still essential if you want to complete all three mountains! After all, the only difference between the itineraries is the pace, you still need to be able to walk 25 miles and ascend over 3400m. Also, the fitter you are the more likely to you are to able to enjoy challenge and the speculator scenery.

Look forward to seeing you on the mountains.