Thinking of signing up to the Three Peaks Challenge? You’re in luck. WhoSki.com’s Sally is freshly back with insider tips on conquering the UK’s three peaks in just 24 hours.
Read on for her women’s guide to the Three Peaks Challenge, with the low-down on those less-discussed issues you’re dying to know about but may feel a tad awkward in asking…
Sally writes: There were three topics that came up again and again among our eight-strong all-women group in the run-up to our Three Peaks Challenge:
- Loo stuff
Weirdly, these seemed to preoccupy us more than the training. Probably because they aren’t addressed on many blogs, which focus on how to prepare for the event through exercise, steps, hill walking and nutrition.
So here are my women-focused pointers for a Three Peaks Challenge newbie worried about what to wear and take, where you’re going to ‘go’ and what you need to eat to conquer a very challenging 2,957m of altitude over 26 miles in 24 hours.
Let’s start with kit
‘Pack light, don’t overthink it.’
- Take walking poles and use them; you may sound like a clippy-clop horse on your gallop to the summit, but using them takes SOOOO much pressure off your knees. I borrowed walking poles from my sister and they were a godsend.
- Pack a spare t-shirt and pair of knickers to change into for your final ascent. Simply swapping into a fresh top and pants was a massive mood and energy booster. Forget changing your trousers or shorts, though – it’s not necessary.
- Carry some handy wipes (biodegradable, of course) and a small roll-on deodorant for a swift freshen-up during loo breaks.
- Take a light blanket for the mini-bus. It was a hot weekend for our Three Peaks Challenge, so I pulled my blanket over my head to block out light while resting on the journey between ascents.
- Glasses – a total pain in the backside. I kept misplacing mine on the dark minibus; take varifocals if possible and keep them in an easily accessible pocket.
- If you want to take photos (bear in mind that if you’re taking your Three Peaks Challenge seriously, you won’t have time to stop during ascents and descents), keep your phone / camera in a pouch on your front so you can easily grab it for on-the-go photography.
- Comfort is key when it comes to walking boots. Our final, relentless walk down Snowdon was the one that created the most foot problems – blisters on toes and bruised big toes (easily hidden using nail varnish). Socks are also so important: do not skimp on them.
- Check your head torch at home before you set off on your Three Peaks Challenge. Wear it at night and in action to get the angle right to illuminate the path ahead of you.
- Use a heel insert if you suffer any pain during training. I bought some Skechers Arch Fit trainers and wore them every day before the walk. They removed all my pain within 10 days, meaning the training played havoc with my feet, but the challenge didn’t!
- Borrow kit or buy second-hand when you can – how often will you re-use walking poles or waterproof trousers? And clearly you should re-sell any kit after your event, if you’re not going to need them again. The WhoSki.com marketplace is a great place to do so!
- We went with a Three Peaks Challenge company that provided a thorough kit list; make sure you take everything listed or you will not be allowed up those mountains.
- I reckon I spent most of my time beforehand visualising what food I would be eating and when, and fretting about whether it would fit the mark to keep my blood sugar levels consistent. All our Three Peaks Challenge pre-meetings included long conversations about food.
- Our guides provided snacks, but do supplement these with your own snack choices. Make sure they are easy to grab while you walk and avoid anything too dry as they will be hard to swallow. (My bag of Cheddars didn’t do it for me, as I discovered…)
- The guides we went with didn’t supply bananas as they were concerned about the skins being discarded then decomposing too slowly and in the wrong place. I would have killed for a banana en route…
- Experiment with different snacks before you set off. I visited Holland & Barrett for the first time in my life, and discovered that they had some great options for a non-nut eater like me.
- Being unable to clean your teeth en route is horrid, especially with all that snacking. Chewing gum is the perfect mouth refresher during coach trips between peaks – also a good ice breaker to share with fellow walkers.
- Disappointingly, there was no cup of tea or bacon butty for us at the end of the final mountain, so make sure you plan an early pit-stop on your journey home.
toilet stuff: we all have to do it…
- If you are an all-women team, expect to queue. You literally cannot take a quick pee anywhere, on any of the mountains: there are basically ZERO trees and bushes to squat behind. Then, after you and everyone’s auntie have saved it up for hours, you will descend en masse for the paltry three public toilets – cross your legs, it can take a while.
- Being on your period during your Three Peaks Challenge would be really tough. You may have to go for up to five hours without access to a loo. It is worth investigating whether there is any way you can manipulate your menstrual cycle to avoid having your period while you are walking. At the foot of Snowdon, our final peak, we ended up in a car park so early in the morning that no loos were open.
- Farting: yes you will fart. You will all fart and you’ll smell other people’s farts. But you won’t care. The snacks play havoc with your gut as does the sleep deprivation, the altitude and the lack of sanitary arrangements on demand (see above). We all talked a lot about farting. Just make sure it’s not the only topic of conversation. We all do it but that doesn’t mean we all want to talk about it the whole time…
- Pooing – make sure you carry your own loo roll as the car park loos are often lacking paper or the dispensers don’t work (as I found out. Big shout-out to my Three Peaks teamies who responded to my pleas for help…).
I was lucky to be walking in a super-supportive Three Peaks Challenge group of women I regularly exercise with through FitState. We took it seriously, but not TOO seriously and felt able to admit ‘I could have thrown in the towel walking down Ben Nevis’ – ie our first peak – and still be picked up again by companions. Support and logistics would have been pretty difficult without doing the Three Peaks Challenge as part of an organised group.
The rest times en route between mountains really do re-energise you. Even when you pile onto the bus after a tough peak and think you can’t take another step, you’ll be surprised by how the journey puts things into perspective.
Lastly, I 100% recommend you share private transport – we had a mini-bus – on the way home. You’ll stink, be knackered and the public probably won’t want to be near you. But you can stop for a McDonald’s or a Greggs and not feel bad about it. And you can laugh to your heart’s content at your AMAZING shared experiences, however gruelling they felt at the time.
Now I’m back home, our achievement is still slowly sinking in – what we went through and how far we travelled together, with joyous flashbacks to some hilarious situations and memories of awe-inspiring scenery.
That will stay with me for a long, long time.
Sally walked the Three Peaks Challenge in aid of teenage mental health, raising money for WhoSki.com’s charity partner stem4. Visit her Just Giving page here if you wish to donate. We give a proportion of our commission on every sale via the WhoSki.com marketplace to stem4.