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Opting Out: Decoding Our National Three Peaks Challenge Decision

Posted by Eva Bryan on 24-Apr-2024 12:44:21

With the focus turning ever more towards responsible tourism and growing noise about over-tourism around the world, we believe that it’s our duty to ensure we care for the environments closer to home, too.

Over the years, participants and charities alike have requested that we run the National Three Peaks Challenge. The event's allure has drawn crowds for decades, with droves of trekkers descending on the majestic landscapes of Scafell Pike, Snowdon, and Ben Nevis. Yet behind this seemingly uncontroversial event is a web of negative impacts stretching these breathtaking regions to their limits.

Snowdon Summit

What is the National Three Peaks Challenge?

The challenge itself entails teams scaling the highest summits in each of Britain’s nations: Ben Nevis (1,344m) in Scotland, Scafell Pike (978m) in England and Snowdon (1,085m) in Wales. Participants typically strive to complete the three within a tight 24-hour window, shuttling between peaks. The 24-hour climbs usually start with Ben Nevis in the evening, Scafell Pike early the following morning, and Snowdon mid-late afternoon. The journey spans an estimated 42 kilometres, ascending to a total of 9,800 feet.

What are the issues?

Despite its popularity as a fundraising event, we at Discover Adventure have opted to steer clear from organising this particular challenge. Our stance stems from a recognition of the negative effects it has on local communities and environments, a sentiment shared by national parks, local authorities, landowners and residents. The collective resistance to the event has resulted in the implementation of stricter management protocols, prompting the Institute of Fundraising to advocate for alternative, more sustainable fundraising events. There are a range of economic, social and environmental impacts, some of which we’ve listed below.



The influx of hundreds of people, peaking at a staggering 30,000 annually in 2020, imposes a substantial burden on local communities, particularly arrivals during the night at Scafell Pike. The event’s 24-hour format, coupled with participants often limited experience, has strained local rescue services, exacerbating the challenge for both residents and authorities.


Teams embarking on the challenge seldom allocate time or resources to bolster the local businesses during their whirlwind adventure. This translates to minimal economic benefits for residents, as cafes, shops, and other services remain largely untouched by participants.



The challenge’s frequency, especially from May to October, exacts a heavy toll on the surrounding ecosystems. Increased foot traffic accelerates path erosion, with a single hour of heavy use causing ten times the damage that would occur in an entire week. Moreover, issues such as litter pollution and inadequate sanitation facilities further compound environmental concerns.

Snowdonia litter-bugs asked: 'Why did you litter our mountains?' - BBC News


The 'challenge' 

A large part of the challenge (and perhaps the most challenging bit) is the countless hours spent in a vehicle travelling between destinations, trapped on motorways and busy country lanes. The "time limit" of 24 hours adds to the strain, raises safety concerns, and ultimately diminishes the beauty and enjoyment of these mountains that you get by taking a slower pace and STILL challenging yourself with the climb. 


DA & Responsible Tourism

At Discover Adventure, we’ve always been committed to responsible and sustainable travel. Prioritising the people and places that we visit is number one on our agenda, which applies to challenges closer to home and further afield.

When it comes to the National Three Peaks Challenge, we wholeheartedly agree with the calls for alternative fundraising events that go towards having a positive impact. Our UK-based trekking challenges offer participants the chance to support local economies through the use of accommodation, catering services and amenities, all while treading lightly on the environment. Not to mention our 'Leave No Trace' policy. Our trips often span multiple days, allowing for a more immersive experience as well as having a tangible positive impact on the communities we encounter.


Y3P Discover Adventure 3


Check out these alternatives: 

Yorkshire Three Peaks Weekend 

Y3P Discover Adventure 5-1 

As you traverse the rugged terrain of the Yorkshire Dales, the beauty of the scenery around you acts as a distraction for the challenge ahead. Unlike its counterpart, the National Three Peaks Challenge, this journey not only tests your physical endurance with its 24-mile distance but also champions sustainability. By choosing this trek, you're opting for a more environmentally conscious adventure, treading lightly on the land while immersing yourself in local landscapes. Join us as we embrace the challenge and leave a positive footprint.


Jurassic Coast Weekend

Jurassic Coast DA_

Unlike the National Three Peaks Challenge, our journey begins with a nod to sustainability as you can easily reach the start point by train, minimizing your carbon footprint from the outset. Marvel at the diverse landscapes shaped over millions of years, with quiet, clean paths flanked by a patchwork of wildflowers and protected grasslands - There are plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities along this beautiful and wild stretch of coastline. Rest assured, our overnight stay is at a locally owned and operated campsite. 


More reading: 

In our continued efforts to do the right thing, we regularly research our challenges to gauge sentiments from local residents, communities and authorities. And in our research, we read the following articles that we thought you might enjoy: 

So, join us as we choose more sustainable alternatives, safeguarding the natural beauty of our island for generations to come!



If you've read all of this and still think the National Three Peaks is the challenge for you, we'd urge you to check out Three Peaks Partnership for advice, information and as much help as possible to enable you to plan a safe and sustainable challenge.