THE BEST UK HIKING CHALLENGES
If you’re looking to get your heart pumping on your next hike, then check out these epic UK walking challenges. Physically and mentally demanding, they’ll put your stamina and speed to the test and get you pushing yourself in ways you didn’t know possible.
UK Three Peaks
Arguably one of the most famous UK hiking challenges, the UK Three Peaks involves ascending the highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales - Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon - in 24 hours.
As well as covering 23 miles on foot and scaling a total ascent of 3,062 metres, there’s the challenge of travelling 462 miles between the three peaks. Getting someone to drive for you is a must, as you’ll need to get some sleep as often as you can. Most people who have completed it say it’s the mental challenge and lack of sleep that’s harder than the actual walking – you’ve been warned!
The weather can also up the challenge, so you need gear for every eventuality. But since you’ll have a driver, you can carry extra bits in the car and even change between mountains to stay fresh and raring to go.
Most people choose to take on the challenge in self-organised groups, and although this is the cheapest way to do it, you’ll need to be confident navigating, have experience out on the mountains and a crew happy to drive and feed you along the way.
Alternatively, there are loads of organisations and charities offering trips throughout the year. You’ll pay a bit more, but you’ll get experienced mountain guides who have completed the challenge numerous times.
Up for a challenge?
Why not try completing the challenge using just public transport – not only does it make it tougher to do, but it’s better for the environment. The fastest time to date was set by Steven Holmes, who completed it in an impressive 27 hours 49 minutes in 2016.
Yorkshire Three Peaks
The Yorkshire Three Peaks takes you through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Scientific Interest and over three of the Yorkshire Dales' most iconic peaks: Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent.
A circular 24-mile route, it’s longer than the UK Three Peaks challenge, but the overall ascent of 1,600 metres is much lower and, with no driving in between, the challenge is to get this route done in just 12 hours. That means an average pace of 3.5km/h with a bit of time for a few breaks and a lunch stop.
If you’re a fell runner, why not take part in the annual race, which sees you take on the peaks at pace? The current men’s record stands at two hours 46 minutes and three seconds, was set by Andy Peace, of Bingley Harriers, in 1996. Another Harrier, Victoria Wilkinson, holds the women’s record with a time of three hours, nine minutes and 19 seconds.
If three peaks don't sound like quite enough, how about 15? The Welsh 3000s involves tackling all 15 mountains standing above 3,000ft in Wales in 24 hours, without using any form of transport.
The official ‘timed’ route is around 24-miles long, but since most start on top of Snowdon you can add at least another six miles to the overall distance you’ll have to cover.
There are lots of rocky stretches uphill and downhill, so staying on two feet can be a challenge in itself. Add to that a route that is tricky to navigate (unless you’re familiar with it) and exposed mountain conditions especially on Crib Goch, and you can see why it’s a challenge that’s only suitable for fit and experienced mountain walkers or runners.
As one of the most gruelling challenges on this list, for most, 24 hours is not enough time, but for hardcore fell runners, the current record stands at four hours and 10 minutes.
Lyke Wake Walk
Another Yorkshire route to add to your bucket list is the roughly 40-mile crossing of the North Yorkshire moors from Osmotherley to Ravenscar within 24 hours. The walk takes its name from the Lyke Wake Dirge, a traditional Yorkshire song describing the soul’s passage through purgatory, and if the stories are to be believed, the song is a reflection of how you’ll feel on completing the challenge.
The route can be started or finished at either end, and there is no official route as you make the crossing. For those thinking that sounds easy, be warned, the lack of route significantly ups the level of this challenge, as it’s down to you to make sure you don’t end up adding unnecessary miles. The club's only recommendation is to stick to high ground to stay on the best course.
Those who manage to complete it within 24 hours are eligible for membership to the Lyke Wake Walk Club, with men finishers known as dirgers and women as witches.
Brecon Beacons Horseshoe
The Brecon Beacons horseshoe is probably one of the easiest challenges on this list, with good accessibility, a relatively well-marked path and doable distance (just 10 miles). It’s great for those looking to start challenging themselves, as well as those preparing for some of the more hardcore routes.
That being said, it’s no walk in the park. Located in the heart of the Central Brecon Beacons, it takes in the park’s highest peaks: Corn Du (873m), Pen y Fan (886m), Cribyn (795m) and Fan y Big (719m). The weather is often unpredictable, and the route still requires preparation and respect, but the breathtaking views across the Brecons make up for it.
Those looking for a bigger adrenaline hit can opt for the less well-walked craggy routes that require some scrambling. Or, if you think it all sounds a bit too easy, you can sign up for the Fan y Big Horseshoe Race which sees you attempt to complete the route in the quickest time possible.
The Lakes 3000s
The Lakes 3000s involves tackling the four Lake District mountains that rises above 3,000ft: Skiddaw (3,054ft), Helvellyn (3,117ft), Scafell (3,162ft) and Scafell Pike (3,209ft). With more than 12,550ft of ascents and descents, challenging rocky paths and exposure to all weathers, it’s not for the fainthearted.
The good thing about this route is that it’s easy to choose the level of challenge you want. You can do the full 45 miles on foot, or travel by car or mountain bike between the mountains. If you’re planning to complete it on foot, the challenge is to do it within 24 hours, so it’s best to organise a crew who can meet you at points along the way with much-needed sustenance.
You may have already guessed it, but this challenge sees you scale all the mountains above 4,000ft in the Cairngorms National Park. As well as the Park’s largest mountain Ben Macdui, you’ll take on Cairn Gorm, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochan Uaine and Braeiach, covering approximately 22 miles.
The terrain in this area varies hugely, as does the weather. Be prepared to be on well-marked paths over heather-clad moorland in sunshine one minute and on arctic-like tundras and exposed conditions as you reach the plateau. Navigation skills are a must, as although much of the route is pretty obvious, there are sections where you’ll need to keep track of where you’re heading.
The quickest time recorded for this route is under four hours, so the bar is set pretty high. But, in our opinion, this is one route you don’t want to rush. Make the most of the dramatic scenery and split it over two days and wild camp overnight. The distance is easier but carrying all your camping gear definitely adds to the challenge.
Get geared up for your challenge
If you’re itching to head to the mountains and give one of these routes a go, make sure you’ve got all the gear you’ll need to tackle the conditions. From walking boots and shoes to waterproofs and layers, we’ve got everything you’ll need to be up for the challenge. Plus, we offer free in-store appointments and fitting services, so you can speak to our in-store experts and get the best advice and fit.
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