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Why having a mountain guide is important for the National Three Peaks Challenge

The National Three Peaks Challenge consists of walking up and down the highest mountains in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Yr Wyddfa/ Snowdon), often within 24 hours.


Mountain guides increase the chances of successfully completing the National Three Peaks Challenge on time and in a safe and enjoyable manner. Engaging in their services is highly recommended for parties with limited mountaineering experience.


National Three Peaks mountain guide on Snowdon

What is the role of a mountain guide in the National Three Peaks Challenge?

Completing this challenge requires proper planning, navigation, pacing and safety considerations. A mountain guide is a specialist in each of these areas. Their role typically includes the following:

  • Expertise and Experience: Mountain guides are trained professionals who work in the mountains on a regular basis. They have experienced all conditions and situations you are likely to encounter. They have extensive knowledge of the tallest mountains in each county, the best mountain track based on the conditions, terrain, mountain weather, and potential hazards of the three peaks.

  • Safety and Risk Management: The safety of participants is the top priority for a mountain guide. They assess the risks before the challenge and are constantly carrying out dynamic risk assessments and take appropriate measures to minimize potential dangers.

  • Navigation: The mountain guide is responsible for route planning and leading the group up the correct paths to each summit. They ensure participants stay on the designated trails and avoid getting lost, especially in challenging conditions such as poor visibility.

  • Pacesetter: The guide sets a suitable pace for the group to maintain, ensuring that certain locations are reached within certain times. This ensures participants don't fall behind and have enough time to complete each peak within the 24-hour timeframe. They manage breaks and rest stops strategically to maintain efficiency.

  • Motivation and Support: Climbing the three highest peaks within 24 hours can be physically and mentally demanding, especially by the time you get to the final peak. The mountain guide provides encouragement and support to maintain motivation throughout the challenge. Their knowledge of timeframes is invaluable, knowing when to push to keep you on track and when to ease off to maintain energy levels.

  • First Aid and Emergency Response: In case of any injuries or emergencies, the mountain guide is trained and qualified in outdoor first aid and knows how to handle medical situations. They also carry specialist first aid and group safety equipment and can prevent incidents such as slips and trips on difficult sections or even hypothermia before they occur.

  • Environmental Considerations: Mountain guides promote responsible and sustainable practices to and on the mountains, emphasizing the importance of leaving no trace.

  • Group Management: The mountain guide ensures that the group stays together and maintains a good pace, level of energy expenditure and comfort throughout the challenge. They manage different abilities and ensure everyone's safety and well-being.


A group of walkers on the National Three Peaks

What groups or individuals would benefit from hiring a mountain guide?

Having a mountain guide for the National 3 Peaks Challenge is especially beneficial for participants with limited experience of the British mountains.


Their advice and familiarity of the challenge prior to and during the event significantly increase the chances of success, especially within the 24-hour timeframe.


Solo walker on one of the mountains of the National 3 Peaks Challenge

Can you do the National Three Peaks without a guide?

Experienced mountain walkers with knowledge of the hazards experienced in the mountains and the skills to navigate in darkness and poor visibility can attempt the challenge without a guide.


However, it is highly recommended that individuals without this knowledge, experience and skills, especially the relevant navigation skills, engage the services of a guide to ensure safety, limit environmental impact and increase the chances of success.


Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in Scotland
Ben Nevis, Scotland

What are the advantages of hiring a mountain guide for the National 3 Peaks Challenge?

Hiring a mountain guide for the National 3 Peaks Challenge offers several advantages that can greatly increase the chances of success, limit risk and enhance the overall experience. Here are some of the key advantages:


Organisation

Depending on the level of service required and budget, you can organise a separate guide for each mountain in Scotland, the Lake District and Snowdonia National Park. Alternatively, you can get a 3 Peaks guiding company like Walk Snowdonia to organise all the mountain guides.


Good guiding companies will provide you with information and offer advice before the challenge, including kit lists and recommendations, nutrition advice, a training plan, parking instructions and more.


Many operators run organised events which include transport and sometimes accommodation taking the hassle out of planning allowing you to focus on the training and hiking.


Time Management

Completing the Three Peaks Challenge within the 24-hour timeframe requires efficient time management. This includes not setting off too quickly and burning out on the first mountain.


Guides are experienced and skilled at setting a suitable pace. They will keep you on track by reaching certain locations by certain times. To do this, they manage speed and breaks appropriately and know sections and times to push and to ease off. This manages time and energy appropriately with the overall objective in mind.


Map reading skills

The Three Peaks Challenge involves navigating through some of the most rugged and hostile environments in the UK in conditions often not experienced by many hillwalkers. This could include poor weather with reduced visibility and will almost certainly include hiking at night.


A guide who knows the routes inside out will lead the way, ensuring that participants stay on the correct paths and avoid wrong turns saving valuable time and energy.


Expertise

Mountain guides have extensive knowledge of challenge events, each mountain and hiking in general. They will offer advice on kit and equipment before the walk. What not to take is nearly as important as what you do take especially on the 24-hour challenge.


A good guide will offer useful tips on efficient movement to reduce energy expenditure, when and how to refuel, how to manage aches and pains and much more.


Safety

Mountain guides are trained and experienced professionals who prioritise safety. They are well-versed in risk management and assess the conditions and potential hazards along the routes.


Having a guide significantly reduces the risk of accidents before they occur. They have specialist Outdoor First Aid training and qualifications so they can provide immediate assistance in case of injuries or medical issues. They will also carry specialist group safety equipment in addition to a basic first aid kit.


Their preparedness can be crucial in remote areas where professional help may be far away and a long time coming.


Motivation and support

Climbing three mountains is physically and mentally demanding. Mountain guides provide encouragement and support, helping participants stay motivated and focused on completing the challenge.


They can encourage you when you are struggling and push you to reach certain locations within certain times.


They know when is a good time to take on fuel and what type of fuel your body needs and will advise on this prior to and during the challenge.


Group management

If you're participating as part of a group, a guide will manage the dynamics within the team.

They accommodate different abilities and ensure everyone stays together, promoting a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.


Local knowledge

Most guides are locals who can share interesting facts and stories about each mountain, local area and culture, enhancing the overall experience of the 13 hours or so of walking on the challenge.


Fun and sociable

Every guide we have met does the job because they love the outdoors and mountains in particular. All of the guides who work for us love people and love chatting.


Having a new guide on each mountain is a breath of fresh air and will motivate the group with their enthusiasm making the experience more enjoyable.


Benefiting communities

You will be providing paid work to people who live in the local area as well as contributing to the local economy, where tourism is a major part of the economy.


Environmental Stewardship

Mountain guides and companies that operate National 3 Peaks events typically adhere to responsible and sustainable practices in the mountains and minimise the impact on local communities.


They will ensure events adhere to Leave No Trace principles, promoting the preservation of the natural environment. This includes managing footpath erosion, parking appropriately, donating a small percentage to each mountain and following the Three Peaks Partnership guidelines.


Scafell Pike, the biggest peak in England
Scafell Pike, England

How do I choose a mountain guide?

Choosing mountain guides is an important decision, as they will play a crucial role in ensuring your safety, enjoyment, and success.


Here are some steps to help you choose:

  • Level of service: Consider how much organisation you wish to do yourself or how much you would like to outsource to individual guides or guiding companies.

  • Cost and inclusions: Compare the costs and services offered. Consider what is included in the guiding package, such as transport, accommodation, and meals. The more inclusions the higher the price.

  • Join a group: Joining a group is usually cheaper, especially for individuals. They are on set dates and are a great way to meet like-minded hikers. 24 hour challenges usually have cut-off times. This has the benefit of increasing the likelihood of success but simultaneously the disadvantage of not completing the challenge if you are slow on one section.

  • Get a guide for you and your friends: Hiring a guide for a group you have organised can be cheaper when the cost is divided between the group. It also ensures you are not relying on the speed and fitness of strangers and gives you the flexibility to choose your own date.

  • Credentials and certifications: They should hold a valid Mountain Leader Award as well as first aid and insurance.

  • Read reviews and testimonials: Look for online reviews or testimonials from previous clients. Positive reviews and feedback are a good indication of reliability and quality of service.

  • Experience and expertise: Verify the company or guide's experience and track record. Consider factors such as the number of years they have been guiding, the number of successful trips completed, and their familiarity with the specific mountains. Experienced guides are better equipped to handle unexpected situations and ensure a smooth trip.

  • Recommendations: Ask for referrals from friends, family, or fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Gut Feeling: Ultimately, trust your instincts and choose a guide with whom you feel comfortable and confident. A good rapport with your guide can enhance the overall experience of your mountain adventure.

By conducting thorough research, asking the right questions, and carefully considering your needs, you can find a competent and reliable mountain guide who will ensure a safe and enjoyable mountain challenge.


Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales
Yr Wyddfa - Snowdon, Wales

Book your challenge with a professional mountain guide today

Maximise your chance of success and organise a bespoke National Three Peaks Challenges. This is ideal for small groups.


Simply call or send a quick message for a tailored quote based on the level of service you require.


Alternatively, take a look at our National Three Peaks Challenge page for more info.


National Three Peaks organiser

Conclusion

Engaging in the services offered by mountain guides increases the chance of success and manages the risks & hazards found in mountain environments.


There are different levels of service, from mountain guide-only options to more package-type offerings.


FAQs about employing mountain guides


Are mountain guides expensive?

The cost of hiring mountain guides for the National Three Peaks Challenge varies depending on several factors; including the size of the group, duration of the trip, level of service provided, and the inclusions offered.


It’s good to shop around and compare offerings from different providers. Some guiding services may offer all-inclusive packages that cover transportation, accommodation, and meals, while others provide basic guiding on the mountain.


While hiring a mountain guide for the National Three Peaks Challenge represents an additional expense, many participants find the investment worthwhile due to the increased safety, expert guidance and higher chances of successfully completing the challenge.


What qualifications should a mountain guide have?

Mountain guides for the National Three Peaks Challenge should hold the Mountain Leader Award (ML). This is the industry standard qualification from Mountain Training which demonstrates competence in the relevant skills and has experience leading summer walking parties in the mountains of Great Britain.


They should also hold an up-to-date First Aid certificate.


Are mountain guides insured for the National 3 peaks?

Mountain guides for the National three peaks should have up-to-date professional public liability insurance.


How dangerous is the National 3 Peaks?

Although there are no official figures kept on the number of people attempting the National 3 Peaks or getting injured on the challenge, statistically, mountain walking is relatively safe.


That said, since 2016, there have been an average of 4.75 deaths per year on Ben Nevis alone, with 2017 being particularly bad with 7 fatalities. Many of these are a result of people getting lost in bad weather and falling down cliffs.


Can you drive the National 3 Peaks yourself?

The 3 Peaks Challenge consists of 462 miles of driving in addition to all the mountain walking and lack of sleep. For this reason, it is a very good idea to have a designated driver who isn't taking part in the challenge.


Challenge yourself to become a mountain expert and take a look at some of our other blog posts...

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