You may have heard of the UK Three Peaks Challenge but have you heard of the UK Three Peaks Challenge by Bike? Neither had we so we decided to make it up. Like the infamous original challenge we will be climbing the three tallest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales, but, instead of driving from peak to peak we’ll be cycling. It’s going to be an epic 7 day and 500 mile hiking, cycling and camping extravaganza being done in September 2018 all to raise money for charity.
You may be thinking we’re experienced cyclists, or long distance runners or maybe even triathletes but we’re none of the above. We wanted to find the ultimate challenge in the UK and prove that two adventurous vegans could complete it in the most sustainable way possible. This was our answer. It has been done before, but not by many and definitely not by a proudly plant based team.
What is the Three Peaks Challenge by Bike?
The UK Three Peaks challenge is the world famous achievement of climbing Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales) in the shortest amount of time possible. Some people do it in less than 24 hours and some people take a lifetime. We thought the challenge sounded great but we didn’t like the idea of driving from peak to peak. In our eyes you’re causing a whole lot of unnecessary carbon emissions and missing out on all of the beauty in between. So, we subbed the car for two legs and two wheels and the Three Peaks Challenge by Bike was born.
Not only will we be cycling the 500 miles in between we’ll be completing the challenge unassisted. That means carrying everything we need on our bikes. This will make the adventure a whole lot more sustainable AND a whole lot harder. To make the challenge as green as possible we will also being getting as much of our gear as possible second hand.
We need to bring enough equipment to camp and survive the potentially snowy mountains, cook all of our food to keep us going on 13 hour days and fix any bike problems we have along the way. However, we also need to make sure we can cycle over 100 miles a day with all this gear, so it’s all about balance.
The challenge is to climb the 3 peaks and cycle the 500 miles in under 7 days. 7 really, really hard days.
Fail to plan and plan to fail…
Or something like that.
This is our 7 day plan, something I keep looking at and hearing a little voice inside my head saying “you’re bloody stupid”. They’re probably right. Our adventure will be starting with Snowdon as there is a stronger chance of tailwinds chasing us all the way up to Scotland (hopefully). We’ve got a map at the bottom which shows our destinations but not our exact route. We will be following National Cycle Routes which although will be much more enjoyable to cycle will add at least another 50 miles to the overall journey.
Hike – Snowdon (1085m), distance 8 miles, 6 hours
Cycle – 55 miles to Talacre, Wales, 5 hours
First thing in the morning we’ll climb Snowdon along the 8 mile Pyg track which takes the average person 6 hours. As soon as we’re done it’s time for a quick lunch, pack up our tent and then a 55 mile cycle to Talacre where we’ll camp for the night. The Pyg track is quite a continuous slog so we’re glad to have a relatively downhill albeit 5 hour cycle.
Cycle – 82 miles to Preston, 9 hours
This will be the first hard cycle so hopefully we’ll be feeling fresh from the previous day. It’s a relatively flat route so we’ll get our heads down to give us time for a good rest before the killer cycle the next day.
Cycle – 70 miles to campsite near Scafell Pike, 9+ hours, 1950m climb
Day 3 will most definitely be the most painful day on the bikes. Although the route is meant to be incredibly scenic it is also incredibly hilly and we will be climbing 1950m just to get to our campsite. As we live in one of the flattest parts of the UK it’s been tricky to find good hills for cycle training – this leg of the tour is going to be HARD.
Hike – Scafell Pike (978m), 6 miles, 6 hours
Cycle – 40 miles to Carlisle, 4 hours
Day 4 is looking to be our toughest cycling and hiking day. Although Scafell Pike is the smallest of the three peaks it’s arguably the hardest climb because it’s relentless and breaks into a scramble. Making our way down from the 6 hour hike we then move on to a 40 mile cycle to Carlisle which we will take REALLY SLOWLY. The Scafell Pike hike is going to take a lot out of us so we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning to give us time for a nice long rest and lunch before the cycle to Carlisle. We’ll be very excited to hit the border as neither of us have been to Scotland and this will be country number 30 on the list!
Cycle – 105 miles to Paisley, 11 + hours, 1050m climb
By this point our bodies will realise they’re in for a battering and should be getting used to the continuous punishment. That or they’ll refuse and start to break down. We plan to take this day extremely gently to recover from previous days and prepare for the final parts of the challenge.
Cycle – 103 to Fort William, 11 hours, 1386m climb
Another day of just cycling and the route is meant to be breathtaking! There is a 1386m climb to reach Fort William which we’re choosing to ignore and hope that our surroundings will distract us. Like the previous day we will leave early in the morning and travel at a comfortable pace as a rest. Taking a long break for lunch we aim to arrive in our campsite before 7pm to rest well before our final push.
Hike – Ben Nevis (1,345m), 8.5 miles, 6 hours
The final ascent to finish our Three Peaks Challenge by Bike! There will still be a short steep bike ride from our campsite to start the hike and then it’s a 6 hour round trip to stand at the tallest peak in the UK. Our final day will be on a Sunday so we’re hoping to have plenty of other hikers we can follow in our likely delirious states. If we get to this point it’ll be a miracle…
How hard is it going to be?
It’s going to be incredibly hard on many different levels. There is the obvious fact that we’ll be cycling over 100 miles in a day with over 20 kg of gear and climbing the tallest peaks in the UK. On some days we’ll be climbing over 2000m on our bikes and others we’ll have a 5 hour cycle as recovery after hiking for over 7 hours.
The weather will also have a huge impact on the challenge. All three peaks are prone to fogging over which makes navigating extremely hard. Temperatures will be very low and the wind chill factor means we’ll need to travel with plenty of thermal gear to keep us from freezing. If there is snow we need to be kitted out for it and that’s very difficult when trying to keep your packs light.
Weather aside another issue is that we have to cycle a lot further than the actual route. The route we’ve detailed doesn’t include cycling from campsites to the peaks and vice versa, it also doesn’t include lunch breaks and we love lunch breaks. Each peak requires cycling from the campsite to the start of the hiking route, completing the hike, cycling back to the campsite and packing up the tent and then beginning our cycle towards the next peak. This alone will add on another 10 miles for each peak. The route also doesn’t include distances and diversions to pick up food and supplies or any time spent lost. Let’s face it, this is probably going to happen a lot as we’re terrible at navigating on the bikes.
Why the hell are you doing it?
We love an adventure and we knew we wanted to raise money for charity (details below). Having seen some of the most incredible places around the world we appreciate how important it is to protect your surroundings. All of the money raised in our fundraising campaign will be going to Friends of the Earth, an amazing charity who work to keep this world beautiful. The money can be used to help fight the plastic pollution which is destroying our waters and protect the incredible habitats we hike and cycle through.
This Three Peaks Challenge by Bike has a tiny carbon footprint and we hope can promote sustainable lifestyles. Last year we decided to stop flying because of carbon emissions so we want to show that you can have awesome adventures on your front doorstep. If you want to read more about our sustainable cycling adventures then check out this article.
Really importantly, we’ve got a point to prove
We want to show that two tree hugging vegans can take on one of the hardest challenges the UK has to offer. Morals aside, in our opinion a vegan diet is the easiest step to a more sustainable life and this challenge will show that a vegan diet will help you conquer any challenge. No more of this “where do you get your protein from” malarkey. No matter where we are, or what we’re doing, we always make time for delicious and nutritious vegan food – the Three Peaks Challenge by Bike will be no different!
You must be training for it?
As soon as we decided on doing the Three Peaks Challenge by Bike we quickly got into training mode. The first thing we had to do was stop climbing as much. Having become seriously hooked with climbing up walls we had to accept that this was probably not ideal for the Three Peaks Challenge by Bike. As we’re busy with work, fundraising and the website we’ve been working with 2 longer and one shorter training sessions a week session. These have included a variety of hiking, cycling and running on any hills we can find along with some gym work.
I’ll post a more detailed article about our training but as an example this week we have
- 4 mile cross country run
- 7 mile hill interval training
- 70 mile cycle
The training has been incredibly hard in the heat. We love hot weather but trying to convince yourself to spend 8 hours on a bike at 30°c hasn’t been easy. None the less we’re getting through it and at the time of writing this article we have 8 more weeks to get us in fighting shape. All of our training is being logged on our Go Fund Me page and we’re also releasing weekly training vlogs.
Our fundraising campaign
As mentioned earlier this challenge is being done to raise money for an incredible charity. So far we have received a really humbling amount of love and support from friends, family, new friends and people from the other side of the world. When we’re trying to motivate ourselves to get out of bed on a blistering day and go and do some hill sprints, it’s your support which is making it a whole lot easier.
Please help support our cause by taking a look at our Go Fund Me page (click here or the link below), sharing it, telling your friends about it and, hopefully, making a donation. 100% of the money you donate goes straight to Friends of the Earth and if you appreciate travelling or the outdoors as much as we do then you’ll know it’s for a truly deserving cause.