Walking the National Three Peaks in Winter

Most Three Peak Challenges take place when there’s plenty of daylight in May, June and July. There’s nothing stopping you Walking the Winter Three Peaks, but you’ll need to be aware of a few things that make it even more of a challenge!

1 – It will be dark.

Days will be short, and the usual itineraries are out of the window. You’ll need fine head-torches as well as some keen night navigational skills.

2 – Be Prepared for Snow.

Tackling the National 3 Peaks in Winter is one thing, but in winter conditions is a totally different beast. Snow and ice underfoot makes it essential that you know what you’re doing on a winter mountain. You’ll need to carry winter condition equipment such as Ice Axe and Crampons, and you’ll be proficient in their use. Check out our Winter Skills section on Mud and Routes for an idea of what skills you’ll need to learn. You’ll need to practice these skills with an experienced winter walker, or pay for a winter skills course.

You’ll also be aware of your walking speed in snow – usually a load slower than normal summer conditions. The lower the snowline, the slower the going. A quick summer trip up Snowdon would take us 3 hours, and nearer 8 in full on winter conditions!

It’s a given that Ben Nevis will have snow on the summit plateau during the winter – so snow isn’t something to consider as a possibility, it’s something you’ll be dealing with.

3 – Be Properly Kitted out.

Not just for snow, but your kit needs to be suitable for anything the winter mountains can throw at you. Don’t expect to get away with cheap boots and a £20 waterproof. You’ll need good winter clothing, and you’ll need spares! We suggest reading through the Mud and Routes Winter Hill Walking Kitlist for further information.

4 – Road conditions.

Winter conditions on the roads will slow you down. Much of the route is Motorway, but it does have some sections that climb to a significant height. The A82 can be closed off completely due to snow, with alternative routes being even longer.

You don’t need snow to slow you down, as heavy rain and strong winds can also add significant travel time to your trip.

5 – Be Prepared to Cancel

Be aware of the conditions beforehand as you might be putting yourself in danger by tacking the challenge. If you can earmark a couple of weekends for the challenge, that provides you with some flexibility. Keep a close eye on the weather for all 3 peaks a week before hand and by Wednesday you should have have a reasonably good idea if it’s safe to go or not.

6 – Make good use of your base vehicle

Your driver will need to be ready with gallons of hot drinks when you arrive back at base as well as some hot food. You’ll also need to have some spare sets of clothing to hand and some towels We’d recommend take a change of baselayer, trousers and fleece for each hill and a dry set of clothing for the finish. Gloves are notorious for getting wet, bring your collection with you! You could change into dry clothes for the road trip and reuse the damp clothing on the next section, but we’d rather set off warm and dry wherever possible! You should only need one pair of good waterproofs, but it does no harm to carry spares. Most of us don’t have spare winter boots, so make sure they’re well proofed before you set off an bring newspaper so you can dry them off as much as possible on the road sections.

7 – Take your time!

With that in mind, consider walking it over 3 days. You don’t have to complete it in 24 hours.

Missed any essential tips? Add them to the comments / review section.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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