5 of the Best Mountain Challenges in the UK

Best mountain challenges in UK

The Cuillin Ridge – one of the UK’s toughest mountain challenges

If the grey days and dark nights are draining your motivation for getting outside, then you need a challenge! While we may not have the towering snow-capped peaks of the Alps, the UK has a surprising range of mountain challenges for everyone from casual weekend walkers to skilled mountaineers and fleet-of-foot fell runners.

This isn’t a comprehensive list but if you’re after for some inspiration or itching for a new challenge, why not book in one of the UK’s best mountain challenges for 2018…

Yorkshire Three Peaks

The route linking the ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks‘ of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough is an ideal first mountain challenge for fit walkers. The route starts and ends in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and is 24 miles with 1,585m of ascent. To complete the ‘challenge’ you need to walk it in under 12 hours.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is very popular with charity groups and can get busy in the summer, so a good-weather day out of season is your best bet for avoiding the crowds in the car parks as well as on the hills. There are no technical difficulties, but it’s a long day and if the weather’s bad, you’ll need to be confident navigating in low visibility.

The Welsh 3000s

If you want to step up from the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the Welsh 3000s, also known as the “14 Peaks” will challenge the fittest hill walker. The official challenge requires an ascent of the 15 (yes, 15 not 14…) Welsh peaks over 3,000ft in 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

The traditional route starts on the summit of Snowdon (sometimes with a bivvy) and finishes on Foel-fras. It’s around 24 miles long but the approach walk and final descent take the total up to 30 miles. There aren’t many technical challenges, but you’ll need to be comfortable with the scrambling on Crib Goch and Tryfan and a very long day in the hills.

The Bob Graham Round

The Bob Graham is to fell runners what the Cuillin Ridge is to mountaineers. The 66-mile circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the Lake District includes 8,200m of ascent and, to officially complete the Bob Graham Round, the circuit has to be done in 24 hours.

For many fell runners, completing the Bob Graham is a lifetime achievement requiring years of preparation. Only around 1 in 3 attempts are successful and most take place in the summer, to make best use of daylight. I’ve spent long days in the Lakes hiking just a handful of the 42 peaks and I actually struggle to comprehend HOW people can be fit enough to complete the challenge within the 24-hour time limit.

For those who’ve completed the Bob Graham Round, more challenges lie ahead in the Welsh and Scottish equivalents: the Paddy Buckley Round and the Ramsay Round.

The Cuillin Ridge

The Cuillin Ridge is the most prized of all British ridge climbs and arguably one of the best mountaineering challenges in Europe. It requires stamina, excellent navigation skills and the ability to move quickly and safely on complex terrain.

The ridge itself is 12km, but including the walk in and walk out you’re looking at a 25km route with 4,000m of ascent and descent. Although none of the climbing is harder than ‘Very Difficult’, there are large sections of exposed scrambling and easier climbing and to have any chance of success at the traverse, you’ll need to be comfortable soloing most of the ridge.

If you’re super fit then it’s possible to do the Cuillin Ridge in a day but many parties take two days and bivvy overnight, either at the start of the ridge or part-way along. On many British ridge climbs, route-finding is fairly straightforward — you just keep to the crest of the ridge. On my one excursion into the Cuillin (to date) I was surprised at the level of technical route finding required. For this reason, if you’re looking to attempt the ridge it’s worth reccying different sections of the route in advance.

The Munros

This one may take you more than a year! The record for completing all 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000ft is an impressive 39 days and 9 hours (set by Stephen Pike in 2010) and the women’s record of 77 days was set in 2017 by Lisa and Libby from Beauties and the Bog. For most people, bagging all the Munros is a lifetime achievement, but if you have a lot of time on your hands or easy access to the Scottish Highlands, it’s possible to tick them all in a year.

While most Munros aren’t technical climbs (only one — the Inaccessible Pinnacle — involves a graded rock climb), many involve long days in the remotest parts of the UK and mountain skills are a must. Find out more about the Munros in our guide to Scotland’s ultimate ticklist.

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