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3 Peaks - Things to consider!

If you are employing the services of an event management company or an outdoor provider to organise and manage your 3 Peak Challenge it is worth checking a few things first to be sure you are going to get what they say they will provide. In the last few years at least 30 organisations have jumped on the bandwagon and started offering the National 3 Peaks Challenge as it has become widely accepted that because this is such a popular challenge attracting thousands of people then there is money to be made - make sure you do your research and get the professional service you definitely require on this serious challenge event. In this day and age it is so easy for organisations to hide behind a beautifully designed website with all of the bells and whistles and make themselves look bigger than they actually are - great marketing or otherwise. Check or ask the following:

  • Are they an established business?
  • When did they start and in what capacity do they operate - sole trader, partnership, limited company?
  • Are they VAT registered?
  • Do they work from an established office or home with a landline number or do they simply work ad-hoc with a mobile number?
  • Can they take card payments or only cheques or cash?

By knowing this information it will let you decide on the credibility of an organisation. Ask to see a copy of their business/company insurance policy and check what they are covered for. If you are being offered a qualified instructor or guide to accompany your group on the mountain sections then the only formal qualification in the UK is the MLTB summer mountain leader (as a minimum). An MIA qualification is a higher level award and also covers mountaineering - this is a better award where a much higher degree of competance is required. If a provider is offering winter 3 Peak Challenges then the minimum formal qualification is the MLTB winter mountain leader or an MIC qualification. many providers will just simply use a summer ML holder as they consider that enough - be aware that full winter conditions certainly on Ben Nevis can exist during April and even into May and a high degree of skills and experience are required for an instructor to safely and competently take responsibility of a group where snow, ice and even avalanche conditions exist. Having the required qualification is essential but you should also check to see whether the instructors who are taking responsibilty for your group have the appropriate experience on the specific mountains. It is often the case that some instructors have not even been on some of the mountains and may have only been qualified for a very short period of time. If you want a high quality service then perhaps sounding out the background experience of the organisation will pay dividends in the long run. It is often the case that instructors and guides are contracted in to assist on a 3 Peaks Event and this being the case the employing organisation must have employers liability insurance in place irrespective of the freelance instructor having their own personal public liability insurance. You will find that on occasion that some organisations simply insist that freelance staff have their own insurance and this covers everything - it doesn’t! The employing organisation have a duty to have full employers liability insurance in place. Ask for a copy of the organisations health and safety policy and in particular the method and risk assessment specifically for the 3 Peaks Challenge Event. If you are told they don’t have one or it takes considerable time to produce one then you should be questioning this. It is worth questioning the integrity of a 3 Peak Challenge provider if they are keen to run events with large numbers (often more than 30 people and sometimes as many as 200) as the impact this has on the mountain ares can be quite severe. Large numbers of people in one location at any time certainly has it’s drawbacks and therefore you should perhaps question if you want to be involved in an event that can cause issues like erosion, litter, noise and disturbance to local people - particularly in Wasdale! Charities and some outdoor providers heavily rely on using charity as a method to market business which is great for the beneficiary at the end of the day but how much of the money actually paid by each participant (out their pocket and fundraised) actually goes to the charity. We have done some research on this and as yet we have yet to speak with a business or charity who can provide clear precise figures and facts. In the process the environment suffers, local people are caused unfair disturbance and hindrance and rescue teams at times are called out to assist people who should not be on the mountains in the first place due to lack of fitness and skills - although all things considered the organisation or business running the event are responsible for suggesting that anyone can complete the challenge! After all, this is a mountain endurance event and not a walk in the park as it would appear is advertised by many. :Here are a few examples of worrying situations that we have witnessed and intervened in:

  1. A route up Scafell Pike was found to be marked with Cylume glow sticks every 50 metres at night to allow a charity fundraising group to find their way to the summit! As the weather was poor and visibility was desperate they simply could not be seen and as a result a huge number of people were wandering all over the place and shouting. We escorted 8 people down to Wasdale along side our group to safety.
  2. Heard shouts near the summit of Scafell Pike during an ascent with a group of 8 clients (2 instructors) in desperate weather conditions. Located 2 male adults in a steep scree gully in need of help. They were both part of a charity event organised by a national charity. They had no map of compass, no head torches and were dressed in shorts, t-shirts, trainers and had plastic disposable poncho’s on as their only means of weather protection - in the high winds they were useless. We assisted the 2 individuals to the plateau and escorted them to safety along side our group in Wasdale.
  3. Came across a small tent on the route up Scafell Pike from Wasdale in wet, windy conditions. 2 young ladies were in the tent and we were informed that they were the ‘safety personnel’ responsible for the large groups we met during our ascent. Around 200 other people were on the mountain as part of a charity event in poor conditions and the safety element provided was a person with a clip board at the bottom gate checking people in and out, a tent with 2 people part way up the mountain and an individual on the summit. When asked how they would manage the potential numbers of challenges that may lose the path we were informed that because they had radio contact between each other and all participants had been told to stay on the main obvious path this would not happen. Also the yound lady informed us that she was a member of a rescue team in the Peak District so they knew what they were doing? Suffice to say we ended up escorting 6 people down the mountain after hearing shouts from people who had indeed strayed from the path and were lost.
  4. During an ascent of Ben Nevis nearing the summit plateau late one April we came across a group of 16 struggling to ascend an icy slope where the main path goes to reach the summit. As their support staff/instructor had no winter equipment such as an ice axe, crampons or rope nor the skills to use them if they had they asked for help. We explained that we were going to cut steps for our group of 8 and put in place a knotted rope for additional assitance but we could not take responsibilty for them. They eventually followed using our steps and met us on the summit not before our staff intervened as they decided to walk on top of the collapsed/slumped cornices that were adorning the North Face of Ben Nevis and we abruptly told them that if they wanted to live a little longer then they should move well away from the edge before it collapsed and killed someone. When their instructor was quizzed about this they stated that they had never been on Ben Nevis before and didn’t realise the potential danger with cornices? As they had only been qualified as a summer mountain leader for a matter of months this came as no surprise to us. In addition they were working for an organisation that strongly advertised *National 3 Peak Events* as a way to raise money for charity yet paid their staff a pittance. 1:16 ratio on any event and especially a mountain event is totally unacceptable and they did not have the experience or qualification to deal with the conditions. This in our opinion if firstly the responsibility of the organisation offering the event and any freelance instructor should always ask questions about ratio’s, insurance etc.

We hope the above experiences we have had, gives you an insight to what sometimes goes on with some organisers of the National 3 Peaks and helps you to take the necessary steps to choose a well established, high quality company that can deliver beyond your expectations and at all times focuses firmly on your safety

A Corporate Charity 3 Peaks Challenge
BD Network on their National 3 Peaks challenge