Criticisms of the Three Peaks Challenge
As the popularity of the challenge has grown in recent years, it has been increasingly criticised by local residents and conservation bodies in the areas around the peaks. It has been blamed for an increase in traffic at unsociable hours in rural areas, huge litter problems, mess, noise and congestion as well as inconveniencing residents and other visitors by illegal or inconsiderate driving and parking of vehicles.
The sheer numbers of participants arriving in concentrated time periods over the summer months have also been blamed for causing enormous erosion scars, some up to 8 metres wide and 2 metres deep, often by taking shortcuts to save time and by failing to stick to the paths built by the land owners as a means of conserving and preserving the landscape.
A particular problem in Wasdale Head, the usual starting point for Scafell Pike, is the lack of mains water or sewage and the presence of only one public loo in the small community (although there are ongoing fundraising efforts to upgrade the facilities there). A sudden influx of challengers can cause the rapid exhaustion of the area's private-well supplied water, as was reported with the arrival in the Wasdale area of up to 400 walkers of the British Fire Service in a fleet 76 minibuses!
In June 2007 alone 29,000 people officially registered to attempt the challenge. By 2008 the number of people estimated as attempting the challenge jumped to 60,000 although this estimated figure included 'unofficial' challenge attempts that made no attempt to register with the appropriate authorities. Official figures from 2011 give the number of registered participants as 30,000 but this does not take into account the many, many people who do not register. Some estimates put the overall figure at 70,000 people attempting the Three Peaks Challenge every year and growing.
Nor do these tens of thousands of visitors bring any real economic benefits to the local areas since they generally rush up and down the mountains before jumping into their vehicles and haring off to the next one.
Another criticism is that, although money is raised for the charity of choice (with a sometimes significant proportion going to a Three Peaks event-organising company), these and similar challenges stretch the resources of other charities such as local mountain rescue teams and the landowners themselves (John Muir Trust and National Trust). Some Charities who benefit from the fundraising efforts of the Three Peaks Challenge have offered some of their proceeds to the National Trust by way of acknowledgment of the extra work and costs incurred, however the National Trust's policy is not to accept as this would be seen as an endorsement of the event and promote the view that the problems it causes can be resolved by throwing money at them when of course, this is not the case. Indeed, according to Snowdonia National Park Management Plan, the Park Authority for Snowdon has a policy that it will not support mass events with more than 30 participants while the John Muir Trust tries to discourage the Three Peaks event or even terming the event as a 'challenge' as it conveys the wrong message.