Phil Geng

Researcher, Climber, Mountaineer


A challenging problem

As a nation of charity givers and fundraisers there are only very few people who have not heard of, participated in or thought about a mountain based challenge. The National Three Peaks challenge is one of these and although many efforts have been made to persuade fundraisers to complete alternative challenges, the yearly "3 peaks season" is still alive and causing plenty of debate. From the outset I have to emphasise that there are organisations out there who manage and run their three peaks challenge events exceptionally well. These companies not only usually bring with them knowledgeable staff, but also have policies in place to minimise the disruption and intrusion of their groups on locals. Not least some of these organisations regularly help out with the coordinated cleaning of the mountains either after the season or even during the season to mitigate some of the nasty downsides to any overuse of our countryside.

Don't get me wrong, I very much appreciate that the three highest peaks of the individual nations within Great Britain (not the three highest in the UK or in Great Britain...) are a challenge to many and I personally would not want to walk up them in 24 hours with big drives in between. From that angle I accept that the challenge is exactly that - a challenge. But so is a multi-day expedition through Dartmoor, a hike around the Cornish coast path or a day trad climbing from dawn until dusk. The difference is that with the latter three a large proportion of individuals partaking in the activities will know how to behave in the environment they are in and respect it. I have come across human waste in all kinds of areas of our countryside, sadly also at the top of Snowdon in the summer. Since the cafe was open during the day I can only conclude that this was left behind by a night time ascent and I would certainly hope that the specific location would not have been chosen by somebody who knew how to do the do in the wild. So sadly I have to conclude that this was left behind by a "three peaker" or maybe a "welsh 3000er" considering many end up ascending Snowdon at night.

I agree that not all rubbish, bad or inconsiderate behaviour can be blamed on "three peakers". However, they are many and a reasonably well defined group of people. So what could we do to resolve this issue? For starters I would like to see more companies offering non-national three peaks challenges to customers. Alternatively propose a different type of national three peaks using bike, sail or kayak inbetween. Maybe even suggest splitting it into three days and making three nice mountain days out of it, possibly with a night stargazing on one of the peaks. The possibilities are endless. In my mind there are always three different ways of achieving a challenge, though all require the actual effort to go and do the challenge itself.

The easy way:

Book onto an organised challenge event, require minimal kit and experience and slog through it. Chances are the challenge is a one off you did because somebody bet you you couldn't and really there is very little enjoyable about the experience. That's not to say that the organisers are doing a bad job, in fact without them the experience would likely be even worse.

The DIY way:

We are a nation of DIY lovers and any challenge event is no exception. This is however a step up from the organised event. On challenges involving travel this requires careful planning to not put yourself in danger from falling asleep at the wheel and the levels of experience and kit required should be higher than on an organised event.

The challenging way:

So you've done the national three peaks by car? How about by bike, sea kayak, sailing boat or completely on foot? This is the stomping ground of true mavericks and those who I would consider challenge heroes. These are the people who not only follow the herd to complete a challenge many would not find very challenging at all, but raise the bar and then soar sky high over it. To make it clear - if you told me you completed the national three peaks entirely on foot and could prove it I would buy you at least one beer to hear the story.

A few weekends ago I had an interesting conversation while slogging up a steep snow covered ridge. If a challenge is something I would do anyway or something people do anyway, is it really a fundraising worthy event? Should others really be paying for somebody to have fun just because some of the money they raise goes to charity? I'm not saying everybody participating in fundraising does this, but surely having part of the funds raised pay for your adventure is besides the point and unless you are going to significantly challenge yourself - almost to breaking point - the challenge is not really a challenge? I know plenty of people who have undertaken sometimes daring adventures, funded entirely themselves, but also decided to raise funds in the process. These types of fundraising I fully agree with. After all if you want to give me money to give to charity for something I would have done anyway, then that's more than fine by me. But why wait until I decide to [insert random challenge adventure here] and not give to a charity straight away?

I'm not trying to knock fundraising or challenge events in general as I find we all need to challenge ourselves at times and fundraising is crucial to the survival of many of our vital services which operate as charities. I do suggest that fundraisers should look and think outside of the box and not simply run events that have been run to death many times over because "other people have done it" or "it's the event to do". There are lots of alternatives out there that provide not just a challenge but also an adventure and crucially an unforgettable experience for all the right reasons. If you are still stuck for ideas give me a shout and I'll throw some in your general direction, ranging from the achievable to the absurd. On that note - I'm off to book me a boat.

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Categories: Opinion

Tags: Challenge, Mountaineering, Environment, Three peaks, Fundraising

Comments: 1 Comment



  • Posted by Kathy on 07/02/16 8:06pm

    Why not just donate to charity, who needs an "event"?
    a) an event creates publicity for a particular cause and can attract new donors
    b) participants would often NOT undertake the challenge otherwise
    c) charity (challenge) events are just very British! Like village fetes, church garden parties and WI bazaars

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