Mass Litter Pick For 3 Peaks

The national Three Peaks challenge gets a bad press for overcrowding and litter. Now a new initiative aims to undo some of the damage.

Crowds at the top of the Pig Track, 105 kb
Crowds at the top of the Pyg Track, and they don't all take their rubbish home Photo: Duncan Bourne

Mountain Training Instructor Richard Pyne has organised the ‘Real Three Peaks Challenge’, which will simultaneously mobilise teams of volunteer rubbish collectors on the three highest national summits. The mass tidy up has gained the support of the Mountain Training Association, the BMC, the John Muir Trust, the Snowdonia Society and the MCofS.

'I'd led groups on the top of Ben Nevis in winter before,' explained Richard, 'but I was up there with a group this summer and I was appalled at the amount of litter I saw. I started filling a bag and ended up carrying down 3kg of rubbish that day.'

The main aim is to raise awareness of the work already undertaken by local charities and volunteer groups who frequently have clean up events, and to help educate the many thousands of charity fund raisers and other walkers who descend on the three peaks year round.

The coordinated action will take place on Ben Nevis, Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) and Scafell Pike on Saturday 12 October. Anyone wishing to lend a hand can get in touch at for the Scottish leg; in Wales, or in England.

After an especially busy summer season, rangers and volunteers from the John Muir Trust, which manages Scotland’s highest and most popular mountain, have had to remove a huge collection of items left behind on Ben Nevis, including tents, tarps, sleeping bags, stoves, abandoned camps, disposable barbecues and items of clothing. The mess on the other two hills tends to be just as bad too, and though three-peakers must contribute only a proportion of the rubbish, land managers have welcomed Richard Pyne's idea. 

A recent volunteer clean-up on Ben Nevis, 158 kb
A recent volunteer clean-up on Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis Conservation Officer Sarah Lewis said: 

'This is a fantastic initiative by Richard, which as well as making an instant difference, will also hopefully encourage visitors to take responsibility for the state of this beautiful mountain.'

'Many local guides and conscientious individuals are also making their own sweep of the hill as they go, which is great and we hope it continues. It is just shame that this is necessary when all it needs is a little thought and minimal effort from everyone who comes here.'

“People who’d never dream of leaving their discarded food wrappers and empty bottles lying around the National Museum of Scotland or Holyrood Palace think nothing of scattering unsightly debris across a mountain which is much more difficult to keep clean because of the distances and altitude involved.'

'Ben Nevis is one of Scotland’s great tourist attractions and we want to encourage people to experience this amazing landscape. But we would plead with people not to treat the mountain like a rubbish tip. What we really need, above all, is a change in public attitudes.'

The Trust also hopes that the Real Three Peaks Challenge will encourage more people to participate in the regular volunteer clean-ups that they organise on Ben Nevis.

'This year we’ve had fewer volunteers but just as much rubbish' said Sarah.

'We’d ask people who love Ben Nevis to think about giving up a day a year to help us keep on top of the litter problem. But most of all we need people to leave nothing behind but footprints when they climb Ben Nevis – or any other mountain for that matter.'

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