Mass Clean-Up For Snowdon, Ben Nevis & Scafell Pike

A mass clean-up of Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon takes place on Saturday 8th October. Now in its fourth year, the Real 3 Peaks Challenge brings teams of volunters out on the same day on each of the three national high points, mountains with the dubious honour of being among the most visited, and heavily littered, in the UK.

It's supposed to be fun as well as useful..., 108 kb
It's supposed to be fun as well as useful...
© Rich Pyne

On the inaugural challenge in 2013 the teams between them removed 265kg of rubbish from the three locations. By 2014 that had grown to 423kg, while last year's haul among the 100 or so volunteers was a whopping 513kg; the organisers now know where to look, they say.

Spaces are still available for anyone interested in taking part this weekend. For more info the Real 3 Peaks Facebook page would be a good place to start.

"The Real 3 Peaks Challenge concept was born four summers ago, after spending a day with my clients on Ben Nevis" said the originator of the event Rich Pyne.

"I had a brief look around the summit area and was appalled at the amount of human debris blowing around. So, whilst my clients were eating lunch, I bobbed around and filled two carrier bags in as many minutes."   

"I was pretty unhappy about the state up there, and got a little bee in my bonnet. Someone said 'Why don't you do something about it?'...So I did!"

The idea is a simple one - to clean up the UK's three national high points at the end of the busy summer season, removing as much rubbish as possible with the help of volunteers, before the arrival of winter snowfall.

"I quickly realised that to be effective, I could not do all three myself" says Rich, "so I asked a couple of people if they could coordinate the efforts for England and Wales."

It's not just walkers and tourists, 133 kb
It's not just walkers and tourists
© Rich Pyne

The original haul that started the ball rolling, 177 kb
The original haul that started the ball rolling
© Rich Pyne

The litter pickers typically return with a variety of trash, from the predictable to the odd: banana skins, orange peel, plastic and glass bottles, tabs and lids, tissues, chewing gum, fag ends, bags of all descriptions, tents, and even on one occasion a duvet and catheter bag.

"All of this is only possible with the help of the volunteers" says Rich, "many of whom return each year to help out and give a little back. For instance on Ben Nevis Hazel Strachan, now on her 9th Munro Round, took time out to join us last year, concentrating on chewing gum on the path. The lump she came down with was the size of your head! She's back again this year."

As well as its impact on the day, the annual event helps to promote a wider anti-litter message in the outdoor community and among visitors more generally, chiming with efforts made by other outdoor professionals, landowners and conservation groups. 

"If I were to take anything from this year’s Real 3 Peaks Challenge, it’s a positive sense that more Leaders and Instructors are proactively educating about litter awareness, as well as picking it up on their journeys around the hills" says Kate Worthington, co-ordinator of the Snowdon leg of the event.

"If the average Mountain Leader is able to engage with around 250 people in one year, that’s a lot of good word spread to future mountain users, their friends and families. It’s an ongoing process, not just a focus on this single day on Saturday 8 October."

In recent times the three peaks have been looking cleaner, thinks Rich, and this Saturday he's hoping that the rubbish haul will be smaller than previous years.

Willing hands are still needed however. All they ask is that you are available for a full hill day, and have the ability to look after yourself - these are not guided walks. Professionals are very welcome too, say the organisers. 

Anyone interested in taking part should email:

Litter pickers on Snowdon
© Rich Pyne

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