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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Three Peaks race 'harming environment'
Ben Nevis, Scotland
Walkers are being asked to reduce group sizes
A race to conquer Britain's three highest mountains is damaging the environment, says the National Trust.

Thousands have tried to scale Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon within 24 hours - the Three Peaks Challenge.

But the National Trust, backed by other groups which manage the peaks, said increasing numbers are causing erosion, litter and noise pollution.

The trusts are asking walkers to reconsider or at least do it in small groups.

The Three Peaks Challenge can become a victim of its own success

Sharon Woods
Ramblers' Association

Many of the walkers take on the three mountains for charity.

The season for the challenge traditionally starts in the coming weeks.

But there are fears there could be more than the usual amount this year, because of the disruption due to foot-and-mouth.

Disruption

Fiona Southern, from the National Trust, which owns Scafell Pike and parts of Snowdon, said: "We realise most people taking part in the Three Peaks events are doing it for altruistic reasons and that participation is challenging, exhilarating and rewarding.

"We certainly don't want to put people off raising money for charity but we urge them to consider other ways of raising funds and think twice about taking part."
Three Peaks
Ben Nevis: 1,344m
Western Highlands
Snowdon: 1,085m
North Wales
Scafell Pike: 978m
Cumbria

Her comments were echoed by Will Boyd-Wallis, of the John Muir Trust, which purchased the summit of Ben Nevis less than two years ago.

He said: "Visitors to the Ben Nevis area are always welcome and very important to the local economy.

"However, large scale three peaks events contribute little except disruption to local people and damage to the environment."

And John Ablitt, Snowdonia National Park Authority's Head of Recreation and Communication, said his challenge was to achieve a balance between tourism, with is financial spin-offs for the local economy, and conservation.
National Trust sign in Cumbria
Walkers are warned of erosion

Sharon Woods, from the Ramblers' Association, said: "We would encourage people to go out walking and go into the countryside.

"But we also want to protect the countryside so we feel an event such as the Three Peaks Challenge can become a victim of its own success."

The Three Peaks Challenge is loosely defined as ascending and descending all three peaks, and driving or being driven between them, within 24 hours.

It has been estimated that more than 500,000 people visit Ben Nevis and its main access route Glen Nevis each year.

A further 100,000 either climb or walk to the Scottish mountain's summit.

See also:

16 Mar 02 | Scotland
21 Feb 02 | Wales
25 Mar 02 | N Ireland
04 Apr 00 | Scotland
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