Authorities are urging charity walkers to consider the impact they have when tackling challenges.
The main worry is the disruption caused by Three Peaks Challengers, particularly in the Lake District.
The body that oversees charity fundraisers says organisers should stick to the code covering these events.
Seathwaite: unable to cope with numbers of challengers
Each summer, the hamlets of Wasdale Head and Seathwaite are invaded by nocturnal hordes on their way to the summit of Scafell Pike. Residents around Ben Nevis and Snowdon are also affected, but to a lesser extent because of the timing of the challenge. Competitors usually aim to complete the summits of Britain’s national highest peaks in 24 hours, which means an early morning ascent of Scafell – the middle mountain – in darkness.
A fundraisers’ code says people undertaking charity events should not be leaving or joining vehicles between the hours of midnight and 5am where there is a local settlement.
The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) has a code of practice instigated by the Institute of Fundraising. It contains a specific section on the Three Peaks Challenge, which says organisers ought to avoid arranging challenges in June, and particularly at weekends.
Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team (MRTs) is known to dread the weekends around the summer solstice in June when, despite the code, Three Peaks Challenge activity is at its height because of the prolonged amount of daylight.
Charity organisers are also meant to provide ‘high-quality marshals with local experience’. MRTs, which are themselves charities, should not be expected to provide this.
The Lake District National Park Authority is urging anyone running a Three Peaks Challenge to follow the guidelines and codes of practice. The authority is particularly keen to stress that numbers involved should not be more than 200 and that the ban on starting in the early hours be observed.
Chris Berry, a ranger with the Lake District national park, said: “The problem occurs when excessive numbers of event participants arrive in the small hamlets of Wasdale and Seathwaite-in-Borrowdale in the middle of the night, in their attempt to achieve a 24-hour target for the Three Peaks.
“This has created real problems for the local communities and the large numbers have also had an environmental impact.”
The FRSB’s boss backed up the park authority’s plea. Chief executive Jon Scourse said: “Over the summer months, many thousands will be taking up this challenge which is known to be a good fundraising event.
“Unlike the London Marathon, this is not a one-off, structured event, so each weekend during the season many hundreds – even thousands in mid-summer – attempt the challenge.
“However, the impact on the environment and local people can be detrimental, so we urge charities and fundraising organisations to operate the event to the highest standards.”