In our regular monthly blog series, writer and hiker Phil Thomas shares the trade secrets of his passion: the Great Outdoors. He lives in North Wales and spends most of his spare time writing or walking in the hills with his girlfriend and their crazy Patterdale terriers.
With the year’s longest day approaching, it’s time to get ready for the ultimate mountain challenge south of Scotland. Many of us have heard of the Three Peaks Challenge. Well, the Welsh 3000s is much, much tougher, involving ‘bagging’ 14 (or 16, depending on your point of view!) peaks above 3,000ft.
They’re all within viewing distance of each other – which makes it possible – just – to do them all on foot in 24 hours! Think you’re up to challenge? Read on to find out what’s involved…
Note: we describe the Welsh 3000s as a walking route – although fell-runners tackle it too using this same route!
A summary of the Welsh 3000s route
While there are variations, the ‘traditional’ route is your best bet, especially if it’s your first time. It starts hard (including scrambles and scree) and gets a little easier – if that’s the right word – as you head north into the Carneddau.
A key point to note is that you start on the summit of Snowdon. Ideally, get there the evening before and camp. Be prepared for not the best night’s sleep in your life, as Snowdon can be busy at night as well as during daylight hours. You may not be the only ones tackling the Welsh 3000s.
The route takes in the other 3000ft peaks in Snowdon’s horseshoe – including notorious Crib Goch – before descending into the Pass of Llanberis and climbing into the Glyders via Elidir Fawr above Dinorwig slate mines. It then tracks east across the Glyders, diverting north to capture Tryfan, before crossing the Ogwen Valley and onto the Carneddau via Pen yr Ole Wen.
The key thing to note is that by the time you bag Foel Fras you’ve got a long walk out whichever way you look. This route heads for a small car park at Bwlch y Ddeufaen on a lane above Rowen village in the Conwy Valley, where you really want your support team waiting for you with a cup of tea and some soft, comfy shoes!
How to do this?
Points to consider
This walk is not easy in 24 hours. Do not underestimate it. Here are some key points you should consider if the Welsh 3000s Challenge is on your things-to-do list:
1. Do it as a group. Don’t go it alone. If you can’t get people you know to tackle it with you, consider going along as part of an organised group – such as this from Climb South West.
2. Have a support team available. This may not be easy to arrange but could make all the difference to the success or failure of your walk. In particular you can dump your overnight tent and stuff with them at Nant Peris (following your night on Snowdon and between points 4 and 5 on the map) and you can pick up a lighter day pack (and snacks) before you head off for Elidir Fawr. They can pick you up again at Glan Dena in the Ogwen Valley with another food/drink break (between points 10 and 11) and finally, come and get you from the end point.
3. Be prepared to bail out if the weather changes, you suffer an injury or you simply don’t have the legs. It shows maturity that you know when to quit, and stupidity if you don’t. The Welsh 3000s have been around a long time and they’ll be around for a long time yet – so you can always come back another day and try again.
4. You cannot complete this walk without a few scrambles. They’re all Grade 1 (assuming you don’t tackle Bristly Ridge on the way from the Glyders to Tryfan, but that would really wreck your chances of completing the route in 24 hours) but exposure on the Crib Goch ridge is the stuff of legends and can turn the legs of even the most seasoned hillwalkers to jelly.
5. Wait until dawn light before setting off from Snowdon summit. Don’t be tempted to head off early with torches – the first few miles of the Welsh 3000s are the most dangerous.
Too much for one day? Try three
Lots of people take up the Welsh 3000s over the course of more than one day. Three days is ideal, assuming of course you have a good level of fitness. Taking three days means you can skip camping on Snowdon and instead use each day to tackle the distinct mountain ranges:
Day One: Snowdon summit, Crib y Ddysgl and Crib Goch;
Day Two: Elidir Fawr, Y Garn, Glder Fawr and Fach, Tryfan;
Day Three: Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carneddau peaks.
The extra times also means you can vary the route quite considerably, but bear in mind that this may mean adding more ascent and descent to your adventure.
Check out Matt Elliott’s Website
Local Matt Elliott has created a website describing the Welsh 3000s route in detail. It’s well worth a read before you set off.