Fancy a more interesting and more challenging alternative to the 3 peaks? Terry Fletcher, author of the Cicerone guidebook to mountain walking in Snowdonia, introduces the Welsh 3000s - a great challenge for a weekend in Wales.
The traverse of the Welsh 3000s is often considered a classic challenge, to be crossed in a single day’s run or walk. Fleet-footed runners with leather lungs and iron thighs have completed it in a scarcely credible 4hr 20min, and super-fit walkers will hope to complete the traverse of the 15 peaks in under 12 hours. However, Terry explains that both these times are measured from the summit of the first peak, Snowdon, to the last one, Foel-fras, and gloss over the minor inconveniences of having to climb the highest mountain in England and Wales before you even begin and the long march out at the northern end of the Carneddau once the clock has stopped.
It all adds up to one of the most demanding challenges in British walking. Even the summit–summit version is around 42km (26 miles) and valley–valley is pushing 50km (31 miles). Both involve around 4000m (13,000ft) of ascent and descent. There are also a few complicated bits of navigation along the way, especially if the attempt ends in the dark.
While completing the round in a day is a feat to be admired many opt to take a little longer, treating the magnificent round as something to be enjoyed rather than endured, with their eyes on rock rather than the clock.
This is best done by treating it as a two or even three-day expedition, which allows the mountains to be savoured while still fitting them into a weekend, and still an energetic and demanding one.Terry Fletcher
The walk can be undertaken from a base in the Ogwen Valley (youth hostel), travelling round to Pen-y-Pass to begin the walk, spending the middle night at Ogwen before tackling the Carneddau and returning to Ogwen at the end of the day. There is also a splendidly situated youth hostel at Pen-y-Pass itself. Those with the time to spare for a more leisurely walk could even split the first day still further with an overnight stop at Nant Peris or Llanberis. After all, most walkers would consider the ascent of Crib Goch and Snowdon to be a perfectly respectable day’s work in its own right rather than as a mere warm up for a traverse of the Glyderau and Tryfan.
Day 1 of the Welsh 3000s
Facing the towering pyramid of Crib Goch and the knowledge of all the miles and footage that lie beyond it could be a daunting prospect so far better to dwell on the exhilaration that lies ahead over the next few hours instead. This is the finest expedition to be found south of the Roman Wall and the first day is full of adventure, excitement and thrilling landscapes, packing in lots of naked rock and magnificent ridge walking at its very best.
Crib Goch is the first of the 15 peaks to be climbed on this challenging day. A couple of hours later you'll be standing on the summit of Snowdon with the first three peaks under your belt. A glance northwards from here shows there is still a long way to go but you have had a good start.
The last summit of day one is Tryfan, but this is not to be underestimated, especially at the end of a long day. You may treat yourself to a photo op on the twin pinnacles of Adam and Eve before the descent towards a hearty meal.
Day 2 of the Welsh 3000s
Day 2 is in marked contrast to yesterday’s route which was over predominantly high rocky ridges and scrambles. The crossing of the Carneddau is a more placid affair, but still involves plenty of climbing and high ridges exposed to the weather, but often over softer ground.
The first summit of day 2 is Pen yr Ole Wen and there are two very different ways to tackle it. Speed merchants and the super fit can hurl themselves at the ridge the mountain throws down to Ogwen. Others feeling the strain of yesterday can choose a gentler route.
Day 2 also introduces the penultimate and most controversial 3000, Carnedd Uchaf which has comparatively recently been given a second name, Carnedd Gwenllian. Carnedd Gwenllian is frequently not included in lists of the Welsh 3000s due to its limited prominence above its parent peak, Foel Fras. But who cares? You almost have to go over it anyway and the diversion from the path costs little effort.
The final top is Foel-fras but do not drop your guard. The summit may be the official end of the Welsh 3000s but you are still at 942m (3089ft) and a long way from home. Whether you choose the shortest descent to Llyn Anafon or the longer but easier variation to Drum you will reach Pont Newydd with tired legs but a huge sense of victory.