I had never gone hiking in the UK before, but it had been on my mind for a while now. My good friend Jef was happy to join me for an epic adventure across the pond. We booked plane tickets to Manchester, still debating between the Lake District (England) and Snowdonia (Wales) but finally decided on the latter one with a specific challenge in mind: The Welsh 3000s. It’s been a month since we’re back now and I’m still thrilled about how amazing this trip was.
In A Nutshell
|Type of hike||Point-to-point|
|Start – Finish||Pen-y-Pass – Bethesda|
|Distance per section||18.8 km – 19.0 km – 26.8 km|
|Elevation||[+899 -1149] – [+2062 -1869] – [+1594 -1766]|
|Time of year||September|
|Location||Snowdonia (Wales, United Kingdom)|
The Welsh 3000s
The original version of The Welsh 3000s is to climb all mountains in Wales that are above 3000 feet in a time window of 24 hours. The first record of someone completing this challenge dates back to 1919. We decided that this was pretty insane and opted for a more ‘relaxed’ time window of 3 days.
When we count all mountains above 3000 feet, we find 16 mountains (or 15, or 14, some of them are a disputed).
- Crib Goch = 3028 ft (923 m)
- Garnedd Ugain/Crib y Ddysgl = 3494 ft (1,065 m)
- Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa = 3559 ft (1,085 m)
- Elidir Fawr = 3031 ft (924 m)
- Y Garn = 3106 ft (947 m)
- Glyder Fawr = 3284 ft (1,001 m)
- Castell y Gwynt = 3188 ft (972 m)
- Glyder Fach = 3261 ft (994 m)
- Tryfan = 3011 ft (918 m)
- Pen yr Ole Wen = 3208 ft (978 m)
- Carnedd Dafydd = 3425 ft (1,044 m)
- Carnedd Llewelyn = 3490 ft (1,064 m)
- Yr Elen = 3156 ft (962 m)
- Foel Grach = 3202 ft (976 m)
- Carnedd Gwenllian = 3038 ft (926 m)
- Foel-fras = 3090 ft (942 m)
Completing this challenge in 24 hours must be very tough, but hiking it in 3 days brings its own set of challenges. On the practical side, it’s complex because you need to think about where you will be spending the night. Ofcourse you could just camp anywhere when you get tired, but this would mean bringing your camping gear for the whole trip. That would slow you down and it could even be dangerous on certain scrambles and ridges.
With the help of some amazing people I met through Instagram, I planned a route that would let us complete 2 of the 3 days without carrying all our camping gear.
We had one rule however. From the start at Pen-y-Pass until the finish in Bethesda, we would not use any other transport than our feet because this would break up the feeling of adventure and challenge. If you don’t care too much about that, you could use a single spot as your basecamp and use busses in the morning to get to the area you need to be for that day.
Curious how we did it? Read on!
The Plan – Bullet Point Style
- Leave camping gear at Nant Peris Camp Site
- Take the bus to Pen-y-Pass (The start of our challenge. From now on: everything on foot)
- The Snowdon section (without camping gear): 3 mountains
- Camp again at Nant Peris Camp Site
- Pack up camp
- The Glyderau section (with camping gear): 6 mountains
- Set up camp at Gwern Gof Uchaf Campsite (Ogwen Valley)
- Leave camping gear at Gwern Gof Uchaf Campsite
- The Carneddau section (without camping gear): 7 mountains
- Descend down to Bethesda after climbing the last mountain
- Hitchhike back to Gwern Gof Uchaf Campsite
Before the hike
We left Leuven early in the morning to catch our flight to Manchester at 7 AM. After arriving in Manchester airport we debated about going to the city because we had a gap of 3 hours between our flight and the train to Betws-y-Coed. We found a great place called Joe’s Kitchen and Coffee House inside the airport, so we enjoyed a lengthy breakfast.
Next we took the train from the airport to Llandudno Junction, switched trains here and finally arrived in Betws-y-Coed, a lovely place to hang around! If by this time you realised you forgot some piece of gear at home, no problem, there are lots of outdoor stores in the village.
After enjoying a good pizza and some wine at Hangin’ Pizzeria (they donate part of their profits to Orangutan Appeal UK and Ape Action Africa), we took the bus to Nant Peris.
We stayed at a campsite just across a pub called The Vaynol Arms. The campsite was very basic, but perfectly fine for us. We met the owner, payed 20 pounds (2 persons, 2 nights) and set up our tent. There are showers (did not use them) and there are toilets. After setting up the tent, we went across the street to The Vaynol Arms. What a lovely place this was! The atmosphere in the pub was very relaxed. When asking about the different beers that were on tap, the friendly bartender spontaneously started pouring us some testers. The kitchen is open late and we had good meal (fish and chips).
Day 1 (Snowdon section)
The next morning we woke up early and took the bus to Pen-y-Pass, the official beginning of our hike. We started on the Pyg Track, but left it when a path on our right headed up the mountains. After a couple of minutes into this path, we climbed over a fence with a sign that said: “CAUTION ROUTE TO CRIB GOCH”. This meant we were on the right track because Crib Goch was our first mountain of the day. We decided upfront that if it would start raining, Crib Goch would not be an option. People had fallen down of the ridge before. When the rocks get slippery, the risk increases a lot.
Luckily for us, it stayed kind of dry. There was however a lot of wind and the ridge was covered in clouds. Before you can reach the ridge, you first have to find your way up there. This was pretty difficult as we kept trying out routes, but they turned out to be too sketchy. After a while we spotted some other hikers who were also looking for a way to climb up. Together we searched and finally we started making progress. Because you are scrambling on big boulders and rocks, it can be easy to lose the oversight of where you are going. However, as long as you go up and the scramble you choose is not too difficult for you, you are doing fine.
After a while it got easier and we approached the actual famous Crib Goch ridge. A good idea is to quickly eat something here before starting the actual traverse. The less you have to worry about on that ridge, the better.
We quickly learned that the easiest way to traverse it is to stay on the left (south) side, this way you can use the top of the ridge as a support.
Next up was Garnedd Ugain. When you finish the scrambling section of Crib Goch you reach a nice grassy spot from which and easy path goes to the west, do not take this path (as we first did)! Not the map, nor the guidebook or GPS told us about this path, but it looks very inviting. You should however immediately head up the rocks again to get to your second peak: Garnedd Ugain.
Garnedd Ugain also required some scrambling and there was a short ridge section, but it was easier and shorter as the one on Crib Goch.
After the peace and quiet of Garnedd Ugain, we joined the people that took the Pyg Track, the Llanberis Path and the Ranger Path to the top of Snowdon. After a short and easy hike up, we reached the summit of Snowdon.
After a break inside the Snowdon Summit Station, where we enjoyed a typical Welsh meat pie, we started to make our way down again. We chose to take the Llanberis Path because this was the easiest way to get back to our campsite without taking a bus. If you don’t mind taking a bus, I would take the Pyg Track and take the bus from Pen-y-Pass.
The Llanberis Path is long and for us, after an already spectacular day, the perfect way to get down. If this is just your way to get up to Snowdon, I think the Pyg Track looked nicer and more interesting.
In Llanberis there are a couple of good outdoor/climbing stores. We checked out a few. My favourite one was the Joe Brown Shop. Don’t be mistaken: Google Maps also shows the location of their previous shop. It’s another outdoor store now, not the one I’m talking about.
From Llanberis we walked back to Nant Peris. We headed straight to the pub for a refreshing beer. The plan was to go back to the tent to eat our freeze dried meal. I must say I think those meals are really good, but a chalkboard inside the pub promoted ‘Hunters Chicken’… Chicken with BBQ sauce on top, with bacon on top, with melted cheese on top. The choice was easy.
Day 2 (Glyderau section)
The next day we woke up with rain. Bummer. But we did have very good weather the previous day and two days of sun would not have given us the real Welsh experience.
After packing up the tent, we followed a road that started next to our campsite. It was easy in the beginning but once we crossed the river it was a long and steep way to the top. The wind was blowing hard, the rain coming down non-stop and the apparent temperature was predicted to be close to 1 degree on the summits and it definitely felt that way. We managed to keep up the pace and finally reached our first summit of the day: Elidir Fawr.
From Elidir Fawr, it was an easy path to the next summit, Y Garn. The wind had gotten stronger by then and the rain had only given us a 5 minute break. A shop owner the previous day had told us that wind speeds would go up to 65km/hour that day. So far we had not seen a single soul, on Y Garn however, we met a group of guys.
From Y Garn it was again an easy path to Llyn Y Cwn, a beautiful lake at the base of Glyder Fawr. The climb to Glyder Fawr is pretty steep and starts with a gully with loose rocks. If you prefer, there are other paths that go around the gully.
Once we reached the summit of Glyder Fawr, we needed to navigate our way down towards Castell y Gwynt, there was not really a clear path (that we could find). After a while we reached the base of Castell y Gwynt. To get to the top, we walked around the base and then started scrambling up.
After Castell y Gwynt, Glyder Fach is just a bit further up.
With only one mountain to go for that day, we started descending from Glyder Fach to the base of Tryfan. You need to lose a lot of height here and for me personally, this was quiet a though descend for the muscles that had already been working hard that day. The backpacks we we’re carrying did not make it any easier.
We had talked about Tryfan a couple of times during that day and had decided that, if wind and rain would be as present as they had been, we would not attempt to climb it. That just felt too risky. The alternative would be to climb this mountain the next morning.
Luckily, the weather started clearing up! We ate a snack, dropped our bags at the bottom of Tryfan and started to scramble up. A lot of people told us about how great this mountain was and I must say… we get it.
It has some very fun scrambling and route finding, even on the south side. On the top you find two big rocks called Adam and Eve. Some people attempt to jump from one to the other. We did not.
Back down again.
When we arrived at our backpacks, I had started to feel some unease around the ligament of my right leg.
To get to the valley where we would sleep that night, we navigated our way down on the east side of Tryfan until our track met up with an actual path. The way down to the valley was longer than we had expected and the pain in my leg was increasing.
The campsite was a farm and absolutely perfect. We set up our tent, got into it and I fell asleep right away. Jef had to wake me up around 21h because I still had to eat dinner. Never had I been so exhausted from a day of hiking.
Day 3 (Carneddau section)
Our last day started with me checking my leg. Pain. Damnit, this can’t be the end, I thought. We had already completed two days and the most difficult sections were behind us. So I took a painkiller and we started, slowly.
The first mountain of the day was Pen yr Ole Wen. We followed a good track through the fields and up the mountain. There is a short scramble section to get to the top, but nothing too difficult.
The summit of Pen yr Ole Wen was the first one where we could enjoy the view around us! No clouds, no mist, just the perfect way to start the day!
From here, it’s a very easy walk to Carnedd Dafydd and also to Carnedd Llewelyn. From Carnedd Llewelyn we descended down and climbed back up to Yr Ellen. A better and more efficient way of doing this is probably to visit Yr Ellen first and from there, climb up to Carnedd Llewelyn. This was even our plan, but we were so caught up in deep discussions about life that we forgot about the plan.
When approaching Yr Ellen, the pain in my leg started to get worse again. I had already used the medication that I had with me for that day and I was afraid that if it kept getting worse, I would not be able to complete the hike. Close to the summit of Yr Ellen, two good men helped me out and provided me with some extra painkillers (thank you below).
From Yr Ellen we continued to Foel Grach where we found a beautiful emergency shelter. Next up was the small ‘mountain’ called Carnedd Gwenllian and from there it was the last straight line to Foel Fras, the finish of our adventure!
We reached the top of Foel Fras at 15h00 and were so happy we had completed all of them!
After some pictures we descended down through a big valley towards Bethesda. There was a Tesco in Bethesda which provided us with a bottle of wine that we would finish in the tent that night. We also had a beer in a place called ‘Douglas Arms’, a very special place with a friendly elderly woman behind the bar. It felt like I was having a beer in my grandma’s living room.
From there we hitchhiked back to our campsite. Once in the tent we opened the bottle of wine, had a great meal and a very well deserved night sleep.
Nant Peris Campsite (1st and 2nd night)
Price: 5 pounds per night per person. Coordinates: 53.105633, -4.082312
Friendly owner, campsite is basic. Did not try the shower but they should have cold and hot water. Also toilets available but don’t expect anything shiny, you are in the mountains! The bar is just across the street so that is also a big plus if you are in need of a night cap.
Gwern Gof Uchaf (3rd and 4th night)
Price: 5 pounds per night per person. Coordinates: 53.124220, -3.984635
Really friendly owner. There are some good showers. From the campsite you have a great view of Tryfan and Pen yr Ole Wen. Don’t be surprised if suddenly a sheep is running around your tent in the morning, it happens.
This map covered the whole area and I was pleased with the quality of the map. No need to look for anything else in my opinion. You can buy the map in the standard version or the Weatherproof Active Version.
Books and websites
As for books, we REALLY recommend ‘The Welsh Three Thousand Foot Challenges – A guide for Walkers and Hill Runners’ by Roy Clayton & Ronald Turnbull. We bought it at Cotswold Outdoors in Betws-y-Coed and it proved to be invaluable in the more technical parts of the route. It gave some very clear explanations about what way to go when scrambling and apart from that, lots of history about The Welsh 3000s challenge. Only downside, the structure of the book is a bit confusing from time to time.
There was not really a website that we found with good information about hiking the Welsh 3000’s in three days. So we hope to fill the gap with this article 😉
During and before our trip I met some great people and would like to thank them in this article!
When I was last minute planning our trip, I reached out to a couple of people I followed on Instagram and they were so friendly and gave me the best advice! Thank you so much @adventurer.nic, @vanilakodey and @mountainswithmatt! If I ever meet any of you, beers are on me. Follow these guys and girl if you love adventure!
Next up, the two men I met close to Yr Ellen. The two men introduced themselves as a doctor and a pharmacists, how perfect! They were so friendly and immediately started giving me the best painkillers they had, explained which I could take together and that if I did all this, we would be able to finish our adventure. If you ever read this, let me know!
When we were hitchhiking to get from Bethesda back to our campsite, we were picked up by a woman who had recently opened the Snowdonia Mountain Hostel. A very friendly woman and she drove us way further than she needed to be, if you ever read this, thanks a lot! If anyone is going to that area and wants something more comfortable than a tent, check out the hostel!
On the day we went home, we asked a guy at our campsite if there was a bus going to Betws-y-Coed. The guy’s name was Paul and he was a mountain guide. “I don’t think so”, he told us, “but hey my clients for today are still sleeping, I will bring you guys”. This guy drove 15 kilometres to and from Betws-y-Coed just for us. What a champ. If you are ever looking for a great mountain guide, I would not think twice about giving this man a call.