What is the Welsh 3000s Challenge? Have you ever heard of it? If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you’re considering taking on this beast of a challenge. The Welsh 3000s is summiting the 14 highest mountains in Wales, in Snowdonia National Park within 24 hours.
The name ‘Welsh 3000s’ gives a clue to the challenge, all 14 mountains are over 3,000 ft. The hike can be done via slightly different routes. In total, you’re going to be hiking over 30 miles including getting up and down from the first and last summits. There are a couple of additional summits to make it 15 or 16 but these aren’t official mountains!
So I took on the Welsh 3000s and lost! It was honestly the hardest challenge I’ve ever done, yes you heard that right. Mount Kilimanjaro summit night comes close, 8 hours trekking up to the summit in pitch black but this was tougher.
Here are my top tips for attempting the Welsh 3000s in Snowdonia (there is a chance that you might not complete it). You might think I am being dramatic, but seriously this challenge was tough. Although, if I hadn’t made so many mistakes it might not have been as bad haha.
*The hiking time and distance are for my personal challenge.
Firstly, to put you in the picture here’s the short version of my challenge.
- Arrive at the campsite, set up camp and pack my bag for the overnight trip
- Set off for Snowdon on Friday night from Pen y Pass about 8.00 pm
- Reach Snowdon summit, pitch my tent with rocks
- Go to bed at 11.30 pm, barely sleep
- The alarm goes off at 3.30 am. Pack up my tent in the rain
Welsh 3000s Challenge
- Begin the hike from the official start on Snowdon summit on Saturday at 4.30 am (in the rain)
- Hike along to summit number 2, then along Crib Goch (very slowly due to rain and wind)
- Head down from Crib Goch back to the campsite
- Back at campsite 8.30 am. Breakfast, coffee and dump camping gear
- Set off again hiking at 10.00 am (yes it’s still raining)
- Make a wrong turn and take a longer route to summit 4, then onto summit 5 arrive about 2.30 pm
- A miracle happens at 3.00 pm it stops raining (11 hours of rain!)
- On to summit numbers 6, 7 and 8 (7 is not an official summit but we did it anyway!)
- Now summit 9 Tryfan, reaching the summit at 6.30 pm then descending by 8.15 pm
- Stop off for water and more supplies at a secret stash
- At 8.30 pm we head off to summit number 10, reaching it at 10.00 pm (losing the light)
- Summit number 11, it’s almost pitch black
- Then Summit 12 about midnight, we took the decision to abort the challenge and get safely back down from the mountains
- At 5.00 am after the hardest 5 hours of the challenge we reach the road and our lift back to the campsite
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Weather in Wales
Weather in the UK can be unpredictable, add in a few mountains and it’s a recipe for any weather to be thrown at you.
My top tip is to check the weather forecast and then plan for every other type of weather too!
Rain rain and more rain (sideways, upwards and downwards)
We had looked at the weather and knew it was going to be raining. But what we didn’t factor was 11 hours of rain, from 4 am to 3 pm. Yes, it was brutal and wet obviously!
What difference does a bit a rain make? For starters, rocks are much more slippery, both up and downhill. You need to watch your footing carefully so as not to slip. Before you ask, yes I did fall over, surprisingly only once but still I’d rather stay on two feet!
Rain also means waterproof cover on your bag, which makes grabbing a quick drink or snacks more of a pain. It’s great when you have guys around you to help with this (thanks :)).
On a positive note, I did drink a lot of rainwater as it was running down my face!
Down in the valley wind isn’t a big issue but 3,000 ft up it is! The trickiest and most dangerous section along Crib Goch had a few scary gusts of wind, that came out of no-where. The best thing to do is stop for a second and let it pass. No way do you want to fall from a 3,000 ft edge.
Although we didn’t have much sunshine on our hike, I’ve contemplated since returning and the UK has a mini heatwave. Completing the Welsh 3000s challenge in hot temperatures would be tough.
You would need a lot more water, meaning more weight to carry. Unless you have one of those fancy water filters and even if you did there aren’t loads of streams on the route.
Wild camping on Mt Snowdon summit
We chose to hike up Snowdon late the night before and wild camp. It was an awesome experience camping at the top of the highest mountain in Wales.
On the positive side, you start as soon as the sun rises from the official start point, Snowdon summit. Saving you the 1.5-2 hour hike up the mountain at the start of the challenge.
But to flip it, to the negative side, camping means you need to carry your camping equipment (I have the Vango Banshee 200, a two-man tent). As well as sleeping bag and Thermarest mat. Not only do you need to carry it to the top of Snowdon, you’ll also have to carry it all along the second and third peaks (including the tricky knife-edge route along Crib Goch) until you descend the mountain range.
To save on weight, I opted not to carry gas and cooking equipment but instead took some cold food. Great I had less weight but not so good my evening meal before the big challenge was pretty rubbish.
The right gear and equipment for the challenge
Having done numerous full day hikes in the UK and abroad when I agreed to do the challenge I was confident that I had all the gear that I needed for the hike.
My main problem and you’ll probably all think I’m really stupid when I say this, was having it with me on the hike. It’s not like I left my waterproof jacket behind but there were things that really should have been in my bag.
Like my lovely, good quality, warm gloves, my penknife (you never know when you might need it) and on the first section I even left my first aid kit behind. Now that was really stupid and luckily I didn’t need it. After dropping my camping kit I did pick it up, although warm gloves and my super warm down jacket were left behind. At midnight, whilst hiking in strong wind at 3,000 ft I was kicking myself for not putting them in my bag.
I packed my waterproof trousers for the hike. I use the word waterproof very loosely because within a couple of hours they were absolutely useless. Did I mention that it rained for 11 hours solid! My waterproof socks did a much better job but after about 5 hours they had stopped being waterproof too.
The only thing that did an awesome job was my new Berghaus Paclite jacket. I’ve had it since February and to date, it’s barely experienced any rain. So this was a huge test for my bright pink jacket and I’m pleased to say it was the only one in our group that stood up to the challenge.
Read my full review of my Berghaus waterproof jacket here
One piece of kit that I was glad to have were my new Montem Trekking Poles. There were sections of the hike that involved a lot of scrambling, which I prefer to have my hands free. But there were also steep climbs up and down where I was so glad to have the poles with me.
Water and Food for the hike
Even if the weather isn’t going to be tropical conditions then I would still recommend hydrating before your hike. It’s not great to start any challenge like this dehydrated.
I had my Sigg water bottles filled up on both sides, 750 ml bottles. Plus I was carrying a couple of energy drinks as well.
One of our group (I’m going to call him Super Ryan) planned ahead and left a water stash on the hike, a great idea to save you carrying extra weight. I would have loved it if we had also parked a car at the bottom of Tryfan with more supplies too.
Choose high protein, easy to eat food whilst you are on the hike. Plus a decent dinner the night before and if possible for the days leading up to the challenge.
Plan for hiking in the dark
Our group were all fit, experienced hikers (ok maybe I was a bit slower) we’d read that on average for fast hikers you could complete the challenge in around 15 hours. I will openly admit, I’d not factored in hiking at 2 am, 3 am or even 4 am. In fact, I stopped (or collapsed) from hiking at 5 am.
I had warm clothes, my 4-man survival shelter and plenty of water. Although, I would have loved my big warm down jacket for when I started to slow and my body temperature cooled down. I also have no idea why I didn’t pack some warmer gloves. Both my pairs were soaking from the earlier rain and I had no other option (Neil to the rescue here – thanks Neil, your SealSkinz gloves were amazing).
My big error for hiking in the dark was my headtorch. It was fine for finding things in my tent in the dark but either I picked up the wrong torch or the batteries were on the way out because didn’t omit nearly enough light to show me the best way over the rocky ground.
Know the Welsh 3000s route
For this hike, I wasn’t map reading, I had my OS map and compass but one of our group Ryan was much more experienced so he was in charge of the route. A job I don’t envy him of, I’m not great at map reading but this challenge you need to keep on track. We went the wrong way once, to be honest, I’m not surprised, the conditions were awful and you couldn’t see very well.
But this did add a few extra miles to our already long hike. If you have the option to hike sections of the route beforehand, in particular, the joining up of the sections I’d recommend it.
I’d like to thank Ryan and his map reading skills for really coming into play later on the hike and getting us all safely off the mountain. Thank you 🙂
Be prepared for the mental challenge
The Welsh 3000s is a completely different type of challenge. Like all tough things in life they require physical strength and fitness (to different degrees depending on what the challenge is) but also a huge amount of mental toughness. The Welsh 3000s is certainly more of a mental challenge.
In those final hours, 3,000 ft up a mountain, with no light. I’m not going to lie it was hard. The ground is very uneven and with my rubbish headtorch, I’d created an additional challenge for myself. I’m laughing about it now but it was ridiculous not having a bright enough torch.
Another shoutout to fellow hiker Sam who really supported me in those last few miles, when I had really bad trench foot and could barely walk.
But as a team, we stuck together and made it to the end. Although we didn’t summit all 14 official mountains I couldn’t be prouder or my achievement.
What would I do differently if I did the Welsh 3000s Challenge again?
- Firstly, if I planned a date when the weather was raining loads again, I would re-arrange
- Eat more food (carb loading) before the hike
- Eat more food on the challenge
- Buy some waterproof trousers that are actually waterproof
- Pack my lovely warm gloves and big down jacket (in a waterproof dry bag)
- Leave a car with extra supplies, clothes at the bottom of Tryfan mountain
- Take a headtorch that is bright enough for nighttime hiking
And would I do the Welsh 3000s again?
I’m sure you’re wondering after everything I’ve said, would I do the Welsh 3000s challenge again? Yes, I definitely would. I totally agree it was a tough challenge but even in the wind, rain and darkness I loved it (yes I know I’m a little mad).
Would you be tempted to take on the Welsh 3000s Challenge? Is there anything else you’d like to know before taking on the challenge? Ask me in the comments below.