The Welsh 3000s

The Welsh 3000s

A PDF of the write up, RD, and the GPX files can be found here

The Welsh 3000s is an iconic challenge with a somewhat inflated reputation for its difficulty. Truth of the matter is that the route is pretty straightforward and pretty much all on good paths. There are a number of water sources along the way (streams and a reservoir) and two road crossings. On a busy weekend large parts of the route resemble Oxford Street on a busy Saturday.

That having been said, it’s a route where small mistakes, nominal deviations from the route, unanticipated rests, and a lack of cardiovascular fitness will cost you dearly. A small deviation from the path could cost you an hour. If you blow the Elidir Fawr climb you won’t finish. An unnecessary scramble will sap your energy and add hours to your time – when it counts most.

What the challenge requires for successful completion – a summit-to-summit time of 15 hours or less – is discipline and cardiovascular fitness that allows you to climb consistently at a good pace, all other things being equal. It does require careful planning for where you take rest breaks and feeding breaks and where you are going to source water. The summit-to-summit completion time is estimated as a time for the average Hill or Long Distance Walker in a London Hight Street shop in reasonable-to-good weather without support. It assumes, as noted, that the said person is disciplined, sticks to the main paths, and has planned their route carefully in case the weather comes in. For the more experienced walker/mountaineer the expected completion time all other things being equal would be around 12 hours.

The main route is straightforward, as said above, but there are number of minor variations for the ascents and descents of the first and third leg. The Route Description (RD) and GPX files give these variations. Water sources and support points are noted below and on the RD and on the relevant GPX files.

For the true Welsh 3000s challenge you’ll want to do it without any support other than drop off at the start and pick up at the finish. That means carrying all your own food and water and the minimal necessary mountain kit.

The challenge is readily broken down into three legs. The Snowdon leg, the Glyderau leg, and the Carneddau leg. The Snowdon leg has a small Grade One scramble across Crib Goch and has two main variations. The Glyderau leg is pretty much fixed although the transfer to the Carneddau leg has two options. The Carneddau leg is pretty much fixed but there are a number of options from the finish to leave the mountains.

The Snowdon leg can be started at either Crib Goch or Snowdon. These two starts give two very different routes with different ways off the mountain. Either route means a strong climb to the start, the first summit, followed by three summits in quick succession then a long descent to the valley. The advantage of a Crib Goch start is that the descent is straightforward with two simple options. A Snowdon start means descending from Crib Goch and using North Ridge followed by a longish stretch on the road, which does have the advantage of giving your legs a rest and means you can make good time.

The Glyderau leg is pretty much fixed. From Nant Peris you take the direct ascent up Elidir Fawr then follow the main paths round to the next valley. This leg has most of the big climbs and big descents. The climbs are unrelenting and come in succession and need to be carefully managed. This is not a leg to push on. It needs a measured pace and a low, steady, effort. The risk with this leg, as it is with the first leg, is getting caught up with trying to do too much rock – scrambling – on the Glyderau themselves and Tryfan. This will burn up energy and time alike and is unnecessary. With the exception of Castell y Gwynt the paths take you within the required distance of the summits and there is no need to stop and mess around at each one. Managing this middle leg is crucial to the success of the day. There are a lot of climbs and a lot of potential distractions and deviations from the main path. Blowing the climbs will rob you of the energy you need for the Carneddau and straying of the main path can easily cost you hours in time. The main pinch points in terms of straying are Foel Goch, which you avoid by staying on the main path, and losing the path after Glyder Fawr and getting caught up in Castell y Gwynt and Glyder Fach and on the smaller paths up Tryfan. It is also important to stay in West Gully on the descent. The gully is eroded and full of slabs of rock. There is a small path to the left as you descend, but this should be avoided as the gully itself is easier and faster to descend.

The Carneddau leg has the final big climb at the start. The climb can be softened if you take the Glen Dena path (see Alternative Leg Three below) but that adds an extra .4 – .5 of a mile. Once the climb up Pen yr Ole Wen is completed it is an undulating route with one little kick up from Yr Elen to Carnedd Llewelyn. The main challenge on this leg is sections across boulder fields. They are short but greasy in the wet and there are a good number of them. However, if you keep a steady pace and focus you are through them quickly. The Carneddau leg is the one where you can afford to push the pace and look for a good strong finish and make up any lost time.

When you reach the finish at Foel Fras there are four possible descents off the mountains: Bethesda, Aber Falls, Bwlcyh y Ddeufaen Car Park, and the Llyn Eigiau Car Park. The shortest route is to Llyn Eigiau, but this is also the most difficult route. Bwlch y Ddeufaen is a simple route and virtually the same distance as the Llyn Eigiau route. It can be much shortened if you know the way across the open access. The simplest finish is to the Aber Falls Car Park. This requires no effort and follows a broad track. The Bethesda finish is the longest finish with some focus and concentration required.

The challenge varies markedly with the time of year, the weather, and between weekends and weekdays. The optimum day would be in late April early May in good weather during the week. The mountains will be quiet, you have enough daylight if you get an early start and stick to the pace and the plan, and the weather is at its most stable. Weekends can be noisy and crowded, especially on the Glyderau section, and once past June the weather is starting to turn. If you are a masochistic, experienced, die hard with phenomenal fitness and mountaineering skills the cold, wet, dark, winter days are of course an option. But its not a challenge to take on in either the rain or in the snow or strong winds. The risks are simply to great and a realistic pace is unlikely.

What follows is a description (not an RD) of the summit-to-summit route starting at Crib Goch. When I completed the challenge I took a slightly different route but I’ve done every part of the route outlined here with the exception of cutting corner around Carnedd Llewelyn. At the time I rather foolishly thought cutting corner to Yr Elen first made sense and became fixated on that option – to my cost. Similarly for the Tryfan Dash route.

The Welsh 3000s route from Crib Goch

Leg one; Snowdon Range; Three summits

From Pen y Pass you take the Pyg Track up to Crib Goch (1). Its important to take it slow and easy especially as if you want to get round well you need an early start (sunrise). Take the easy route up to Crib Goch, keeping to the right, with minimal scrambling. Cross over and again minimise any unnecessary scrambling. The objective is to move at steady pace and don’t do anything you don’t have to do. Go across to Garnedd Ugain (2) on the right hand path and follow the track up to Snowdon (3). Take the Llanberis path from Snowdon and after Clogwyn station leave the path and continue on the ridge to the 610m ring contour.

Cross over the stile and descend on the path, which is on the left and then cuts right, and as you near the bottom bear left to the stile over the wall. Be careful not to keep on with the path on the spur for too long otherwise you come to a steep bit that is very difficult to get down. The 610m descent is a little tough on the knees and in wet weather can be very slippery as it is all on grass.

After crossing the wall there is a good path to the footbridge to Nant Peris. This is the first road break.

The water in the stream at Nant Peris may not be good water as there are many campsites upstream. However, there is water within the next hour as you ascend Elidir Fawr.

Leg Two; Glyderau Range; Five, or Six, summits (depending on whether or not you take in Castell y Gwynt)

The key to this leg is a measured pace and sticking to the main path like glue.

If coming from the 610m turn left as you come onto the road, cross the road, and take the first road right up past Raw Adventures (also signposted to a campsite). Follow the road around to the left and keep on until you see the footpath sign. It is pretty obvious which path goes up towards Elidir Fawr.

Follow the path up Elidir Fawr to the stream crossing. This is a water source straight off the mountain. It is the last reliable water source until the next road crossing and there is a tough leg ahead. Cross the stream and follow the path up Elidir Fawr (1). This is the toughest climb and needs to be taken at a steady measured pace. Blow this climb and you won’t finish. It isn’t as demanding as it seems but it is mind numbingly boring and relentless.

From Elidir Fawr there is a good path that skirts below Foel Goch and goes around and up Y Garn (2). There are around four false summits up Y Garn. It is a good easy to follow path. From Y Garn you descend to Llyn y Cwn. There is a steam leaving Llyn y Cwn towards Devil’s Kitchen and again this is a water source although it can dry up in summer.

Then comes the climb up to Glyder Fawr (3) which is steep but not as demanding as it first seems. From Glyder Fawr follow the path to Castell y Gwynt (4), take it, then keep on the main path to Glyder Fach (5) then on to descend down the scree slope alongside Bristly Ridge.

Keep on the main path up Tryfan (6). Make sure you stick to the main path as any deviation will cost you a lot of energy and time at this point.

From Tryfan you descend Western Gully and then onto the path and down to the road. It is possible to cut the corner by bearing left right at the very end. Turn left down road towards Idwal Cottage. There is a water source in the reservoir on the far side of the road and in the stream leaving the reservoir. There is also the stream leaving Llyn Idwal. This is the last good water source before the finish and the Carneddau leg is a long leg plus a finish.

Leg Three; Carnededau Range; Seven Summits

From Idwal Cottage cross the road and turn left then the path is almost immediately on the right. You cross the stream here. Follow the path up Pen yr Ole Wen (1) again avoiding as much of the scrambling as you possibly can. The easier path is slightly to the right and skirts the worst of the boulder fields. Again, this is a place to work on a steady pace and minimise effort as much as possible.

Once up on Pen yr Ole Wen it is straightforward to Carnedd Dafydd (2). After Carnedd Dafydd there is a boulder field at Cerfn Ysgolion Duon. The path runs just below the boulder field and is pretty straightforward. Continue with the main path up to Carnedd Llewelyn (3).

From Carnedd Llwelyn take a line directly across to Yr Elen (4). This is almost a complete out and back. On the way back from Yr Elen stick to the main path and as you come off the climb the main path bears left. Follow this bearing left and it will cut the corner around Carnedd Llewelyn and take you on to the main path to Foel Grach (5). This is an easier route than the one directly from Carnedd Llewelyn which crosses boulder fields.

There are no more real climbs from this point on. Keep on the path to Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian (6), and finally Foel Fras (7).

Alternative Leg Three; Carnededau Range via Glen Dena Route; Seven Summits

From Tryfan descend Western Gully then EITHER turn right down the Tryfan Dash route (NOT ADVISED unless you are a mountain goat). Note that this is a steep descent best managed along the stream bed but in wet weather the rock can be like ice. It is a long descent and unless you can descend extremely well on tired legs it is going to be slow. OR Descend Western Gully and just follow the path down to the road and TR along the road.

At the road turn right. Cross the road. Turn left up the footpath past Glen Dena. Continue on the path across the stream towards Cwm Lloer. As the path reaches the pass it bears left past Ffynon Lloer and goes up Pen yr Ole Wen with a very short scramble.

Keep to left as you ascend Pen Yr Ole Wen.

This path is .4-.5 of a mile longer than ascending from Idwal Cottage. It is, however, a simpler and clearer path. It is debatable whether it requires less effort than the Idwal Cottage approach. There is a good water source on this route.

After Pen yr Ole Wen it is straightforward to Carnedd Dafydd (2). After Carnedd Dafydd there is a boulder field at Cerfn Ysgolion Duon. The path runs just below the boulder field and is pretty straightforward. Continue with the main path up to Carnedd Llewelyn (3).

From Carnedd Llwelyn take a line directly across to Yr Elen (4). This is almost a complete out and back. On the way back from Yr Elen stick to the main path and as you come off the climb the main path bears left. Follow this bearing left and it will cut the corner around Carnedd Llewelyn and take you on to the main path to Foel Grach (5). This is an easier route than the one directly from Carnedd Llewelyn which crosses boulder fields.

There are no more real climbs from this point on. Keep on the path to Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenllian (6), and finally Foel Fras (7).

Coming off the mountains

From Foel Fras you can either double back and descend to either Bethesda or Llyn Eigiau or continue to either Aber Falls Car Park or Bwlch y Ddeufaen Car Park.

For Aber Falls you simply follow the main path along the wall off Fole Fras and it becomes a track that takes you to the Car Park. For Bwlch y Ddeufaen you keep to the fence line. Eventually the fence line turns right and you follow it down to the Roman Road and turn right to the Car Park. There are peat bog streams at regular intervals along this route.

Water Sources

Knowing how to source water is a key mountaineering skill. Generally speaking water should always be sourced from running water, the faster the better. Always check upstream for around 50m to ensure no dead animals. Bodies of still water carry a higher risk and the smaller the body of still water the greater the risk. Large bodies of water are generally drinkable but in places, such as the Brecon Beacons, even large bodies of water, other than reservoirs, are contaminated. Reservoirs tend to have drinkable water.

Water can be filtered or treated with chlorine tablets if uncertain or if there is no other water available. Small, lightweight, filters are inexpensive and chlorine tablets are equally inexpensive. However, in the case of water contaminated by human faeces or by leptospirosis boiling is the only viable option. This sort of contamination usually occurs in still bodies of water such as ponds and small lakes where there are a lot of sheep and/or where people camp/wild camp and/or on rivers or streams below campsites.

There are number of water sources on the Welsh 3000s listed below. Given the above it is not possible to advise that the water from these sources is suitable for drinking purposes.

Leg One

Make sure you start with plenty of water for Leg One. There are two water sources at the end of Leg One/Start of Leg Two.

Source One.  This is downstream from a campsite and is not advised. As you reach the FB crossing the river just before you go into Nant Peris. SH 60367 58270

Source Two. Actually at the start of Leg Two. As you go into the OA on Elidir Fawr you come to the washed away FB and cross the stream. This falls from the mountain and is fast flowing. SH 60845 59577

Leg Two

There are three water sources on Leg Two including one at the end/start of Leg Three.

Source One. As you go into the OA on Elidir Fawr you come to the washed away FB and cross the stream. This falls from the mountain and is fast flowing. SH 60845 59577

Source Two. There is a run off from Llyn y Cwn at the base of Y Garn before you ascend Glyder Fawr. The path actually crosses the run off and it can be followed downstream for a little way. SH 63660 58562

If the run off has dried up there is another source to the north of Llyn y Cwn. As you reach the Llyn turn right and follow the main path. After a hundred metres of so it reaches a small stream and runs parallel to the stream. SH 63362 58435

Source Three. When you come off Tryfan and take the standard route up Pen yr Ole Wen you come to a FB over the run off from Llyn Ogwen just after Idwal Cottage. You can source water from Llyn Ogwen or from the run off. SH 648 605

Leg Three

Leg Three has no good water sources other than at the start and is s longest leg with the least options so make sure you are well stocked up. There is a possible water source at Bwlch Cyfryw-drum but it is not straightforward. On the Glen Dena route there is water all the way up to the left turn onto Pen yr Ole Wen.

Source One. The FB over the run off from Llyn Ogwen just after Idwal Cottage. You can source water from Llyn Ogwen or from the run off. SH 648 605

Source One Glen Dena Route. You can get down to Llyn Ogwen or from the road. Look for an obvious route over the wall just by the big rocks. SH 664 604

Source Two Glen Dena Route. The FB follows the stream up towards Cwm Lloer and the water is fast flowing. Don’t leave it too late though as higher up the sides are steep and the stream is difficult to access. SH 66757 61194; SH 66541 61917

Possible further source. There is a potential source to the LHS as you come down into Bwlch Cyfryw-drum. As you reach the flat place, just before the crescent wall on the path, there is a small path to the LHS on CB 320. After around 50m this path passes above two re-entrants. SH 68122 63956. Tl and make your way down for 50-100m to the re-entrant SH 67945 63870. This is not straightforward and is time consuming over some rough ground.


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