The Welsh Three Peak Challenge
You’ve probably heard of the ‘national’ three peaks of Yr Wyddfa, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis and perhaps the Yorkshire Three Peaks, but the Welsh Three Peaks are probably less well known. It’s also meant to be completed within 24 hours, but with much less driving than the UK version, with perhaps the main difference being that you’re directly swapping 7km and 400m of ascent up Pen y Fan for the slightly tougher 16km and 1300m Ben Nevis equivalent.
You can start the route either end as it should be perfectly feasible to complete this in daylight during the summer, especially if you don’t waste any time on the road sections with excess stoppages for food. We decided to set off from Pen y Fan as we were based near Yr Wyddfa anyway and so that seemed the only logical option.
1 – Pen y Fan. This is the easiest leg of the entire route. You’ve two very easy choices from the Storey Arms that come in at under 8km in total. You can set off up Pen y Fan via the Beacons Way a Km or so down the A470 from the Storey Arms. We chose the path directly behind the Storey Arms and wild camped about a km along. So technically speaking we started the challenge at 11pm on the Friday night, even if we regarded our timing from the morning. We were mostly up and partially awake at 5AM, we left the tents and made for the summit which we reached some time around 6. We were back in the car by 7, including the time it took to break camp.
The trip up to Cadair Idris was a leisurely one, with a stop for a full breakfast en route. We should have taken advantage of the burger vans on the A470 towards Brecon and eaten immediately, rather than waiting.
2 – Cadair Idris is a strange inclusion. You can argue that the other two mountains are the highest points in North and South Wales, but Cadair Idris has no such claim as that right falls to Aran Fawddwy. You could argue that Pumlumon should be the second peak as the highest point in Mid Wales, though the exact definition of Mid Wales is rather fuzzy. However, it’s a fine mountain and there should be no complaints that you have to climb it as part of the challenge. You’ve two short options for this walk. The Minffordd Path which is all steps at the start but is possibly the most scenic route, with the disadvantage of having an extra summit in the way. We chose the Pony Path as it was easier and had less steps, at the beginning at least.
3 – Yr Wyddfa. A leisurely pint (soft drink, unfortunately) at the Gwernan Hotel, followed by carb loading in Porthmadog, meant we were a bit later arriving at Pen y Pass than we’d anticipated. The choice of Pen y Pass as a starting point does pose an issue for a group that needs to park as you’re unlikely to get a parking space after 8AM. We were dropped off, with the intention of walking back to Llanberis. If you’re dependent on getting a parking space, then try the Rhyd Ddu or Snowdon Ranger paths, please don’t ruin your challenge by heading up the tedious Llanberis Path. The Miner’s Track was chosen over the PYG for no good reason, and despite the strange looks from most of the charity walkers who couldn’t fathom how we could set off up at 4PM when they’d been at it since 9, was a steady pull for the most part.
We arrived in the Heights Hotel in Llanberis at 7:20 PM, about 14 hours since we’d set off from the tents. With better prep, 12 hours would have been possible, but then again who’s counting?
Here are the pics – with thanks to Tryf and Mark!