Complete the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge in 2020

By Dave Roberts   

on January 23, 2020   No ratings yet.

Complete the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge in 2020

Challenge yourself by attempting the Welsh three peaks Challenge in 2020.

It’s that time of year when you’ve decided that a new year brings on a new challenge and you fancy the sound of the Welsh 3 Peaks. Here’s why you should do it in 2020.

What’s the Welsh 3 Peaks all about then?

Most of us have heard about the National Three Peaks, which includes Snowdon. Less well known is the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge that involves climbing the three “main” summits in North, Mid and South Wales in 24 hours. While Snowdon is clearly the highest mountain in North Wales and Pen y Fan the highest in south Wales, Cader Idris is somewhat less clearly worthy. While an excellent walk, at 893 metres Cader Idris is not the highest mountain in Mid Wales. That honour probably goes to Aran Fawddwy at 905m. We say probably as you could argue that the honour of highest mountain in mid Wales goes to Pumlumon by virtue of actually being in Mid Wales!

How Hard is the Welsh 3 Peaks?

With that cleared up, the Welsh 3 Peaks is a worthy challenge. It’s clearly not as tough as the National Three Peaks as you’re basically swapping the easy 7km and 400m of ascent up Pen y Fan for the tougher 16km and 1300m walk up Ben Nevis. Another advantage of the Welsh 3 Peaks over the national three peaks Challenge is that you can get away without a dedicated driver. The driving is shorter and could be shared between challengers. The only problem is parking at pen y pass. A dedicated driver could drop you off, but depending on parking could bring you unstuck.

It’ll still give you bragging rights in the office on Monday morning and you can still hassle your workmates to sponsor you for a good cause.

How Fit Do I need to be for the Welsh 3 Peaks?

Preparation for the Welsh 3 Peaks will invariably involve some detox after the excesses of the holiday period and probably the shedding of any extra weight you’ve put on from Turkey sandwiches, Pringles and scoffing those purple and green triangle Quality Streets that are just irresistible!

You’ll also need to get fit, if you’re not already. General fitness will help considerably, especially if you don’t skip leg days. Running is even better, maximising the number of hills you get in. Yet none of it is a substitute for proper hill fitness. You really ought to get up a few proper mountains in training, ideally something comparable to Snowdon or Cader idris. Even better, make it those actual hills!

What hill skills and equipment will I need?

Your group will need a competent hill walker who is a confident navigator. If not, you will need to join an organised Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge. You’ll also need to be properly kitted out. See our essential hill walking kit list on Mud and Routes for more info.

You’ll also need the Recommended Maps:

Snowdon: OS Explorer OL17 Snowdon & Conwy Valley

Cader Idris: OS Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris & Llyn Tegid

Pen y Fan: OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park – Western & Central Areas Map

Welsh 3 Peaks Cader Idris Map

When is the best time to complete the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge?

Daylight is less of an issue than the national challenge as a fit team should be able to complete it in around 15 hours or even less. That means if you set off up Pen y Fan around 5am, you should finish Snowdon by around 7 in the evening with plenty of daylight  to spare if you choose to complete the challenge in late spring or during the summer.

What are the best Routes up the Welsh 3 Peaks

Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms is the clear winner to start with.

Cader Idris has a number of choices, with the Minffordd Path being the better but harder route than the Pony Path.

Snowdon has too many choices, but the shortest is the PYG track. The Miners’ Track is a good option for tired legs as it starts off steady, but more than makes up for it later!

Completing the Welsh 3 Peaks – on the day.

Check the weather! Here are the links to the Met Office Mountain forecasts:

Snowdon / Cader Idris Mountain Weather Forecast.

Pen y Fan Mountain Weather Forecast.

You’ll need to get to the starting point the day before, and you can do the challenge in either direction. Starting with Pen y Fan is an easy start, but leaves the toughest walk till last! We’ll suggest starting with an ascent of Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms, setting off at around 5am. You should be able to get to Cader Idris for mid morning and you should be starting up Snowdon by around three in the afternoon. A view from the summits would be nice, but you’ll be lucky!

I’m fired up, can I do the Welsh 3 Peaks in winter?

If you’ve got the skills, yes. Be aware that it will be tough in snow and daylight hours will be scarce. Towards the end of February early March you’ll find you can still have winter conditions and enough daylight to compete Cader Idris and Snowdon in daylight if you’re willing to tackle the more straight forward Pen y Fan before dawn. View our post on Completing the National 3 Peaks in Winter for more details.

If you take up the challenge, then tweet your progress on #WUSwelsh3peaks and keep us posted! We’ll have a small prize for the first ones to complete the challenge with our hashtag even if you’ve been in prep already!


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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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