Friends in high places: Hiking the Welsh 3000’s

When I set off south down the Americas in May 2010 I fully expected to meet a few people and probably make a few friends along the way. What I didn’t expect was for so many of those new friends to be English. As the years ticked by and I found my niche within the bicycle touring community I also found my people; like-minded cyclists seeking similar experiences and riding in similar styles. Over the years, as paths crossed and directions changed we moved from being an online community to a real world group of friends. Last weekend a few of us arranged to meet up and hike out. We headed to north Wales to conquer Snowdonia’s highest peaks and take on the Welsh 3000’s.

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The crew (left to right): Neil, Mike, Paul and Pete, with me in the front

The cast for this ‘micro-adventure’ consisted of: Neil ‘Steady Eddy‘ Pike of Pikes on Bikes and Andes by Bike fame, who I first met in Huaraz, Peru. Paul ‘Power-to-Weight‘ Griffiths, author of The Ride South and co-founder of Alpamayo Designs, with whom I enjoyed some of the final days of my America’s tour down in Tierra del Fuego. Mike ‘Mike Howarth™‘ Howarth, of mikehowarth.co.uk and @mikehowarth, who you might know as Mike Howarth, and I know as the man who knows everybody, whose path I crossed in La Paz, Bolivia. And Pete ‘Travis Bickle‘ Foster, with whom I first crossed paths outside Bristol Temple Meads railways station on the Friday night. Pete may not have cycled the Andes, but with three children under 5, he faces daily challenges of the like none of the rest of us could ever imagine.

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Can you see the appeal of the Welsh landscape?

The task was to summit all fifteen of Wales’ 3000 foot peaks on one hike in one weekend. It’s a well-known and popular challenge that some choose to spread over a few days and others run in a matter of hours. Our 34 mile (55 km) route would end up taking about 17 hours during which time we climbed a total of around 14,900 feet (4,530 m). Not a bad effort for a bunch of cyclists but nothing compared to the unbelievable record of 4 hours 19 minutes set by Colin Donnelly back in 1988. But the ‘challenge’ was nothing more than incidental to us, we were only there to have fun, catch up and enjoy a brief escape into one of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes. Maybe next time Mr. Donnelly… maybe next time…

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Elevation profile of our Welsh 3000’s route

Considering the regions reputation, we struck relatively lucky with the weather, only really getting wet on the second of the two days. The clouds came and went, then came back again, then went, then came back to stay. The midges came and went, then came back and really pissed us all off. Our energy levels came and went but stayed long enough to ensure the smiles never disappeared. It was a classic weekend away and a testament to just how much fun it’s possible to pack into two days. Here is the brief story of our memorable hike over the Snowden, Glyderau and Carneddau mountain ranges …

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And they’re off… first task is to tramp up to the summit of Snowdon, the official start of the Welsh 3000’s challenge

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As we make speedy progress up the easy Pyg Track route the clouds part to reveal Glaslyn water…

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… but return to completely envelop us as we climb higher. So it’s a bit damp when we summit Snowdon (3559 ft,1,085 m) and arrive at the highest point in Wales

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From Snowdon we pick our way along Crib y Ddysgl…

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… towards our second summit, that of Garnedd Ugain (3494 ft, 1,065 m)…

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… before continuing along the ridge…

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… to summit number 3, the famous Crib Goch (3028 ft, 923 m)

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With the three Snowdon peaks pocketed we descend down for a lunchtime beer in Nant Peris…

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… before heading back up…

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… to summit number 4, Elidir Fawr (3031 ft, 924 m)

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By this time patches of blue sky have appeared and glorious views open up over the Glyderau range…

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… bringing the landscapes alive as we traverse across…

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… to the picturesque summit of Y Garn (3106 ft, 947 m)

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We then head down to Llyn y Cwn before climbing up to summit Glyder Fawr (3284 ft, 1,001 m), Castell y Gwynt (3188 ft, 972m) and Glyder Fach (3261 ft, 994 m)…

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… before descending…

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… towards the start of the days final climb, up the striking slopes of Tryfan

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Having spent the afternoon shadowing fellow hiker John, we absorb him into the group and he unwittingly becomes honorary member Juancito (the sixth Beatle)

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We’ve already been on the trail over 12 hours by the time we start climbing Tryfan…

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… which we summit under a full moon with the first signs of weariness starting to creep in

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Day 2 begins with a bang, the initial climb up into the Carneddau range taking no prisoners. It’s the perfect ‘warm-up’…

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… and we’re sat on top of the days first summit, Pen yr Ole Wen (3208 ft, 978 m) in next to no time

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After the punishing 21 miles (34 km) of the first day, Pete kindly forgoes the second in order to pick us up from the end. A selfless act that leaves us hiking as a quartet. The clouds soon close in and we walk the remainder of the route in rain, hopping from peak to peak with only fleeting glimpses of the surroundings

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But nothing can dampen our spirits and we forge on to the summit of Foel-fras (3090 ft, 942 m) our fifteenth and final peak, in fine style and with good energy. And that’s that, we’ve conquered the Welsh 3000’s…

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… all that remains is the hike down to find Pete who we know is waiting to pick us up and take us back to civilization.

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