Friday, August 21, 2009


Snowdonia 2009: the Welsh 3000s

Big Dave mentioned that Bailey was coming back from Japan for a visit and would I be interested in going on a walking trip in Snowdonia?

For sure, I said, thinking of my 15th and 16th birthdays spent on school camping trips with cold tinned curry and warm tinned beer.

It then came out that what Dave had in mind was The Welsh 3000s:

In order to complete the Welsh 3000s Challenge you are required to have been at the top of all 15 of the mountains over 3000 ft in Wales within the space of 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

The length is about 24 miles, but the walks to the start point and down from the finish point can take it to over 30 miles in total.

The walk is also known as "The 14 Peaks" (although there are officially 15, or possibly 16).


Sod, I said, and tapped up the dad for a new set of walking boots.


We arrived at Gwern Gof Uchaf Camp Site on the Friday evening, then Other Dave and I drove to drop his car at where we projected our walk would end. Our plan of action for the Saturday was:It was a pretty serious schedule, so we got to bed early with the prospect of a 3:30 am start looming and the weather beginning to look ugly.

Team Snowdonia
Team Snowdonia 2009: (L to R) Other Dave, Big Dave, Bailey, Dan



Discretion being the better part of valour and none of us eager to take on the treacherous Crib Goch ridge in 50 mph sideways rain, we went for a revised schedule:This would naturally mean waving cheerio to the 24-hour target but seemed a less daunting prospect than presenting Bailey's mum with his remains in a sponge.


The Saturday walk was beset with bad weather and navigational difficulties, perhaps the worst of which was the bit when a mischievous gust of wind deprived us of the protective sheet for our map. The map ended up the consistency of damp tissue and proved a right bugger to read.

Our one break in the weather came when we made it back to the camp site and broke out the barbecue:

Snowdonia sunset
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight;
mince and potato, shepherd's pie.

With the evening drawing in and the weather turning nasty again, we hit the hay, ready for another tough day's walking.


Sunday, to my frank horror, dawned very clear and bright. I say "horror" because I was more than ready for grey skies, rain and a valid excuse to get back into my sleeping bag and lay down some Zs. No such luck.

We drove to the foot of Snowdon and began our ascent up the Pyg Track. We then had the question of whether or not we'd bother with Crib Goch. Other Dave wanted to, Bailey and Big Dave voiced doubts about the wind, which was picking up quite nicely. Suffering from a surplus of testosterone, I volunteered to accompany Other Dave, while our comrades would go directly to the summit of Snowdon and meet us there.

I had ample cause to question the wisdom of my decision as we ascended: cloud closed in around us, the wind picked up and walking became scrambling. At first, scrambling up facing nothing but rock and exercising a rigid policy of not looking down, it wasn't too bad. Eventually, though, we reached a point where we were scrambling up the intersection of two rock faces with the blank void of infinity dropping away on either side.

It fairly did my head in, I can tell you. My world suddenly seemed to have a great deal more "down" than "up."

Then there was the ridge itself: the wrong step on the left-hand side and there'd be a trail of Dan to the bottom of the mountain; the right-hand side had the debatable attraction that at least I wouldn't bounce so many times before reaching the bottom. The most disheartening bit was when we had to shimmy along a ledge where the rock face went in underneath, adding that extra little frisson of standing above empty air, a couple of thousand feet above sea level.

Not unnaturally, we took all this at a fairly conservative pace, no doubt giving our comrades some worry when we didn't reach the top of Snowdon within our projected time frame.

"Thank fook for that!" exclaimed Big Dave when we finally showed up; "I thought you were dead!"

Happily, we weren't. Here's a video of Other Dave conquering the summit of Snowdon, while Big Dave and Bailey had already made tracks for the Halfway House cafe, halfway down the mountain:


Descending Snowdon a couple of hours behind schedule, we decided to take a shortcut off the beaten track and shave a couple of mountains (Elidir Fawr and Y Garn) off our route:

Running a bit behind schedule on our Snowdonia walking challenge, we hop over a hedge and Hobbit our way to safety. THRILL as we hide from Nazgul! SQUEAL as we evade voracious Velociraptors! CHEER when this pointless shambles of a video draws to a close!(Youtube blurb)

The masterplan was to go over the Glyders (Fach and Fawr) and bag Tryfan before heading back down to camp. Unfortunately, the weather did us wrong once again with dense cloud making a mockery of our attempts to find our way around at altitude. We made it to the summit of Glyder Fach, but then spent about an hour looking for Glyder Fawr, which would have been a cinch if we'd been able to see more than about thirty yards.

Wearying of this (to say nothing of the walking group who were shadowing us, hoping thereby to overcome their own navigational woes), we sacked the whole business off and began our descent towards the camp site.


Although we were unable to reach our goal of all 15 peaks in 24 hours, we walked ten hours on both days and I'm pretty confident that, had we been more fortunate with conditions / less inept with our navigation, we would have been able to make it round within the time limit.

I was pleased to have lasted the distance on the walking (and more pleased still not to have plunged to my death from Suicide Pass) but it was a shame not to have been able to finish our walk at the two iconic standing stones at the summit of Tryfan.

The other downside of not finishing the job is that Big Dave is pretty eager to have another go at it next year.


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Who's that fella in the videos? Looks like a natural star
It's a sad day when I want to take a video and I don't have Mr Bailey on hand to bring it that touch of class.
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