Welsh 3000s hike with Alistair

15 – 17 April 2023

When Alistair and I were planning this trip he asked me: “what’s your preference for what we do?”

I replied: “I’d love to bag some summits and possibly do some scrambling, since that’s different to the type of adventures I do at home in the Appalachians”

A few days later he suggested we try backpacking the Welsh 3000 ft peaks.


The Welsh 3000s is a challenge to walk all the mountains over 3,000 ft in Wales in a single expedition.

It’s a route that I’ve dreamed of for over two decades (!) but just never quite got round to doing. So I was incredibly excited to finally give it a shot.

Unbelievably, it’s been done in under 5 hours by elite runners, and under 12 hours by fast runners. I once harbored ambitions to try to do it in under a day myself, but not anymore. This time, we opted to do it over 3 days with 2 high camps, still a challenging itinerary. For me, it would certainly tick the “summit” box with 16 planned summits and since it involves at least one mandatory scramble, I’d also get to tick that box.

We chose to start our route from sea level, which meant our final peak would also be the tallest, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). It made for a beautiful, logical line, around 38 miles in length.

See a recap video of the trip here.

Day 1: Llanfairfechan to Carnedd Llewelyn camp

10.2 miles / 3,879 ft ascent / 3 summits

We started our trek from the beach at Llanfairfechan, near Bangor

We left the town of Llanfairfechan and climbed up into the mountains. Behind us lay the Menai Strait and Anglesey, ahead lay the challenge of the Carneddau range.

Looking out to Penman Point and Puffin Island, an area I visited many times in my childhood
Alistair on the track up Drum, 770m

Day 1 was all uphill, since we started at sea level and climbed three of the 3000 ft summits. Once we gained the ridge proper though, the bulk of the ascent for the day was done.

Summit #1: Foel-fras, 942 m (3,090 ft)

Our first 3000 summit: Foel-fras, 942m
Walking across the high plateau of the Carneddau

Snow lingered on the north slopes of the mountains and ice lay in the puddles. Since it was above freezing, it was all slushy and we didn’t need to worry about winter conditions. The ground was wet and my boots eventually succumbed to repeated immersions to leave my feet damp.

Summit #2: Carnedd Gwenllian, 926 m (3,038 ft)

All smiles on our second summit
Alistair descending through the snow off the back of Carnedd Gwenllian

Summit #3: Foel Grach, 976 m (3,202 ft)

Still relatively mild conditions on the summit of Foel Grach
Crossing the high Carneddau plateau, looking for a spot to camp
Camped high on the saddle between Foel Grach and Carnedd Llywelyn. Alistair’s tent is the dark green one on the left, mine the light green one on the right.

After pitching the tents, we collected and filtered water from a stream at the col. Then back to the tents to cook in the dusk light and enjoy a hot dinner with a view of city lights sparkling in the distance.

Cooking dinner at dusk, with the lights of Liverpool in the distance
Recording the day before dropping off to sleep

It was a wild and windy night!

It snowed during the first half of the night, but it turned to rain as the night wore on. During the night the wind shifted direction so it was hitting my tent side-on and flattening it on me during the stronger gusts.

Suffice to say, I didn’t sleep much that night!

Day 2: Carnedd Llewelyn camp to Y Garn camp

11.8 miles / 5,121 ft ascent / 8 summits

Breakfast in bed!

The rain and wind lessened through the morning so the conditions were reasonably benign when we set off, just a tad chilly. Only the visibility remained poor through the morning.

There were still cornices along the ridge as we ascended Yr Elen

Summits #4 – 7: The central Carneddau

From camp, we skirted the shoulder of Carnedd Llywelyn and climbed Yr Elen first, to avoid having to ascend Carnedd Llywelyn twice.

We climbed the summits along the central ridge line of the Carneddau in quick succession, as they only have modest drops between them:

  • Yr Elen, 962 m (3,156 ft)
  • Carnedd Llywelyn, 1064 m (3,491 ft)
  • Carnedd Dafydd, 1044 m (3,425 ft)
  • Pen yr Ole Wen, 978 m (3,208 ft)
On the summit of Yr Elen, 962 m (3,156 ft)

The cloud thinned as we ascended the final summit of the Carneddau range: Pen yr Ole Wen.

We opted to descend the east ridge, a mild grade 1 scramble that we’d both done several times before (15 – 20 years ago though!). Although the direct descent from the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen to the west end of Llyn Ogwen tempted us with the promise of a cafe, it’s not a particularly pleasant descent.

We dropped below the cloud base as we passed Ffynnon Lloer at the base of the east ridge. The Glyderau were poking out of the cloud, which was rapidly thinning.

Tryfan and the Ogwen valley, seen as we descended off the Carneddau range

We elected to scramble the north ridge of Tryfan rather than the south ridge from the Bwlch Tryfan, which would have been a longer route. We made rapid progress up the steep trail but spent WAY too long route finding on the scramble itself.

Alistair on the lower portion of Tryfan’s North ridge, with the cloud lifting over the Glyderau
Cloud inversion from Tryfan

Tryfan kept us guessing to the very summit. We were committed to a gully with an unknown exit. Thankfully, it snuck round a corner and popped us out right next to the summit rocks, Adam and Eve.

Looking towards the summit of Tryfan
Incredible cloud inversion over the east edge of the Glyderau, towards Capel Curig

Summit #8: Tryfan, 915 m (3,011 ft)

On the summit of Tryfan
The famous Adam and Eve stones on the summit of Tryfan
Looking back at Tryfan from the pass Bwlch Tryfan
Beautiful evening light close to the summit of Glyder Fach

The silver lining of spending all afternoon on the ascent of Tryfan was that we traversed the main Glyderau ridge in the glorious evening light. The thick clag on the summits earlier in the day was long gone, replaced by a magical cloud inversion.

Where the Carneddau are mostly boggy, open summits, the Glyderau are all shattered rock pillars (the name itself means “heap of stones”).

Most of the summits involve a degree of scrambling to attain the airy perches. We had good weather so it was a really enjoyable section of the walk, even despite our weary legs.

Summit #9: Glyder Fach, 994 m (3,261 ft)

The summit of Glyder Fach in the evening light
Alistair crossing the Glyderau
Looking across to the Snowdon group in the evening light
Some of the best conditions I’ve ever had up there

Summit #10: Castell y Gwynt, 972 m (3,189 ft)

On top of the airy summit rock pile of Castell y Gwynt
Alistair scrambling down off the airy summit of Castell y Gwynt
Gorgeous views looking west towards the Irish Sea
Looking back to the Carneddau and Tryfan
Looking west at sunset

Summit #11: Glyder Fawr, 1,001 m (3,284 ft)

A pair of tired hikers on the summit of Glyder Fawr
We needed our headtorches for the descent of Glyder Fawr. Y Garn in the distance.

Day 3: Y Garn camp to Pen-y-Pass

15.9 miles / 5,867 ft ascent / 5 summits

Having pitched our tents in the dark the previous evening, we had no idea just how scenic the camping spot was! It was a gorgeous morning, all the more so because we were up early at first light, to ensure we had time to complete another big day.

Our camp at Llyn y Cwn, with Y Garn in the background

This is one of the best wild camps I’ve had in a long time. Barely a breath of wind, no bugs, beautiful scenery, a hot breakfast. Basically, as good as it gets.

Breakfast on morning of day 3
One of the best nights sleep I’ve ever had in a tent!
Camp at Llyn y Cwm

We were walking by 7.30 am and immediately started the climb up Y Garn. It’s an easy ascent on a good path, so we just plodded along and enjoyed the incredible views.

Summit #12: Y Garn, 947 m (3,106 ft)

Perfect weather on the summit of Y Garn
Panorama looking towards the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) group
Llyn Ogwen and Llyn Idwal in the Ogwen valley
Llyn Ogwen (L), Llyn Idwal (R), and Tryfan

The route from the top of Y Garn to Elidir Fawr is one of the finest high-level walks in Snowdonia I think. Especially on a day like this, with bright blue skies and a stunning cloud inversion.

After the rocky summits of the main Glyderau, the easy trails on Elidir Fawr were a welcome change underfoot.

On the shoulder of Elidir Fawr
Alistair ascending Elidir Fawr, one of my favourite sections of the trip
Looking across to the Snowdon group
Marchlyn Mawr reservoir, water source for the Dinorwig power station
Alistair on the summit slopes of Elidir Fawr

Summit #13: Elidir Fawr, 924 m (3,031 ft)

On the summit of Elidir Fawr (photo by Alistair)
View from the summit stone shelter on Elidir Fawr

The cloud filled in as we descended off Elidir Fawr down to Nant Perris. We passed the huge Dinorwig slate quarries on the way down. In the valley, some sheep had escaped into the single track road in front of us. Try as we might, we couldn’t get past them, so they kept running towards the main road, which would have caused a problem. Thankfully a passing local shepherded them into an empty field and alerted the farmer. Oh, the dramas of rural life!

Walking through the Llanberis valley as we cross from the Glyderau into the Snowdon group

Our route continued on an undulating path along the valley floor for a few miles, before heading up into the Snowdon range for our final group of three peaks.

On the way up Cwm Glas
Scrambling up to Cwm Glas

Somewhere during our ascent to Cwm Glas, we missed the left turn and continued following a trail that led us to far to the right, to the base of the Pearson arete (a classic hard scramble, one for another day!).

Although we were some way off route, it wasn’t a total disaster as there was a faint traversing trail that took us back towards Cwm Glas. However, with time pressing, we opted to go to Bwlch Coch, the col between Crib Goch and Garnedd Ugain, rather than try the full traverse of Crib Goch (our original plan, but a longer route).

The final steep climb up to the Bwlch Coch

This meant we would do an out-and-back route to tag the summit of Crib Goch. One benefit to this was that we could leave our bags at the col to do the scramble. However, it also meant we had to do the hardest scrambling over the pinnacles in both directions.

Alistair on Crib Goch ridgeline, the most airy and difficult summit

I’m really out of practice scrambling, so it was vaguely terrifying in a few places. The moves are simple, but the route is very exposed. So we took our time and made sure we were safe.

Summit #14: Crib Goch, 923 m (3,028 ft)

On the summit of Crib Goch, maybe I closed my eyes to avoid looking at the drop?
Can you spot Alistair climbing over the exposed 3rd pinnacle of Crib Goch?
View from col of Llyn Llydaw (L) and Glaslyn (R) nestled in the Snowdon group

The cloud layer descended again, so we lost visibility going up the penultimate mountain.

We tried to avoid some of the scrambling to save time, by using a traversing path, but we ended up having to climb a heinous scree gully to get to the summit.

Ascending a steep scree gully to attain the summit of Garnedd Ugain

Not a particularly fun route, but I was still smiling because we were so close to achieving our objective. Only a short walk from the summit of Garnedd Ugain to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) remained.

Summit #15: Garnedd Ugain, 1,065 m (3,494 ft)

At the crumbling trig pillar of our penultimate top: Garnedd Ugain

All that remained was the highest of the lot: Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). It’s the highest mountain in Wales and can be a tourist magnet on summer weekends. As it was a misty, windy, Monday evening, we only saw a few other groups on our way to the summit.

Summit #16: Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon, 1,085 m (3,560 ft)

Success! Standing on the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) the final 3000er and also the highest.

We had the summit to ourselves, just the wind and thick cloud for company.

It was hugely satisfying to knock this one off and complete the 3000s. I was relieved that my right knee and lower back didn’t give me any trouble.

We had a taxi booked for 8 pm from Pen-y-Pass car park so we had to dash down the Miner’s track to make it in time. We arrived at 8.02 pm. Not bad timing, given that we booked it a few hours earlier on the summit of Garnedd Ugain and had to estimate our pickup time.

Descending The Miner’s Track off Snowdon
At the finish line! Pen-y-Pass car park where we caught a taxi back to Alistair’s car at Llanfairfechan

What can I say to wrap this up?

A brilliant, brilliant trip!

Undoubtedly I have some recency bias because it’s been a long time since I’ve been backpacking in the UK like this, but I would say this was one of the best short trips I’ve ever done.

It had a bit of everything: a classic and challenging route, wild camping, scrambling, full variety of weather, great companionship, and stunning scenery in one of my favourite parts of the world.

5 thoughts on “Welsh 3000s hike with Alistair

  1. Mike Hagger

    Hi Ben
    What a great trek! Well done! I climbed Snowdon in 1969 with my 2 mates Arnie & Jerry after finishing our finals. I think we tented at a site in Llanberis.
    Still walking but in much less arduous conditions – next trip, a 5 day hiking holiday around Cuenca (La Mancha), Spain.
    Cheers, Mike H.

  2. Pingback: Welsh 3000 trip video | Ben Collins Outdoors


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