back to archiveFailure and success on the Welsh 3000s

A good hill walking friend and I decided that we really needed to actually get around to doing the 3000s. Andy mentioned it to me way back around 2004 and for some reason or another walks came and went but we never got around to this one. 

Well eventually we decided to give it a crack and with us both being reasonably experienced hill walkers and navigators we decided to jump straight in and give it a bash. That was our first mistake, for on the attempt we managed to pick one of those days where the weather was just an absolute disaster. With high winds, very wet and extremely poor visibility our attempt lasted until we got turned around making our way to Y Garn. Mutterings of ‘ I thought you packed your GPS’ and ‘No I thought you packed your GPS’ accompanied us back down to the Llanberis pass. The lack of route knowledge was our second mistake and to be honest pressing ahead in the conditions on the day was really our third and most telling mistake of this failed attempt. 

Tails between our legs we sat in the Youth hostel drowning our sorrows and we vowed to give it another more serious attempt after a little planning and preparation. So in June 2011 we made a weekend of it and spend two and half days walking in some of the finest Snowdonia weather I have ever seen after 15 years walking in the area. We walked every inch of the route taking notes and discussing possible issues and improvements.  Another friend of mine Ben accompanied us to do the day walks and about half way around Andy and I convinced Ben to come and be our support driver on the day, which he foolishly agreed to! So with the route well scouted and our support driver knowing exactly when and where to be during the attempt we were as confident as we could be that  we had done the preparation to give ourselves a good shot at finally getting this walk under our belts. 

The only time we had any issues was deciding when to strike across Carned llewelyn and head for Yr Elen.  We took a contour around Carned Llewelyn which kept us below the scree and rocks so we were walking on the grass. This was a difficult traverse and involved not a little muttering between the two of us as too how good a route this really was. We decided that on the attempt we would head a little higher before making the traverse and see if we could find a more obvious path across. 

So 3 weeks later we were getting dropped off at the Pen Y Pass car park at about 04:00 with a promise of bacon and sausage baps in a few hours' time down in Nant Peris. We decided on the Miner’s Track and took a steady bimble to the top of Snowdon enjoying a lovely sunrise on a perfectly clear morning. Just a quick note for anyone attempting this during a weekend in June or July - it was busy, really busy. Even at 05:00 the trig point on Snowdon had about 20 people on it taking their time with a few photos and brewing up tea etc. There was still 5 or 6 tents and bivvys erected tucked up by the cafe wall. Not that any of us have anything against sharing the mountains with others of course, this was just a little surprising given the time of the day, I imagine the majority were 3 peakers as there were a fair few mini buses in the car park when we began our ascent.  

We set off at 05:25 and took a nice steady pace barely noticing Carnedd Ugain and we soon found ourselves on the north of Crib Goch, we then headed down the scree slope and threaded our way down the stream to the Llanberis pass crossing the wooden footbridge.  From here it was a steady mile and half down the road to Nant Peris where in the little car park for the church/cemetery Ben and my partner Kristina were happily drinking coffee and frying up some bacon and sausage. We arrived here at 07:46 and it was already turning warm and sunny. So a quick hot breakfast, cuppa and a water top up saw us away and heading up my personal nemesis of Elidir Fawr. During the failed attempt and the weekend spent exploring I learned to really not enjoy this particular mountain.  I’m the sort of walker who likes rocks and big steps not a constant grassy slog. Andy on the other hand strolled up without a care in the world.  This turned out to be the longest ascent of the day taking 1 hour 27 minutes from Nant Peris. Once on the top we made steady progress across a very obvious and easy to walk path making our way up Y Garn and heading down the other side all the while looking up at the Glyderau slightly concerned that all this height we were rapidly losing was about to have to be earned again, only this time on difficult zig zaged scree paths.

It was about half way up the scree that I ran into trouble, for some reason I had failed to keep tabs on my water usage and I noticed with some despair that my camelbak was now empty. I had drunk two litres of water since leaving Nant peris and it was a long way to the A5 for our next refill. To add to my misery the sun was now nice and high and it was turning into a very hot day indeed.  I was still felling very thirsty and the rest of the section over to Tryfan was a real struggle and I was kicking myself for allowing the situation to develop. 

We took a few minutes' rest on the busy summit of Tryfan, I was now feeling pretty horrid and even talking was too much of an effort. We made our way down to the A5 and met our support team and I very gratefully got a good long drink and managed to begin to feel human again. Because I was feeling dehydrated I wasn’t up to eating to begin with so this break turned into a much longer than anticipated rest. 

So nearly an hour and a quarter later we headed down the road to the foot of Pen y Ole Wen. Psychologically we knew that this was the make or break peak, get up this and it’s really not worth  turning back. So get up it we did and from there we made good steady progress across the Carneddau enjoying the chance to soak up the rare unfamiliar views as it was still perfectly clear with great visibility. We quickly made our way onto an over Carnedd Dafydd, after this peak there is a long relatively flat section, if not a little rocky in places all the way to Carnedd Llewelyn.  As the visibility was so good we decided that instead of tackling the traverse around Carnedd Llewelyn we would make our way straight up, bag the peak, head back down and up to Yr Elen and then we skirted across the edge of Carnedd Llewelyn picking up the path to Foel Grach further around. This ended up with us tackling a little more ascent but we both felt it was well worth the effort to have better conditions underfoot. However this was not a route we would have attempted in poor or low visibility as it would have meant some very accurate bearing work required to navigate the plateau. 

From here all the work was done and we found ourselves at the trig point on Foel-fras 14 hrs and 32 minutes after setting off from the summit of Snowdon. All in all it was one of the best day's out walking I have ever had and apart from my own mismanagement of my water everything went to plan. Ironically In contrast to our first attempt, the map never came out of the day sack once. We can put that one down to a combination of great visibility and actually knowing where we were going! 

Having had both a failed and successfully attempt the lessons we learned were just how valuable it was having a well informed support driver and experience of the route before making an attempt. 

Oh, and as for the 4 miles off the hills once finished - that is just something that needs to be done to be understood!