back to archiveThe 3000s: North to South in 10 hours

There's very few detailed accounts around for North to South attempts of the Welsh  3000s. Here's my account, made on Saturday 27 July 2013, which may help any budding N-S 3000ers with their attempts.

This was my first attempt, and, although I did know parts of the route, there were sections of the North and Snowdon sections I had never been on. I was therefore hoping for clear weather to help with route finding! I chose North to South for logistics reasons, the chance of a less disturbed bivy, and finishing on Snowdon (the incentive of a potential return to valley level via the train had nothing to do with it!). I was aiming for a time of about 11 hours, based on timings on the some of the middle sections I'd done a few weeks earlier.

I was waved off by my 'support crew' at the car park in Bwlch y Ddeufaen early evening and made my way up to Foel-fras. A beautiful evening, no wind, and great visibility. I found a bivy site on the West side, slightly down the hill from the trig point, which gave lovely views out to sea.

After virtually no sleep, despite the peaceful night, I started my attempt at 3.30am. Still, with clear skies, and the moon was out, helping visibility. Even though this section was new to me and it was still dark, navigation was pretty straightforward. Garnedd Uchaf (00:17) and Foel Grach (00:29) came and went quickly. By the time I got to Carnedd Llewelyn (00:46) the light was much better, giving great views of Yr Elen (1:08) - a beautiful mountain. The traverse from the col (take the faint path off to the right on scree, not the grassy one, which heads down) avoids having to regain height back onto Carnedd Llewelyn, depositing you onto Bwlch Cyfryw-drum. Some small streams on this section too, to top up water supplies. Then a longer section up to Crnedd Dafydd (1:58) - some superb views of the Glyders and beyond to Crib Goch and Snowdon from here (although the latter looks a long way away at this point! ) then on to Pen yr Ole Wen (2:16). Nice descent down to Ogwen (2:50). I chose the East ridge down to Glan Dena as I planned to ascend Tryfan via Heather Terrace as I knew this route. I had a 5 minute stop at Ogwen, dropping off the bivy gear and re-stocking with food and water which I'd hidden behind a fence the day before.

Off up Heather Terrace. The conditions were turning out to be perfect. Light cloud keeping the direct sun away after what had been a very hot spell in previous weeks, with a light breeze. Conditions under foot were generally very dry, which helped too. Tryfan (3:55), then double back (trending right to avoid having to downclimb), then the trudge up the scree slope East of Bristly Ridge (tempting to scramble up both ridges on such a lovely day, but I knew this would be much slower) to Glyder Fach (4:37) and Glyder Fawr (5:01). This middle section was straightforward, the main challenge being to find the actual summits, rather than 'wandering' past them as I would normally. Nice drop down to  Llyn y Cwn, collected more water, then up to Y Garn (5:37). There were quite a few Welsh 3000ers heading the other way on the walk up to Elidir Fawr (6:25). Still feeling ok by this point, but the bulk of Snowdon was looming ever closer! Dropped down to Nant Peris (7:04), then up the road to Blaenynant (7:25) where I met my 'support crew', had a 5 minute break, and re-stocked for the final leg.

I found this next section, up to Crib Goch, hard work! The path is indistinct, and my legs were feeling it by now. The sun had also burst through, making it warm work. A relief to make it to the ridge proper, when energy and motivation levels suddenly seemed to return. Crib Goch (9:02) was very busy, almost queuing to get on the summit point. Carnedd Ugain (9:34) took longer to reach than I thought it would (stick to the ridge; I took a down path here and had to scramble back up to gain the summit). After that, with the finish so close, I almost sprinted the final part - a clear case of mind over matter! A total time of 9:45, by the time I'd pushed through the crowds to touch the summit of Snowdon.

As I was so much ahead of schedule, I ran down (50 mins at a relaxed jog) to meet my 'support crew' at the bottom, and joined them for the train ride up and down as they'd already bought tickets (although I have to admit to sleeping for some of the journey!).

Overall, a great day out - thoroughly recommended. And as my wry father-in-law commented when telling him about it the day after, "Now you've done them all, you won't need to bother going back!".

'Technical' notes

I was fortunate the weather was good, and so I could travel light. Once I dropped the bivy gear off in Ogwen, I was only really carrying food and water for the next leg. I generally carried 1l of water, topping up from streams a couple of times. I made the classic mistake of too little variety in my food - energy bars and gels with little else is not the most appealing diet for a long day on the hills, even if it is good for energy levels. The dreams of cheese puffs and frazzles started about 3/4 of the way through the day! I also used Nuun hydration tablets - for me, they seem to stop any cramping.

Footwear; I wore fell shoes (Inov8 Roclite 295s). Just about perfect for this sort of pace if you're used to not having the protection of a full boot, although it was generally very dry. I used Drymax Maximum Protection socks. These were fantastic. It was the first time I had used them in anger and, even though my feet got wet in boggy patches a few times, I didn't get a single blister or even hotspots.

'Style'; to achieve the time, and last the day, I chose to walk (briskly!) ups and flats, and run the downs. Apart from the two 5 minute breaks at the road crossings, I didn't stop except to grab foot/water from the bag (plus a couple of cheeky breathers on the slog up to Crib Goch). I suspect, at least for me, that a South to North attempt would be a little quicker due to the relatively undulating nature of the final leg, rather than the big climb from Nant Peris to Crib Goch. I will be giving it a go some time soon.

Fitness; having some is definitely an advantage! I'm an average pace runner (45 min 10k), with many years walking and running in the fells, and had done a couple of long walks in the run up to the day.

Neil Bullen
July 2013