Postcard of the Week: Climbing the Welsh 3000s Challenge
2015 is the year of exercise for me. If you hadn’t gathered, I’m training to run a marathon and so my fitness is better than it’s been for many, many years. Wishing to capitalise on all this new-found health and stamina, I started researching various challenges I could do – the obvious one being the famous Three Peaks Challenge, involving summiting the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales in under 24 hours. Amidst logistical difficulties, I eventually abandoned that idea but instead found myself invited along to a different challenge: the Welsh 3000s.
A casual Google of the Welsh 3000s informed me that it’s deemed tougher than the Three Peaks when attempted under 24 hours (you pretty much need to be a crazy ‘fell runner’ to achieve that), although we were aiming for 2 days, so the eternal optimist in me accepted without hesitation or trepidation! I can reliably inform you that it is indeed incredibly tough, not least when you’re already suffering from a running strain in your left calf…
The Welsh 3000s involves summiting 15 peaks over 3,000ft in north Wales, including the infamous and well-trodden Snowdon. We took around 26 hours, spread over 3 days in the end, racking up 80,000 steps according to my fitness band, although a third of the challenge was actually rock climbing (!) which I doubt the fitness band can accurately track.
Each day had its individual struggles, injuries and strains but the eight of us formed a formidable team, lead by the ‘dictator’ and virtually pro-mountaineer Nick. You couldn’t find a more cheerful bunch of people up in the mountains that weekend! The hardest peaks by far were Tryfan and Crib Goch, the latter known for its 500m “knife edge” arête which you scramble across on all fours, clinging on for dear life to avoid the 300m sheer drop on either side! Luckily my father wasn’t aware of this impending danger, otherwise I’m quite sure he would have forbidden it! I did see a sign expressly warning that the knife edge is for “expert walkers only” due to the numerous fatalities there, and when we bumped into the mountain rescue dog, we learnt that they’re called out 2 – 3 times per day in peak season to rescue walkers who find themselves in a sticky situation.
I won’t lie, certain parts of the challenge absolutely terrified me and at times I didn’t trust my exhausted limbs to save me from falling to my death. I’m so so glad to have done it, but I really would advise a realistic assessment of whether you’re physically capable of doing it – it is seriously demanding and it’s not just walking – there’s a lot of scrambling and rock climbing too, none of which involves safety equipment such as ropes or harnesses.
The views however are spectacular, as the mountains are so close to the Irish Sea and we were exceptionally lucky with the weather. Overall it was exhilarating and such good food for the soul (no 3G or 4G to ruin the peace!) and I feel like Phil, Samantha, Sam, Nick, Sophie, Hannah, Kate and I all bonded like a little family of mountain goats, spending hours upon hours chatting and putting the world to rights. It sounds clichéd, but standing on a 3,000 foot 450-million-year-old mountain certainly does give you a dose of perspective!