With a combined height of 2864m The Welsh Three Peaks Challenge is an enjoyable test of walking fitness and endurance set in some of the most dramatic and beautiful scenery in the country.
Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) is the tallest mountain in Wales and is nearly 200m higher than both Cadir Idris and Pen y Fan. Because of it's height and more strenuous footpaths it is considered the most demanding of the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge.
What is the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge?
The Welsh 3 Peaks comprises of the three main mountains of Wales; Snowdon 1085m, Cadir Idris 893m and Pen y Fan 886m.
The challenge is completing all three mountains, usually within 24 hours. To really enjoy and experience the best of all three mountains a pleasant alternative is over three days.
What is the order of the three peaks in Wales?
The Welsh 3 Peaks can be completed in either direction; north to south or the opposite.
North to south
The slightly easier and more popular option is north to south as you first summit Snowdon, the highest and most difficult mountain on fresh legs. You then climb the smallest and easiest mountain, Pen y Fan last. This is only marginally easier as you are still climbing the same mountains.
South to north
Another good option is completing the mountains in height order with the challenge culminating on the highest peak Snowon/ Yr Wyddfa.
Which of the 3 peaks is easiest?
Pen y Fan is the easiest of the Welsh Three Peaks. It is the smallest mountain (886m) with the least height gain (440m). The Beacons Way (6.5km) is also the shortest route on all three mountains and takes the least time (2-3 hours). There is a stone footpath all the way to the top, making it a relatively easy summit to 'bag'.
Climbing Snowdon is usually the most difficult as it is the highest mountain, with longer routes which are more challenging.
How long does it take to do the Welsh 3 Peaks?
The 'challenge' is to complete all three mountains within 24 hours. Most groups manage it in around 17 hours, and a group of strong walkers can complete the challenge in under 15 hours. This makes it possible to climb all of the mountains in daylight in late spring and summer.
To really enjoy the Welsh Three Peaks good option is to do it over three days. This allows you to take more scenic but slightly longer routes.
What training do you need to do for the Welsh Three Peaks?
You need a good level of fitness especially if you aim to complete it within 24 hours.
Stamina is really important for the 24 hour challenge as you will be doing around 14 hours of hiking. The best way to build stamina and endurance is to do as many mountain hikes as you can. If this is not possible then long walks that incorporate hills and uneven terrain is the next best thing.
Book a private guided hike today to start your training!
In addition you will need a reasonable level of cardiovascular fitness for the ascents. Running is the best way to improve cardiovascular performance for mountain hiking. Any form of cardio training will be beneficial but not essential.
For more information about fitness check out our blog article on specific training for mountain walking
What do I need for the Welsh Three Peaks?
All participants will need all the standard equipment for hiking in the mountains including hiking boots and waterproofs. If you are attempting to complete the challenge in under 24 hours, you will also need a headtorch and spare batteries.
Your group will also need a competent navigator who has the appropriate maps and a compass. If you don't have this, you will need to join a Welsh Three Peaks Challenge.
Snowdon vs Cadair Idris
Snowdon is a little more difficult than Cadair Idris. Most routes to the summit are longer and cover more technical terrain.
If you want a quiet walk then Cadair Idris is usually less busy than Snowdon.
Height gain on Snowdon's PYG Track and Cadair Idris's Pony Path is identical at 750m.
Snowdon vs Pen-Y- Fan
Snowdon is bigger and more difficult than Pen y Fan. Snowdon's footpaths are more rugged, steeper, cover more distance and gain more height.
For it's size Pen y Fan is a relatively easy mountain to climb especially by it's most direct route The Beacons Way. For this reason it is usually the final mountain on the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge which is perfect for tired legs.
Both Snowdon and Pen y Fan can be really busy especially on sunny weekends in the summer.
Are there specific routes to take to complete the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge?
With a total of 15 routes up all 3 mountains there are plenty of options. For those aiming to complete the challenge in under 24 hours the most popular are the shortest, easiest and quickest footpaths. These are...
Shortest Welsh Three Peaks routes
Snowdon - Pyg Track
Cadir Idris - Pony Path
Pen y Fan - The Beacons Way - from Pont ar Daf
Most scenic Welsh Three Peaks routes
If you are doing the challenge over three days a more enjoyable option with great views is...
Snowdon - Miners Track
Cadir Idris - Minffordd Path
Pen y Fan - Cefn Cwm Llwch
Other route options for the Welsh Three Peaks
There are 6 main footpaths up Snowdon so plenty of options to choose from. Route choice will depend on whether you are doing the 24 hour challenge or 3 day challenge.
Best options for 24 hour challenge
Pyg Track - This is the shortest and most direct route to Snowdon's summit with the least ascent. For this reason it is the route of choice for Three Peak Challenges.
It is not necessary the fastest route though as the footpath is a rugged mountain track which slows the descent.
Miner's Track - This route is slightly longer but generally easier than the PYG Track and starts at the same location.
Llanberis Path - This is the longest route to the summit of Snowdon but also the quickest. The gentle gradient and well engineered footpath are perfect if you want to move really quickly especially on the descent where a confident fell runner can fly down.
Snowdon Ranger Path - This route is shorter than the Llanberis Path and less rugged than the PYG Track so if you can't choose between the two then this could be the right choice.
Rhyd Ddu Path - Not a traditional Three Peaks Challenge footpath as it is rugged and difficult to navigate. Fit teams can save 10 minutes and 20 minutes driving time as it is closer to Cadir Idris than than the Pen y Pass Car Park (PYG Track & Miners Track) and the Llanberis Path car park respectively.
Watkin Path - This is one of the longest and most difficult routes to Snowdon's summit but if you are doing the Three Peaks Challenge over three days this is a great choice.
South Ridge - The narrow ridge at the summit has impressive views but this is one of the more challenging routes up Snowdon.
Crib Goch - If you are an experienced scrambler then tackling Snowdon via Crib Goch is one of the finest mountaineering adventures in the UK. Mountain Rescue state that the should not be attempted by novice hikers and recommend hiring a mountain guide.
Welsh Three Peaks Challenge compared to the National Three Peaks Challenge
The Welsh Three Peaks (Welsh) is easier than the National Three Peaks (National) and most teams find it more enjoyable.
With the Welsh you are basically swapping the more difficult National mountain of Ben Nevis 1345m for the easier Pen y Fan 886m. Technically, you also swap Scafell Pike 978m for Cadir Idris 893m but this is more of a like-for-like swap.
There is significantly less driving with the Welsh and less possibility of getting stuck in traffic which is major cause of failure on the National. With the Welsh you don't need a dedicated driver reducing costs.
In addition it is possible to complete all of the Welsh Three Peaks in daylight allowing you to enjoy the views.
A great way to train and prepare for the National Three Peaks is to do the Welsh Three Peaks as a warm up which allows you to build mountain fitness and test out kit without too much driving.
Book your Welsh Three Peaks Challenge with Walk Snowdonia
The Welsh Three Peaks Challenge is a popular alternative to the National Three Peaks Challenge as it is set in stunning mountain scenery with significantly less driving. Snowdon is the most difficult of the mountains on the Welsh Three Peaks.
To learn more about Snowdon, then check out super informative blogs: