The Welsh 3000's and National Three Peaks challenges are some of the most strenuous 24 hour challenges in the UK and are comparable to the Yorkshire Three Peaks and High Peak Marathon.
The Welsh 3000's and National Three Peaks are some of the toughest hiking challenges in the UK. Both require exceptional levels of fitness. The Welsh challenge is tougher due to its sustained nature, greater length and height gain over more complex terrain.
What is the National Three Peaks?
The National Three Peaks is the highest mountain in Scotland, Wales and England. The National Three Peaks challenge begins in the car park at Glen Nevis visitor centre or the Pen y Pass car park. Each mountain is usually completed 'there and back' along the same footpath with a long drive in between.
Height in Meters
Snowdon/ Yr Wyddfa
What are the Welsh 3000s?
The Welsh 3000s are the 15 mountains in Wales higher than 3000ft (914m). They are all found in three connected mountain ranges; The Snowdon Group, The Glyderau and The Carneddau. The 15 mountains are linked via a linear hiking route.
Height in Meters
Height in Feet
Snowdon/ Yr Wyddfa
Crib y Ddysgl
Pen yr Ole Wen
Castell y Gwynt
What is the goal of these UK mountain challenges?
The incredibly tough challenge is completing either within 24 hours. This is a gruelling test which needs a very high level of fitness.
A more pleasant challenge is over three days. This gives you enough time to enjoy the mountains and some of the most spectacular views in the UK (weather permitting).
The Welsh 3000s vs the Three Peaks challenge
Both 'challenges' are some of the toughest of their kind in the UK. Physically and navigationally the Welsh 3000s challenge is more difficult for the reasons outlined below. The National Three Peaks has the limiting factors of transport/ traffic problems.
The 'challenge' is to complete each within 24 hours. There is a small but important difference to where the challenges start and how they are timed.
The Welsh 3000s 'challenge' is peak to peak. The timer starts when you summit your first peak (usually Snowdon/ Yr Wyddfa) and stops when you reach your last peak (usually Foel-Fras). The climb up the first and down the final peak do not count to the total time of the 24 hour challenge.
Conversely, The National Three Peaks is a car park to car park challenge so it is the ascent and descent of all three mountains that is timed. The stopwatch starts when you leave the first car park and stops when you reach the final car park.
You have 24 hours to complete both 'challenges' therefore both are equal in terms of time constraints.
Total distance and ascent
On the face of it they look similar. The National Three Peaks challenge covers a distance of 37km with 3064m of height gain. The Welsh 3000s challenge involves 42km of hiking with a height gain of 3100m.
Remember though that the Welsh 3000s is timed from summit to summit. If you factor in the ascent up the first mountain and descent off the final mountain the distance you actually have to hike to complete the challenge is over 50km and the total ascent is 3760m. Your legs won't let you ignore this.
The timed challenge of the Welsh 3000s has two major climbs (although you actually do three) with a series of minor climbs in between. You maintain height as you tick off each peak in the three mountain ranges. The National Three Peaks simply has three major climbs.
The ascent of the National Three Peaks timed 'challenge' is less but concentrated to three long climbs whereas the Welsh 3000's is just two long climbs.
The overall ascent and distance of the Welsh 3000s is noticeably more.
Trails, routes and terrain
The mountains on the National Three Peaks are the three most popular in the UK.
They access the summits via the easiest and/or shortest routes to optimise time. These footpaths are fairly substantial especially lower down and generally become more rugged and challenging as they gain height.
You need good map and compass skills to complete the National Three Peaks especially near the summits and even more so in poor visibility.
National Three Peaks routes
Ben Nevis - Pony Track
Scafell Pike - Wasdale Head via Brown Tounge
Snowdon/ Yr Wyddfa - PYG Track
Welsh 3000's route
The Welsh 3000s starts and finishes on Snowdon and Foel-Fras. Between these two mountains the route covers extremely varied terrain via a linear route linking the summits.
The most consequential section is over the rocky and narrow Crib Goch ridge, a grade 1 scramble. This requires a strong head for heights. Another grade 1 scramble is to access the summit of Pen yr Ole Wen.
At one end of the Welsh challenge is the Carneddau range. This vast mountain range is home to seven of the 15 Welsh 3000s and is a mixture of rocky and grassy terrain which is often devoid of trails. This section in particular requires pinpoint navigation skills.
With both challenges but especially the Welsh 3000's it is recommended you join a group, hire a guide or do reconnaissance treks so you don't waste time staring at a map.
The terrain and route of the Welsh 3000s is more challenging and is significantly more difficult to navigate than the National Three Peaks.
Want to learn about the Welsh Three Peaks? Check out our blog all about the three Welsh mountains.
Completing either challenge in under 24 hours is extremely demanding. Both need an exceptional level of fitness and endurance. You don't need to be a fell runner but you will need very high levels of...
cardio (to cover the distance within the time)
endurance (to keep hiking for up to 24 hours)
Those attempting the Welsh 3000s will also need...
A good head for heights (and experience of grade 1 scrambles, ideally Crib Goch)
The main difference physically is that there are two long rests on the National Three Peaks whilst you travel between peaks. Conversely, the Welsh 3000's requires a higher level of endurance as it is continuous walking with no long rests between mountains.
The Welsh 3000s is more physically difficult because of the sustained hiking with no rests.
The weather can make or break your attempt of both challenges.
Strong wind can be a showstopper especially on the Welsh 3000's as it will make the crossing of Crib Goch extremely dangerous or impossible.
Rain and/ or poor visibility make both challenges less enjoyable and more difficult. The Welsh 3000s is worse as you won't get a break.
The best thing you can do is be flexible with your dates and wait for optimal conditions. The perfect conditions for both challenges are:
a dry day
a mild temperature (not too hot as you will need to carry more water)
a gentle breeze (too much wind will slow you down)
lots of daylight hours (the closer to the summer solstice on 21st June the better)
(A full moon if you do any hiking at night)
It is worth noting that snow can persist on Ben Nevis all year so attempts to climb it are best limited to the warmer months after the snow has melted.
Weather has a major impact on both challenges but the Welsh 3000s is more dependent on favourable conditions, especially to cross Crib Goch. It is physically and psychologically more difficult in bad weather.
One of the major causes of not completing the National Three Peaks 'challenge' in under 24 hours is traffic. You will travel 462 miles by road and even the fittest teams can be scuppered by traffic issues. The best way to alleviate this is to start Ben Nevis around 12 midday so the driving is done when traffic is less of an issue.
There is no driving so no traffic issues on the Welsh 3000s.
Traffic only effects the National Three Peaks challenge.
Trip planning considerations
When planning your challenge there are a few things to consider before you strap on your walking books.
Start/ finish point
The start point isn't too important and both challenges can be completed in either direction.
The National Three Peaks is usually (but not always) started on Ben Nevis and finished on Snowdon.
The Welsh 3000s is usually (but not always) started on Snowdon and finished on Foel Fras.
The National Three Peaks tackles each mountain up and down the same route so you start and finish at the same car park for each mountain. Be aware that parking for Snowdon at Pen y Pass needs to be pre-booked most of the year.
The National Three Peaks parking is...
Ben Nevis - Visitor Centre, Glen Nevis, Fort William PH33 6ST
Scafell Pike - Wasdale Head, CA20 1EX
Snowdon - Pen y Pass, LL55 4NU
Parking for the Welsh 3000s is less straightforward. Because of the linear nature of the route there isn't a convenient place to park in the middle of it. The best thing is to organise a lift from where you intend to finish and/or get a taxi to where you intend to start.
We wouldn't recommend driving home after completing either challenge as you will be physically exhausted. Having somewhere to stay the night before and after is a luxury you should afford yourself. This way you will be fresh when you start either challenge and a room with a comfy bed is a much better motivator and reward than a long car journey.
24 hour or multiple day challenge?
The best way to experience both is to do a multiple day challenge as you don't have to do any of it in the dark, it's more relaxing, less painful and gives you more time to enjoy the spectacular views.
The National Three Peaks is best done over three or five days and the Welsh 3000's is best over three days.
Self-supported/ Support team
The National Three Peaks challenge requires the support team of at least a driver. You can refill water, refuel and change into dry kit whilst travelling between peaks.
The Welsh 3000s can be completed either self supported (more difficult) or with a support car (easier).
Self supported requires you to carry everything you need from start to finish or have strategically placed water and food 'stashes' along the route.
The benefit of a support car and driver is you can replenish supplies and pick up or drop off kit in the Llanberis Pass and Ogwen valley. This allows you to travel lighter and faster.
The Welsh 3000s and National Three Peaks can be done individually or as a group.
The advantages of going solo are you can go at your own pace and the chances of not completing the challenge due to injury are decreased.
However, there is safety in numbers. Attempting either challenge as a group means that if you do get injured then your rescue party is immediately there to help. You can also spread the load of first aid kits, spare water etc. It's always nice having someone to talk to and spur you on and there is the camaraderie and shared sense of accomplishment doing it as a team.
You can also spread the transport costs, which are considerable, on the National Three Peaks.
I have done the Welsh 3000's solo and self-supported. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of self reliance and achievement this brought me.
That said, given the choice I nearly always prefer someone to share the experience with and talk to.
Looking for the ultimate experience? Book a challenge with Walk Snowdonia
We organise industry leading, flexible and bespoke National Three Peak and Welsh 3000 challenges. Our guides are very experienced and qualified giving you the best chance of success.
Both challenges are mentally and physically demanding. The Welsh 3000s is longer, with more height gained over more varied and complex terrain without any rests. For these reasons it is more difficult.
To learn more about hiking in the UK check out our enlightening blogs: