Welsh 3000s route choice

Best route up Pen Yr Ole Wen & GPS route request

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06/07/2009 at 20:36
I'm hoping to do the Welsh 3000s in 2 weeks time (weather dependant). I'll be walking from south to north.

I've been looking at the details of the route on www.welsh3000s.co.uk (a great resource) and the Welsh 3000ft Challenge book. They seem to agree on the North Ridge off Crib Goch, west off Tryfan and the traverse round Carnedd Llewelyn.

The one place they differ is the ascent up Pen Yr Ole Wen. The website recommends the east ridge and the book recommends the direct route up from the youth hostel.

Any thoughts on which of these routes is "best"?

Also if anyone has a GPS route and could email it to me that would be really appreciated (please PM me and we'll swap email addresses).

Finally, if anybody fancies joining me on the 18th/19th July please PM me. Some company would be nice

07/07/2009 at 00:44

I did the W3K back in 2004, electing for the eastern flank of PYOW. I still remember the ascent as being the worst part of the whole day for me. It took me 1 hr 30 mins though that seemed like an absolute eternity. Having bagged it I knew the whole route was within my reach.

I've since descended PYOW three times down the eastern flank and twice ascended its south ridge. If I were doing W3K again, I'd deffo go up the south ridge. In comparison to eastern flank, the route is better defined, there's more of a scramble (which I find mentally and physically more refreshing), it's less boggy (no Afon Loer to contend with), may be a smidgin shorter and it takes you past Ogwen Cottage for a brew/snack/bog stop.


The blue route is the south ridge ascent which is what I planned to do a couple of years ago. The red is my 2004 route. Note that both involve the western descent from Tryfan and then split at the Bochlywd Buttress.

Tip: Drop your rucksack at the top of the col between Yr Elen and Carnedd Llewelyn at SH678645. You can pick it up on the way back and you'll have saved carrying the weight for 30-40 mins. (At this stage every saving will be worth it and it makes a refreshing change to travel light for an all too short while.)

Good luck.

Edited: 07/07/2009 at 00:47
07/07/2009 at 10:00

OOh, me jealous now.  Attempted it a few years back one november and got completely washed out.

Although my route was North to South we came down the Eastern Flank or PYOW.

Just never fully did it, on packing kit in car the sun came out for the rest of the day and dried everything up.

If only there were more days in the week so I could spend more time out there.

07/07/2009 at 20:31

My feeling is that the easterly ridge will be the most suitable route for most people attempting the Welsh 3000s.

The reason for this is simply because it is not as steep as the ascent from the south.

This wouldn't be much of an issue if this section was close to the start of the walk. However, at this stage of the route most people will be feeling very tired indeed, often to the extent that even a slight incline becomes magnified many times in difficulty.

The first time I attempted this challenge, our group were overtaken by another group earlier on in the walk, but were able to catch up with them by using this route.

Having said this, the route from the south does have certain benefits, as stated by IanG:

  • Route finding is easier if you are unfamiliar with the area.
  • If you don't have a support team or haven't had the chance beforehand to hide food on the route, you could use the cafe/shop at Ogwen Cottage.
  • If you are a fell runner looking to shave off a few minutes from your overall time, it is possible (but not absolutely certain) that this route will be a little quicker.
Personally, I have never found the easterly ascent to be particularly boggy.
07/07/2009 at 21:01

When I'm tired, I prefer scrambling as I find looking for hand/footholds helps me pace myself and and take things one step at a time.

Whichever way you tackle the ascent of PYOW, it's an unpleasant climb when even fresh. To emphasise Matt E's comment about "even a slight incline becomes magnified many times in difficulty", when doing the W3K N-S I tackled Crib Goch from Blaen-y-Nant to Bwlch Coch. It was 700m of ascent over 3km but it took me 3 hours - I was dead on my feet. I've done it fresh in just over 1 hour.

Incidentally, as you're going S-N I recommend the Bwlch-Coch- Blaen-y-Nant descent as it's a very fast (you can run large sections of it) and safe way down, that is assuming you're starting at Snowdon and bagging CG third. I'd shy away from the CG NR descent as it requires too much time on the upper stage.

If you're starting at Pen-Y-Pas and bagging Snowdon third, then a descent from the Llanberis path about 300m before you reach Clogwyn Station at SH 60945 55939 is perfectly achievable though it does require care. We reccied it on a training run first.

Edited: 07/07/2009 at 21:04
07/07/2009 at 21:45

Many thanks for the excellent advice guys.    

Sorry, should have said in my original post -  I'm not a fell runner, just a keen walker.  I'm planning to do it in one go; starting early at Pen-y-Pass walking up to Snowdon and then following the classic route.  I'm interested in seeing what time I can do but also want to enjoy the journey.

Unfortunately I live too far away and don't get enough free time to recee the route - hence the questions

I think I'll plan on the east ridge up PYOW (assuming I can bribe the wife to wait for me at the bottom of Tryfan).  On the vaguest remotest possibility that my muscles aren't screaming blue murder I always have the option of taking the direct route up (I tend to prefer short, sharp ascents but as has been pointed out things get more difficult when tired).

I'm curious about the recommendation to re-trace steps and come off Crib Goch at Bwlch-Coch.  Is this to reduce the time on the main ridge of Crib Goch?  Or by-pass the NR?    How does the NR of Crib Goch compare to the main ridge?

07/07/2009 at 21:54
Having a go at this in August, so it makes some interesting reading for me as well, back up to Wales next Tues to check out a few tops not been on before...
07/07/2009 at 22:03

Matt also found this GPS route  http://www.haroldstreet.org.uk/routes/download/?route=160.  As he said it looks good apart from the descent off Tryfan and a very small detour in Nant Peris.

07/07/2009 at 22:07
Its gonna be a killer whatever, we went straight up.
07/07/2009 at 22:19


I'm no fell-runner either, like you I'm a keen walker who likes a challenge. Sections of Bwlch-Coch are scree and soft ground which can often be easier to let gravity bring you down at speed rather than resisting it. Slight word of warning: don't build up any lactic acid as you'll really feel the damage when you start the ascent of Elidir Fawr - that's a real b!tch of a climb. I swore at it most of the way up. 

I've gone up CGNR half a dozen times and I'm always glad to top out. I feel enlivened and glad not to have put a foot wrong - as that would lead to the fastest possible descent  CGNR is my favourite ascent, but I've never gone down it - I find going down scrambles particularly time consuming and for that reason I'd avoid it.

When I went S-N I started at PYP, Crib Goch, Carnedd Ugain, Snowdon third and finally descended just above Clogwyn as described above. This gave us the shortest distance and avoided retracing more of the route than as was absolutely necessary. It also avoided a descent of Crib-y-Dysgl which can eat up time looking for the right way down, even if you're familiar with it - I don't think I've ever found the exact same way up it twice and you can easily strand yourself.

Email me if you'd like Memory Map .mmo files of my 2004 journey and my optimised version for a later attempt that I never quite got around to doing .

Edited: 07/07/2009 at 22:21
07/07/2009 at 22:57

I was planning on the Pen-y-pass to Snowdon to Crib-y-Dysgl route to allow me to get a standard peak-to-peak time (sad I know) but I may rethink.

07/07/2009 at 23:03
IanG wrote (see)
Incidentally, as you're going S-N I recommend the Bwlch-Coch- Blaen-y-Nant descent as it's a very fast (you can run large sections of it) and safe way down, that is assuming you're starting at Snowdon and bagging CG third. I'd shy away from the CG NR descent as it requires too much time on the upper stage.

This is certainly a viable option, and was actually used by Colin Donnelly on his record breaking run. It is difficult to say whether for a normal walker/fell runner this is a better option than continuing along the ridge. My feeling is that there's probably not a great deal in it.

It involves scrambling back over the two pinnacles of the Crib Goch ridge, but avoids the northwards continuation of the ridge, which is not particularly easy either (but it is best to leave this to descend diagonally across the scree to the left a short distance after the path from Pen y Pass is met)

In order to maximise the effectiveness of the Bwlch Coch option, you need to ensure that you know where the summit of Crib Goch actually is ie. it is not at the point where the path from Pen y Pass is met, but is some distance along the ridge before you reach this.

08/07/2009 at 00:00
Guy Evans wrote (see)

I was planning on the Pen-y-pass to Snowdon to Crib-y-Dysgl route to allow me to get a standard peak-to-peak time (sad I know) but I may rethink.

My feeling is that PyP-CG-CyD-Sn is the fastest and easiest route if not camping on Snowdon's summit the night before the challenge. (Also, most people will find that when descending from Snowdon it is best to use route 2 on this photo, as route 1 is extremely steep.)

However, I also feel that it is often a really good idea to start off in the dark and to be on the top of the first peak by sunrise. This can be a problem if Crib Goch is your first peak, as the ascent is potentially very dangerous and you must know it well if you intend to climb it in the dark.

The route up the Pyg Track to Snowdon is much easier and safer in the dark.

Therefore, if you are not prepared to climb Crib Goch in the dark, you could potentially save yourself at least an hour of daylight by using PyP-Sn-CyD-CG. This time saved could be crucial at the end of the walk.

Deciding which option to use is not always easy !

17/07/2009 at 09:43

Many thanks for all the advice.

I'm gutted that I've been ill with the flu this week and still recovering   I don't have any free weekends until late September so looks like this will have to wait until next year   At least that'll probably give me a chance to reccie some parts of the route.  The weather looks decidingly iffy this weekend anyway.

Ho hum.

17/07/2009 at 10:41


We did it in mid September a few years ago. The weather was fine, the main drawback was that due to less daylight we started and finished in the dark which added time to the overall event.

It'll be there next year.

19/07/2009 at 10:49

Just a word of advice on Elidir Fawr. I've been thinking that rather than take the direct route up from Nant Peris, a preferred ascent would be up Esgair y Ceunant to below Foel Goch. There is a path but it's not marked. You could then leave packs and do an out and back to Elidir.

As for Snowdon, I think the best route is over Crib Goch first to Snowdon, then down along to Llechog. There is a path that then leaves the ridge at SH601574. It took me about 30mins to descend from there the other day, and it takes you back down to Nant Peris.

01/06/2010 at 22:07

Many thanks to all the feedback on this.
I finally managed to have a crack at this challenge over the bank holiday weekend.
As per my original plan, I was interested in a peak-to-peak time so we started off at Pen-y-Pass and went up the Miners track in the dark.  Then from Snowdon onto Crib Goch and off via the North Ridge.  We came off the west route from Tryfan and hacked across to Ogwen Cottage without any problems (lots of unmarked paths).  We picked up some water we'd stashed the night before and went up the south ridge of  Pen Yr Ole Wen (a very strong preference of the person I was walking with).  This was OK and the easy scrambling made a change from the plodding.  Traversed around Carnedd Llewelyn again without any problems (there is a poorly defined path for a large part of this).

If anybody would like a copy of our GPS track, please PM me.
Some school boy errors :-
- Getting lost between Garnedd Ugain and Crib Goch in very poor visibility.  Yes, it's possible to get lost on an arete   We strayed towards Clogwyn y Person before realising our mistake and correcting.  We'd receeded the route a couple of weeks earlier but the poor visibility makes it a different ball game.
- Climbling Foel Goch in addition.  A silly navigation error based on seeing a big hill and blindly following the people in front of us.  I think my walking partner wanted to make it more of a challenge
- Climbing Tryfan South peak.  I haven't come to Tryfan from this direction before and again we started climbing before thinking.

The errors added up to over 45 minutes.
Approximate timings -
Start Pen-y-pass 3:20 am.
Start at top of Snowdon 5:15am.
Finish at Foel Fras 7:50pm.
Back at car at  9:30pm
Peak-to-peak time 14 hours 35 minutes.
Car to car time: 18 hours 10 mins.
Weather conditions:-
Low (wet) cloud on Snowdon and Crib Goch but then it cleared.  For much of the day it was nice and cool with good visibility.   Strong cross winds and a little mist on the Carneddau.  Can't really complain.
A tad dissapointed not to complete peak-to-peak in 12 hours but it was harder than I was expecting.  I've done a fair number of 20+ mile walks this year but probably not enough serious ascents and descents.  The bare stats of this walk - 30 miles, 13,500 feet of ascent - tell part of the story.  But there's hardly any easy mileage either.  Most of the flatter bits on the Glyders and Carneddau are bolder/stone covered so even there progress is slow.   I was pretty tired at the end - the 3.5 mile walk out on relatively easy ground taking 1 hour 40 minutes.
For anybody attempting this peak-to-peak I'd strongly suggest overnighting on Snowdon.  Adding another 2000+ ft ascent (even if taken slowly) to a tough walk is just making it more difficult.  You may not get much sleep, but on the flip side you'll be setting off 2 hours later than if you head off from Pen-y-pass.
Talking of which, Pen-y-pass was busy at 3am when we started, and was busy again at 10:15pm when we got back to pick up the car (quite a few 3 peakers).  We didn't have Snowdon peak to ourselves at 5am and must have seen over a dozen people on Crib Goch at around 6am in the morning.  It was very surreal chatting to a walker on Snowdon at 3:30am as if it was a perfectly normal thing to be doing.  Mad!

01/06/2010 at 22:16

Well done fella! Having a go this weekend coming myself and then again two weeks after that, different routes as well.

02/06/2010 at 00:40

Fantastic work, well done!

Also, thanks for a very useful write-up.

Definitely no need to be disappointed with not getting sub 12 hours - very few walkers achieve this. The challenge much tougher than most people anticipate. Your time is good .

02/06/2010 at 09:34
Congrats on your successful completion. As for your suggestion of sleeping on Snowdon, that always seems like cheating to me!
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