On Friday the 8th July 2016, team Rhino met at The Bristol Zoo packed and ready to start our journey up to Snowdonia National Park in northwest Wales. The coach journey was a long, slow one taking around 6 hours (the diversion due to the touring Eisteddfod festival didn’t help!), but the mood was jolly and everyone was excited and a little apprehensive about the challenge ahead. To recap the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge
involved climbing up and down all three of the highest peaks in Wales in one day.
The coach finally reached its destination and we were happy to get off and stretch our legs and pleased by the offer of a hot meal that greeted us. The youth hostel we were staying in was smart and comfortable. We had our own rooms and following a couple of beers, this made for a good nights rest before the next day’s activities.
We were woken by the sound of a 4.30am alarm the following morning, it was dark, cold but we were ready and excited for the challenge. By 5am we were at the bottom of Wales’s highest mountain, Mount Snowdon, ready to start the first of the three climbs. To an experienced trekker this may sound naive, but the immediate terrain we were faced with at the bottom of Snowdon genuinely surprised me. It was rocky and uneven and a steep incline from the off. We were 200m into the trek and it dawned on me that this might not be a walk in the park.
Team Rhino found our stride and started to enjoy the trek, however the conditions were worsening; they hadn’t been great to start with, but the rain was getting heavier and as we approached the summit we were faced with gale force wind speeds that made standing up difficult. However we made it to the summit. Mixed feelings greeted me at this point; pride that we had done it but also a little trepidation that we now had to climb back down and do this all over again twice more! Despite the thick cloud, it was still possible to admire the wonderful landscape on the descent as we enjoyed a relief from the rocky terrain and traded this for a flatter path that circled the lake.
We successfully made our way to the bottom and with sodden clothes and achy feet we made our way back on to the coach. This was a tough point in the day, being soaking wet and cold and having to sit on a coach for two hours before getting off to do it all again, didn’t feel me with joy. Nor did the bloody, blistered heels I’d acquired from the first climb. But with a smile on our faces, we embarked on the next challenge: Cadair Idris. This mountain lies at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park and has an 893m elevation.
This was the longest trek and the most challenging. The terrain was mixed and in parts the only possible route was over cobbled large stones that took a great deal of concentration to pass. Once again we were not helped by the weather as the wind and rain pounded us for the duration of the 6 hours walk. I think the most disappointing thing about the weather, was not how wet it made us, but how it obscured what should have been the most spectacular of views. A heavy grey cloud enveloped the mountain for the duration.
We were nearly there. We had descended Cadair Idris and were once again sat on the coach in our squelchy clothes. The 2 hour 30 minute coach journey gave the opportunity to have a snooze and try and regain some energy before the final climb. By this point I think it was fair to say that team Rhino and the rest of the coach were pretty worn out. It had been a long day and the weather had been relentless, but we were all cheered by the fact that our final climb would be the shortest of the three. There was a determination to get it done; the end was in sight.
We reached Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. At 886 metres above sea level this was once again going to be a strenuous mountain walk, especially given how tired our legs already were. It was hard to believe at this point that the weather could get much worse, but it did! I’ve never experienced wind speeds like the ones we did on the approach to the summit. It was during these wind speeds that myself and husband joined hands with a fellow trekker to simply pull us up to the top. With daylight fading fast we descended the final peak.
On reaching the coach for the final time that day, there was a real sense of achievement; we had done it. And in the process we’d raised a good deal of money to help towards the Wild Place and Bristol Zoo’s Giraffe conservation project. I may not be embarking on climbing the Welsh Three Peaks again any time soon, but the achievement and memory of the day will be long lasting.
If you’re thinking of booking a car this summer then please do use the following link as we will be donating 10% from all rentals made to the cause.
Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge Statistics;
Welsh 3 Peaks Mountain Statistics;
- 3 mountains
- 17 miles (27km) walking
- 1500m elevation gain (nr 5,000ft)
- 12 hours trekking
- 120miles by road (between mountains)
- under 24 hours to complete
- 56,000 steps (see pedometer image)
Height: 1085m / 3560ft
Trek distance: 10 km
Duration: 4 hours
Car park: LL55 4NY (Pen-y-Pass)
Height: 893m / 2930ft
Trek distance: 9 km
Duration: 6 hours
Car park: LL36 9AJ (Minffordd Hotel)
Pen y Fan
Height: 886m / 2907ft
Trek distance: 6 km
Duration: 2.5 hours
Car park: LD3 8NL (Storey Arms)