Running the Welsh 3000s

Posted by Sam Harrison on July 10, 2015 at 12:28.

 Fell running

carneddau carnedds crib goch fell running glyders snowdon snowdonia welsh 3000s welsh 3s

Looking rather happy on the final summit of Foel Fras.
Regular readers of my blog might have noticed this post a while back detailing how I was going to start taking my running training a bit more seriously. I'm pleased to say (despite the lack of updates here) things are going well and I've already achieved my July target of being "back up to my long-distance fitness as of last year, that is, being able to comfortably run 20+ miles with 9000 ft of ascent". I've also got myself a place in the Glencoe Skyline next month, which has definitely motivated me on the way to getting out on some longer runs, including a superb day out I had last Saturday on the Welsh 3000s.

I've done the Welsh 3s twice before, both times as walks and both times back in 2011. The first time was as a two-day backpacking trip, mainly to recce the route for the second time, which was a one-day attempt with my uncle, which saw us achieve a summit-to-summit time of 11 hours 26 minutes (it's difficult to go faster than this without running). I've been wanting to give running the route a go ever since, but until the past few months haven't felt I've had the fitness.

The forecast said that overnight thunderstorms would clear to leave a mainly dry and somewhat bright day, but as we got closer and closer to Llanberis the skies became darker and darker, it became clear that the rain and wind hadn't quite managed to clear the mountains yet. I was in rain almost immediatedly as I set off along the Pyg track, and the wind hit me full-force as I branched off towards Crib Goch at Bwlch Moch. The rock was sodden and slippy as I worked my way across Crib Goch, passing numerous petrified-looking parties heading in both directions, who seemed happy to freeze on the spot as I skipped past them. The going didn't get any better over Crib y Ddysgl and I was glad to be summitting Garnedd Ugain and soon after Snowdon. My descent to Nant Peris was via Cwm Glas Bach, an improbable-looking gully dropping away from Clogwyn Station. As I branched off the Llanberis path, a concerned walker called after me to tell me I was going the wrong way. I reassured him I wasn't and knew where I was, but I don't think he quite believed me as I disappeared down the steep grassy slope into the head of the cwm. I was worried that, having not done parts of the route since 2011, I would struggle to remember the route properly, but I seemed to pick a good line down towards the A4086 and Nant Peris.

It was still chucking it down when I arrived at Nant Peris, bang-on schedule, where my support team - i.e. my Mum and Dad - were waiting with supplies. The long climb up Elidir Fawr dragged and I struggled to keep warm in the unrelenting weather. I made good progress on the traverse to Y Garn, arriving at the summit 4 minutes up on schedule, which by the summit of Gylder Fawr had turned into 5 minutes. Finally, the strong winds had started to blow the wind and rain away, and I was rewarded with good views of Tryfan and the start of the Carneddau section. My legs were still feeling great at this point and I was in high spirits as I skipped across the boulders comprising the Glyderrau plateau. I gained more time on the steep scree descent to Bwlch Tryfan, and thoroughly enjoyed the scrambling up Tryfan's south ridge. As expected, the descent down its West Gully took its toll on my knees and legs, but I was happy that they weren't aching too much when I arrived by the shores of Llyn Ogwen. I was 16 minutes up on schedule by this point, and seeing as the aim of the day wasn't to set any speed records, I decided to make the most of this and have an extended break, using the time to eat as much as I could, put on sun cream (the weather had finally improved!) and ditch the insulated layers from my bag.

I had chosen Pen yr Ole Wen's western rib as my ascent route onto the Carnedds, a route which I'd only done once before, and as such the line I took from the lake shore wasn't at all optimal. I eventually found myself on a decent path and settled down into the long, steep drag up to the summit. Surprisingly, my legs were still feeling great at this point, and I didn't really tire on the next section over Pen yr Ole Wen and Carnedd Dafydd. I knew I had plenty of energy still left on the traverse to Yr Elen and made up some more time by running most of its ascent. The relatively flat and grassy section from Carnedd Llewellyn to Foel Fras felt very runable, and I went as fast as my legs would let me, arriving at the summit of Foel Fras 22 minutes up on my schedule, and 8 hours and 34 minutes since the first summit of Crib Goch.

I was genuinely surprised that my legs held up quite so well, and in fact I felt (and apparently, looked) less worn out than when I walked the route. The training must be paying off! The Welsh 3000s is, in my opinion, one of the best routes in Britain. It takes in an enormous diversity of terrain and scenery in a route that is logical and in no way arbitrary (like so many of these other "challenge" events seem to be). With a bit more speed work and a true summit-to-summit attempt (i.e. starting on the top of Snowdon), hopefully next year I'll be able to have a crack at seeing how fast I can get around it.

For those that are interested, here are my splits:
  Time since start Splits (mins)
Pen-y-Pass 0:00 0
Crib Goch 0:54 54
Garnedd Ugain 1:28 34
Snowdon 1:39 11
Nant Peris arrival 2:28 49
Nant Peris departure 2:36 8
Elidir Fawr foot bridge 2:58 22
Elidir Fawr 3:43 45
Y Garn 4:26 43
Llyn y Cwn 4:37 11
Glyder Fawr 5:00 23
Gylder Fach 5:18 18
Tryfan 5:50 32
Llyn Ogwen arrival 6:14 24
Llyn Ogwen departure 6:41 27
Pen yr Ole Wen 7:41 60
Carnedd Dafydd 7:58 17
Yr Elen 8:37 39
Carnedd Llewellyn 8:57 20
Foel Grach 9:10 13
Garnedd Uchaf 9:17 7
Foel Fras 9:28 11
Bont Newydd car park 10:31 63

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