Conquer Welsh summits with the Three Peak Challenge

Conquer Welsh summits with the Three Peak Challenge

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes in Europe, especially during the late summer and fall. Trekking through forests or along the coastline helps provide a literal breath of fresh air, exercise and an appreciation for the beauty around surrounding us. In the U.K., there are plenty of popular spots for hiking — the Lake and Peak Districts, Cornwall and Scottish Highlands, to name a few. But if you’re ready for a unique adventure, you can test your endurance with the Three Peaks Challenge in Wales.

What is it?

The Three Peaks Challenge can be found in several spots around the U.K., including a national one which conquers the highest summits in Scotland, Wales and England. While it sounds daunting, the Welsh challenge sticks to three peaks across Wales including Snowdon, Cader Idris and Pen y Fan. You don’t have to be a fitness guru to take on this challenge, but you should be in good health and relatively fit to participate.

The route

Most participants get up at the crack of dawn and start in the north, working their way south. Beginning with Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park, you’ll tackle the highest summit in Wales. With arresting views from the top, on a clear day you can spot the coast of Ireland across the Irish Sea. The hike itself can take between four and six hours to complete and is approximately 11 km depending on which route you choose.

Once you’ve finished Snowdon, it’s time to take on Cader Idris. You’ll have approximately an hour and a half to rest up your legs on the drive. Situated in the Coed y Brenin Forest Park in the southern tip of Snowdonia, this hike is a little more than 5 km; however, it can take up to five hours to summit depending on your fitness level. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Llan Cau, a glacial lake surrounded by craggy mountains on all sides.

Now that you’re two-thirds of the way done; the last peak of Pen y Fan awaits. Located in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park approximately two and a half hours south of Cader Idris, this mountain is the highest in southern Wales. The trail is about 9 km and should take two to three hours to finish. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic vista of the Welsh countryside.

Know before you go

There are plenty of expertly guided and organized tours to make it easier to plan; however, if organized groups aren’t your thing, you can do a self-guided challenge. The best time of year to attempt the challenge is May through October, when the days are longer and the weather less temperamental. Although most hikers attempt the Three Peaks Challenge within 24 hours, it’s okay if you have to go a little longer. Sturdy hiking boots and layered clothing are highly recommended as the weather can rapidly change. It’s also recommended to do a little hill training prior to the challenge to help acclimate your body to ascending and descending the mountains.

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