The Welsh Three Peaks Challenge is typically made up of three of the highest and most iconic mountains in Wales: Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), Wales’ tallest peak and the highest point in Britain outside the Scottish highlands; Cader Idris, a spectacular peak at the southerly edge of Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park; and Pen y Fan, the highest peak in the Bannau Brycheiniog Brecon Beacons National Park in Mid Wales.

And what’s best is that all this is achievable for most people with a reasonable level of fitness; although planning and preparation are vital. Most people take on the challenge through an organised group and many Welsh charities run their own three peaks fundraising challenges, which generally include guides and transport.

Amelia Williams, 50, did the challenge in May 2017 as part of a 50-strong team from her local gym, The Class House in Llandeilo. 'The gym owner is ex-army, so he organised the whole thing. He’d arranged five mountain leaders and sorted things like transport, food and first aiders,' she says.

If you are taking on the challenge as an individual group, it’s recommended to have at least one designated driver who isn’t taking part in the walking challenge and can take extra rest breaks. It’s also advised to have a few hill-based practice walks before setting off on the challenge, as well as some general fitness training.

'We ranged from the ultra-fit down to people who’d only being going to the gym for a few months,' says Amelia. 'I’m quite fit, but it was still a real challenge. We’d done a few practice walks up Pen y Fan, using the route the SAS train on, so we had an idea what it was going to be like. The best thing was doing it as a group and supporting each other, shattered as everyone was.'

Road through Snowdonia National Park

The road snaking through Pen y Pass, Eryri (Snowdonia), North Wales

The Eryri (Snowdonia) and Bannau Brycheiniog Brecon Beacons National Park websites have their own safety sections which all include essential tips on equipment, clothing, fitness and timings for the specific mountain areas. AdventureSmart UK also has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your day out.

Your reward? Some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world and an unrivalled day of discovery, adventure and achievement. In general, most groups complete the route from north to south but it can be done in reverse – although that means finishing with the toughest mountain, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). May to October is the best time to take on the challenge, but remember, the weather on the mountains can change quickly and vary drastically, whatever the season.

Either way, you’ll be using The Cambrian Way to travel around 135 miles, a complete north-south road route along the mountainous spine of Wales, taking in dizzyingly-beautiful vistas, market towns, forests, lakes and reservoirs; as well as the old slate and coal-mining heartlands.

Just to add spice, Amelia’s group set themselves a 24-hour target that included the home-to-home drive from West Wales: 'We left Llandeilo rugby club at midnight on the Saturday morning, drove up to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and started our walk at around 4am. That was a hard experience. It was still pitch black when we got there, and blowing a gale on the summit. But the weather broke on the descent and by the time we got to Cader Idris it was beautiful. At Pen y Fan it was dark and blowing a gale again. We finally got back to Llandeilo just after midnight. We finished in 24 hours and two minutes.'

That’s close enough, in our book – especially as the group raised more than £7,500 for prostate cancer research. Top effort!

Car driving away from the camera on a windy country road with a lake and mountains in the distance

Tal y Llyn Pass looking towards Llyn Mwngil, Eryri National Park, North Wales

The Challenge: North to South

Use our accommodation search to find a place to stay near Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park. YHA Pen y Pass Youth Hostel has been a popular choice for adventurous climbers since the Victorian era; or try the recently refurbished Royal Victoria Hotel for some traditional luxury opposite the Llanberis path. Whatever you choose, say ‘nos da’ (goodnight) as early as possible, ready for a dawn start to your Welsh mountain adventure. You could even stock up on delicious Welsh produce and snacks for the journey between mountains at Iechyd Da Deli, an independent, family-run delicatessen in the picturesque village of Betws-y-Coed the day before.

Stargazing in Snowdonia National Park

YHA Pen y Pass Youth Hostel

Dolbadarn Castle

The Royal Victoria Hotel Snowdonia

Dolbadarn Castle

I’m quite fit, but it was still a real challenge. We’d done a few practice walks up Pen y Fan, using the route the SAS train on, so we had an idea what it was going to be like. The best thing was doing it as a group and supporting each other, shattered as everyone was.”

The Mountains

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

Height: 1,085 metres

Walk time: approx. 4-5 hours

Instagram moment: Sunrise as you set off, and the 360-degree views of the ridges and lakes of Eryri National Park stretch out in every direction. If it’s clear at the top, you can see all the way to Ireland.

Recommended start time: 6am

Route: Ascent via the Pyg track, descent via the Llanberis path.

Drive from Yr Wyddfa to Cader Idris: approx. 1.5 hours

The Pyg track looking towards the summit of Wales tallest mountain.
Trig point on top of Yr Wyddfa  (Snowdon) looking over the lakes.

The Pyg Track looking towards the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), and the views from the summit, North Wales

Cader Idris

Height: 893 metres

Walk time: approx. 5 hours

Instagram moment: Llyn Cau, a huge, dramatic glacial lake in the crater of Cader Idris, set beneath 400m-high mountain walls.

Route: Minffordd Path 

Drive from Cader Idris to Pen y Fan: approx. 2 hours 20 minutes

A group of people sat looking at Llyn Cau from the Minffordd Path, Cader Idris, Snowdonia with Craig Cau (left) and Penygadair (right).
View towards the summit Penygadair, a man and a dog silhouetted on a sunny day.

Llyn Cau from the Minffordd Path and the trig point at Penygadair, North Wales

Pen y Fan

Height: 886m

Walk time: approx. 2.5 hours

Instagram moment: A team photo at the top with the Pen y Fan National Trust sign – you did it!

Route: Start at the Storey Arms outdoor centre.

And to celebrate? Try the Three Horseshoes near Brecon, an award-winning village pub and restaurant known locally as the Groesffordd where you can get the hearty Welsh meal and cold drinks you truly deserve.

View of mountains and blue sky.
Spectacular view of the green pastures below from the summit of Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons.
The cairn at the top of Pen y Fan from above.

Pen y Fan, South Wales

Be safe!

Exploring the outdoors is fantastic fun, but please read up on the risks and make sure you are prepared.

Help Wales become the first Refill Nation by using nearby Refill Points to fill up your water bottle before you head off. Find out more including how to download the Refill Wales app to find your nearest Refill Point on the Refill Wales website.

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