14 Peaks: How to Tackle the Welsh 3000s Route

Claire Copeman - Aug 15, 2021 - Inspiration2876Guided

The 14 Peaks Challenge in Wales, also sometimes called the 15 Peaks or Welsh 3000s route, is an iconic mountain climbing route in North Wales. Often taken on as a sub-24-hour challenge, it takes you to the summit of the 15 highest peaks in Snowdonia National Park, including the tallest and most famous mountain in Wales – Snowdon itself.

A hiker admires views of Snowdon from the Welsh 3000s route

Spread across three mountain ranges, this epic challenge takes you through some of the National Park’s most wild and rugged terrain. Although a couple of the mountains are popular tourist hotspots, much of the route leads away from the “beaten path”. So you can enjoy a true adventure in a wild and spectacular setting.

Our guide to the Wales 14 Peaks contains everything you need to know about the challenge, including the Welsh 3000s route, when to make your attempt, and what to expect in terms of terrain. We’ve been leading tours in this part of Wales for years and our guides know the route like the back of their hand.

A mountain guide smiles at the camera on the 14 Peaks route in Snowdonia

If you’re feeling mountain fit and ready for a challenge, this is definitely one for your UK bucket list. Although the “official” challenge needs to be completed within 24 hours, many choose to spread it over a few days. We run our expert-led 14 Peaks Experience over three days, which we think is the perfect amount of time for a trip which is still an epic challenge, but somewhat less gruelling.

Welsh 3000s Route or 14 Peaks?

If you’re wondering what the difference is between the 14 Peaks Challenge and the Welsh 3000s, the answer is that there isn’t one! They’re just two different names for the same route.

It’s more commonly known as the Welsh 3000s route, because the challenge involves summitting all the mountains over 3000ft in Snowdonia National Park. But is also known as the 14 Peaks – the name we prefer – because that’s how many mountains the challenge includes.

There are now officially 15 mountains over 3000ft in Snowdonia National Park, so you may also see the challenge called the 15 Peaks. As if it wasn’t already confusing!

What is the 14 Peaks Challenge in Wales?

Two hikers climb over rocks on the 14 Peaks route in Snowdonia

The 14 Peaks Challenge (aka the 15 Peaks or the Welsh 3000s) is a challenge to reach the top of all 14 of the highest mountains in Snowdonia National Park. To complete the challenge and bag yourself the ultimate bragging rights, you need to summit all 14 of the mountains over 3000ft within the space of 24 hours, without using any form of transport.

However, it is also very common to take on the Welsh 3000s route as a multi-day challenge. We think three days is ideal, allowing one day for each of the three mountain ranges. Our 14 Peaks Experience is a 4-night tour with 3 full days of guided mountain hiking.

*The 15th peak is Carnedd Gwenllian (aka Garnedd Uchaf). This is a minor summit between Foel-fras and Foel Grach, rather than a summit in its own right. Some people like to detour to include it, in order to bag the full 15 Peaks.

Welsh 3000s Route

The length of the Welsh 3000s route from the first peak to the last is roughly 26 miles (42km). Officially, the route begins at the peak of Snowdon and finishes on Foel-fras. However, you can choose any route you like and summit the mountains in any order, as long as you reach the top of all of them.

If you’re taking the official route, you can hike up Snowdon the day before and camp on the summit, or simply climb it at night to reach the peak in time for daybreak. That way you can start the challenge from the summit of Snowdon as early as possible. You could even take the mountain railway up the day before in order to save your strength.

Many walkers prefer to take an alternative route which avoids the need to camp at the summit of Snowdon. We’ll outline that option in a moment.

Then there’s our three-day route, which goes in reverse order, allowing a full day for each of the three mountain ranges. We start with a hike up Foel-fras and end by conquering the highest of the 14 peaks; Snowdon.

Whichever order you take on the challenge, the Welsh 3000s route takes in the following three mountain ranges:

The Snowdon Range

A warning sign for Crib Goch on the Welsh 3000s route in Snowdonia

The most famous mountain range in Wales, the Snowdon Massif is home to Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales at 1,085m. There are only three mountains to climb here, but two are absolute giants, while the smaller Crib Goch is somewhat infamous.

The official route here is to start from the peak of Snowdon, then climb Garnedd Ugain (aka Crib Y Ddysgyl), the second-highest peak in Snowdonia, followed by Crib Goch.

However, many hikers prefer to take a slightly alternative route to start the Welsh 3000s, which involves climbing Snowdon as part of the 14 Peaks challenge. This route starts by climbing Crib Goch, then Garnedd Ugain, followed by a short descent to join the main route up Snowdon from Llanberis.

The terrain of the Snowdon Massif is fairly challenging, with rocky pinnacles, some very steep sections, and a few scrambles. Crib Goch can be particularly tough, even dangerous, as it involves a grade 1 scramble followed by a knife-edge traverse with steep drops on either side. A good head for heights and a good level of mountain experience is needed before attempting this. Alternatively, ensure you are with a qualified and experienced guide.

Mountains (alternative route order):
Crib Goch – 923m
Garnedd Ugain (Crib Y Ddysgyl) – 1065m
Snowdon – 1085m

Glyderau – The Glyders

Hikers climb up the big granite slabs of the Carneddau on the Welsh 3000s route

The Glyderau is a rugged and gruelling range of big slabby peaks. Although these are some of the smallest mountains in the 14 Peaks challenge, this is probably the hardest section. Expect complex mountain terrain, rocky climbs, and a few scrambles. In fact, the tricky terrain of Tryfan is where Sir Edmund Hillary and his team trained for their ascent of Everest.

Mountains (route order):
Elidir Fawr – 924m
Y Garn – 947m
Glyder Fawr – 1001m
Glyder Fach – 994m
Tryfan – 918m

Carneddau – The Cairns

Hikers cross the Carneddau plateau in the distance on the Welsh 3000s route

Also known as The Cairns, Carneddau is an enormous plateau covering 10% of the area of Snowdonia. Up in the northern reaches of the National Park, it is a landscape of high ridges and deep, vast valleys. This is the quieter side of Snowdonia, where you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful experience.

Carneddau is the longest section of the challenge, with six of your Welsh Peaks to tackle. (Seven if you’re aiming for 15 Peaks). However, it also has the least amount of ascent, and somewhat easier terrain. There are some scrambles, but once you’re up it’s mostly a fairly flat section.

Mountains (route order):
Pen yr Ole Wen – 978m
Carnedd Dafydd – 1044m
Carnedd Llewelyn – 1064m
Yr Elen – 962m
Foel Grach – 976m
Carnedd Gwenllian – 926m (the 15th peak, often skipped)
Foel-fras – 942m

There’s some great information on each of the peaks on the 14 Peaks website.

Best Time to do the 14 Peaks Challenge

If you’re aiming for the 24-hour challenge, the best time to attempt the 14 Peaks / Welsh 3000s is summer, between June and August. The longer days mean more daylight while you’re out walking, plus the likelihood of fairer weather. Many hikers plan their trip as close to the summer solstice (21st June) as possible.

Even if you’re not pushing to complete the challenge in 24 hours, summer is still the best time of year as the weather is likely to be better. The terrain can be dangerous in extreme conditions, so it’s not advisable to make the attempt during winter.

Bear in mind, however, that summertime means the more popular mountains like Snowdon and Tryfan will be more crowded – especially on the weekends. Try to plan your Snowdon climb on a weekday if you can. If you’re not trying to climb all the Welsh 3000s in 24 hours, you could plan your trip a little earlier or later in the season in order to avoid the crowds.

We plan our three-day 14 Peaks Experience in early summer and September, when the summertime crowds have started to disperse but conditions are generally still pretty decent.

Hikers prepare to cross the infamous Crib Goch on the 14 Peaks route

What is the Record for the 14 Peaks in Wales?

The current record for the 14 Peaks challenge, aka the Welsh 3000s, is an epic 4 hours 10 minutes and 48 seconds! It was set by Finlay Wild, a former British Fell Running Champion, in 2019.

How Hard is the 14 Peaks Challenge?

Woman smiles at camera, relieved after completing the Welsh 3000s route

The Welsh 3000s, or 14 Peaks, is an endurance challenge and should not be taken lightly. Preparation is key, and we don’t advise you to take on this challenge alone unless you’re an experienced mountain hiker or fell runner.

If you’re not confident going it alone, we recommend booking a tour with an experienced guide. Our small group tour includes a 1:4 guide to guest ratio, so you know you’ll always be in safe hands.

Even spread over three days, our 14 Peaks Experience is no walk in the park. It’s a tough challenge that requires good levels of fitness – not to mention some serious inner strength! But the feeling of achievement once you’ve completed your final peak is incomparable. This is an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.