The ‘Welsh 3000s’ is a well known challenge – to visit all 15 summits over 3000 feet in Snowdonia, North Wales, in one day. The Vegan Welsh 3000s takes that challenge and adds extra distance and ascent to create one of the most challenging ultra distance race routes in the UK.
Runners are required to be vegan for the day as a condition of entering this race. Entry includes food and camping, and the event and aid stations were catered by Caffi V. They provided an array of vegan treats including cake, pasta, soup …and plenty more cake!
I set up camp next to Natalya, one of my Sheffield running friends, in a freshly-strimmed meadow. We had time to take a quick look at the final kilometre of the route before attending the race briefing and pasta party. By 9:30 most of the runners had retired to bed, ready for a 3:30am alarm.
As we caught the race bus to the start I tried to ignore the nerves by admiring the incredible view of Snowdonia at sunrise. I realised that these were some of the summits I would be running over in the long day to come…
Snowdon-Crib Goch-Nant Peris – approx 14km… 3 summits ticked
The race began at 5am with an ascent of the Watkins path where Natalya shouted good luck as she passed me on the way to the summit of Snowdon. I was disappointed to realise that we were heading into the clouds and we wouldn’t get any views. The knife edge ridge of Crib Goch was next, my favourite part of the race. Some runners had never done a scramble like that before, and I enjoyed their reaction to the unusual environment of sharp rock and empty space filled with mysterious mists.
The north ridge descent of Crib Goch ends with a scree shoot, very fun once I relaxed into the downhill escalator motion. That was followed by a slither down wet grass and rocks to join the road to Nant Peris and the first aid station. I stopped for a cup of tea and a swift breakfast with Hetty, a Sheffield friend and race steward, and a welcome friendly face.
Elidir Fawr-Glyders-Tryfan – approx 18km… 8 summits ticked
Leaving Nant Peris, there’s a long ascent up Elidir Fawr followed by a runnable trail. This leads to the start of the climb to Glyder Fawr, where again, we entered the cloud. I lost the route markers and instead followed a bearing on my compass, losing time stumbling over boulders and searching for a checkpoint that wasn’t there at Glyder Fach.
Back on track we found the checkpoint as we briefly descended in order to ascend again to Tryfan. The sun was out and there was plenty of support as we scrambled upwards, looking out for little red flags.
The summit was busy and we were shown where to start the steep descent. This was one of the hardest parts of the route for me, it felt long and tough on my legs. I was happy to reach the aid station at Ogwen for soup, cake, and a rest in the sun as I put on fresh shoes and socks.
Ogwen-Carnedds-Finish – approx 26km… 15 summits ticked
The final section is the longest and I hadn’t recce’d it. I set off from the aid station feeling tired, and as I slowly made my way uphill I found myself alone. Following the flags, I enjoyed scrambling up Pen yr Ole Wen, but was pushing to the back of my mind concern about being alone for the rest of the route.
However, a moment later another Sheffield friend arrived! Corin had already recce’d this part of the route, and had segments of the map prepared. With a friend by my side it felt like a normal run in the hills, and the time went quickly as we chatted.
With three summits to go, a cold wind began to blow, and we found ourselves in thick cloud. Visibility was gone and so were the route markers. This section is mentally tough – there’s an out and back that takes you away from the finish when all your instincts want to run to camp. Corin was energetic and smiling as ever, I really admired her strength as she successfully navigated us to the final summits and the route home.
Finally gaining the last trail with less than 8km to run, the cloud was behind and the end in sight. I made it to the line in 15hrs 35mins accompanied by the cheers of runners that had already finished, and was rewarded with my Welsh slate finishers medal and big hugs from Corin and Natalya, who had whisked her way around the route in a super-fast time.
At the finish there were hot showers and a mini festival with an amazing party atmosphere. It was time to celebrate with our friends and families, eat and listen to the band, and share the experiences of the day.
This was my second ultra race and it felt like a big step up. I got the nutrition and hydration right, a definite improvement since the OCC. The biggest challenges for me were preparation (time to recce), navigation, and the physical strength required for this amount of ascent and descent.
There are always ways I could improve, but I’m so proud of myself, Corin, Natalya and all the runners that completed such a challenging race. Thank you to the organisers and the stewards for an unforgettable experience!
The Vegan Welsh 3000s is one of the Sky Runner series of races, read the official race report and see professional photos of the route at Skyrunning UK.