Some see it as a challenge, some are captivated by the stunning scenery, while others complete it for charity. HAYLEY MILLS looks at the allure of the Abergavenny Three Peaks walks.
THE Three Peaks Trial is a challenge walk based in Abergavenny whereby a team of volunteers set a series of checkpoints which entrants have to pass through using their own navigation skills to select the best route between the checkpoints.
The event was set up in 1963 and normally has four routes ranging from ten to 20 miles and is the oldest event of its type in the UK.
It regularly attracts over walkers from all over the UK and with its varied length routes it is the perfect opportunity to try your hand at a shorter distance before attempting the larger routes.
The current four routes are:
• Platinum Route:This is a linear walk of about 17 miles and 5000' of ascent from Llanthony Abbey to Abergavenny over Bal Mawr, Pen Cerrig Calch and Sugar Loaf. Although the Platinum Route is shorter than the Gold, the ascents are steeper and navigation more challenging, hence the higher grading.
• Gold Route: This is the original challenge, a circular walk of about 20 miles and 5000' of ascent, which crosses over three prominent peaks around Abergavenny in Monmouthshire: Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Fawr. This route is never far from civilisation yet there is no obvious route so that concentration on map reading is essential to keep to the best route.
• Silver Route: This is a circular walk of about 15 miles and 4000' of ascent. It follows the Gold Route from Abergavenny over Blorenge and Sugar Loaf, then descends back to Abergavenny.
• Bronze Route: This is a circular walk of about 10 miles and 2000' of ascent. The route goes from Abergavenny to the summit of Sugar Loaf, descending by a different path.
This year’s event took place on March 23, and the first walkers back on each route were:
• Platinum Route- Chris Griffiths, 33, from Hereford.
• Gold Route- Michelle Kelly, 43, from Abergavenny and after she completed the walk, she did something which is unprecedented in the long history of the Three Peaks Trial, and she did a second lap. The double Three Peaks Trial took her nine hours and 20 minutes.
• Silver Route- Paul Freeman, 57, from Bicester and Richard Brunsden, 53, from Cwmbran.
• Bronze Route- Tim Davies, 51, and Morganna Davies, 12, from Newport.
Signing up as a volunteer for the first time was Nick Tatam, 66, from Abergavenny.
He has undertaken the challenge for the last ten years, but thought he would try his hand at something new this year.
He said: “I have always been a keen walker and I would always see the large group of people taking part in the challenge and curiosity made me sign up.”
The first time that he did the 20 mile walk over the Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Fawr it took him 11 hours and his personal best is eight hours.
He said: “I have literally done it in all weathers, including snow in 2013, which was a struggle, but mostly it has been in rain.”
He described how the Blorenge is very tough but is one of the most memorable peaks as it is so steep.
The Sugar Loaf is a gradual climb but it seems to go on and on, while the Skirrid Fawr is the easiest, but after the first two peaks, it doesn’t feel like it is as tiredness sets in.
He said: “There are some stunning views along the walk and when you get to the Sugar Loaf, people tend to stop for lunch so you get a moment to take in the views.
“On the Skirrid you are walking on a ridge so there are stunning views on both sides.”
In preparation, he would usually do a last minute burst of training, about three weeks previous to the event.
He said: “As I am quite active, I found that three weeks was enough, but going in totally cold would be unwise.”
He added that from experience he learnt to carry a mix of clothes, made up of a base layer that you start off wearing, then layer up as you get to the top where the cold winds are, into a fleece and then waterproofs if needed.
He said: “You need to be putting clothes on as you walk, not stripping off as you heat up, as you will be drenched in sweat.”
Talking of his first experience as a volunteer instead of a participant, he was in charge of registering people, taking inquiries and making sure that people made it through the check points and noting down their time.
He said: “It was a lovely atmosphere but it is a long day for the organisers.”
The Three Peaks Trial is an organised challenge walk arranged each year in March by the Cardiff Outdoor Group.
Co-ordinator of the event is Chris Lewis of the walking group.
He explained that this year’s event attracted 818 walkers, with many of those raising funds for their own charities.
The Cardiff Outdoor Group raised money for the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team, the National Trust, owners of Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Fawr, for footpath maintenance and the Elenydd Wilderness Trust.
Cardiff Outdoor Group have a full programme of walks throughout South Wales with many taking place in Gwent throughout the year so it’s not too late to get your walking boots on and join in.
For more information visit http://cardiffoutdoorgroup.wordpress.com or www.threepeakstrial.co.uk