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The Three Peaks trial takes place this year on Saturday 28th March. Here, Chris Lewis, Trial Co-ordinator, provides a window on the event’s history.

06-Sugar Loaf Checkpoint

The Three Peaks Trial is an organised challenge walk arranged each year in March by the Cardiff Outdoor Group. Up to 900 walkers travel from as far away as Cornwall, Cumbria and Kent to take part. Longtown Mountain Rescue Team also provide first aid and marshall support to the event.

For those unfamiliar with ‘Challenge Walks’ they’re an event where participants use map reading skills to make their way between marshalled Checkpoints, rather like orienteering. On reaching the end of the route the walkers receive a Certificate for completing the challenge as well as refreshments.

The Three Peaks Trial was first held in March 1963 and is the third oldest event of its type in the UK.  Originally it was designed for the walker of limited experience who was interested in testing his or her stamina and skill at map reading. It was felt that this route was ideal for such a purpose being very safe, with well established tracks and yet requiring careful map reading to ensure that the most suitable route was followed. Being a circular walk with Abergavenny in the centre, retirement from the event was no serious problem.

In the early days of the Three Peaks Trial it started from Crickhowell Youth Hostel (now defunct) and the majority of the entrants came for the weekend. A briefing was given on the Friday evening and the walk commenced at 8.00am the following morning, the object being to visit the summits of the three dominant peaks of Abergavenny: Blorenge, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid Fawr. The route from Crickhowell was approximately 22 miles in length and entrants were offered the choice of walking it in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Certificates were presented to all entrants who completed the route successfully.

The very first event was organised by Chris Barber in 1963. It was advertised in a YHA magazine and it attracted twenty entrants. It was to have taken place in February, but unfortunately severe snow conditions caused the event to be postponed. The six entrants who managed to brave the elements and arrive at Crickhowell Youth Hostel were taken on a caving trip on Mynydd Llangattock, a limestone escarpment above Crickhowell, instead. It was their first experience of this activity and they all enjoyed themselves so much that they were quite pleased that the walk had been postponed.

In 1975 a decision was made to transfer the starting point of the event to Abergavenny, where the St John’s Ambulance Hall, Guide and Scout Halls in the Fairfield Car Park, near the centre of the town provide excellent facilities.

Over the years the event has been modified so in 2015 there is a choice of four other 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 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 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.
  • Silver Route: This is a circular walk of about 15 miles and 4000’ of ascent
  • 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.

Further details of the event can be found on the event website,

Chris Lewis

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