Climbing the Stwlan Dam Road

Stwlan Dam

I’ve written about riding in North Wales before here, but the weather this weekend reduced us to just short blasts around points of interest such as Stwlan Dam.

Stwlan Dam

I’d wanted to ride up to Stwlan Dam ever since seeing it in Cyclist magazine a few years ago but always stayed too far away from it to ride there. Staying further south in Porthmadog for a change, I had to make the most of the chance to finally tick this climb off the list.

The Stwlan Dam climb is on a road closed to cars, we had to lift our bikes over the gate and then go through the kissing-gate. This road leads up to a dam way up in the hills above the village of Tanygrisiau. The dam feeds into the lake next to the village which runs a power station. You can just about see the dam from the main road if you’re at the right angle but it’s generally hidden.

Stwlan Dam Hairpins

Some of the many hairpins

We started the Stwlan Dam climb on a rise which ended up lasting half a mile and averaging 9%. I set off quickly but ended up settling into a rhythm. At the first little zig zag, I looked back and Hannah was still in sight. As I rounded the corner though, I wouldn’t see her again for a little while. Rounding this corner gave me the first proper sight of the dam. The tall dark arches gave it an imposing feel, almost Lord of the Rings-esque.

Stwlan Dam Lake

The only way to see the lake is to climb up here

The next section was the reason that it had caught my attention in the first place. 8 hairpin bends at the top of the climb, leading to the dam. It’s rare to come across so many on a climb in this country and gives it a distinctive look. The first hairpin was steep but the middle ones eased off to a now manageable 7-8%. The final final stretch including the last hairpin shot up to 14% just to make things difficult. The view of the lake at the top made the effort worth it.


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