I’ve wanted to ride up to Stwlan Dam ever since seeing it in Cyclist magazine a few years ago. But always seemed to stay too far away from it to ride up. 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 lifted our bikes over the gate and then went through the kissing-gate. This road leads up to the 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 foreboding dam arches from the main road if you’re at the right angle but it’s fairly well hidden.
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 next corner, I wouldn’t see her again for a while. Rounding this corner gave me the first proper sight of the dam itself. The tall dark arches gave it an imposing feel, of something almost Lord of the Rings-esque.
The next section was the reason that it had caught my attention in the first place. 8 hairpin bends are at the top of the climb leading to the dam. It’s rare to come across so many hairpins on a climb in this country and it gives the climb a distinctive look.
The first hairpin was steep but the middle ones eased off to a now much more manageable 7-8%. The 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. There’s a topograph up a short set of stairs to point out local landmarks.