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.
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.
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.