Cowlyd calling

Last year I revisited the hardest road climb I’ve ever done in the UK.

It doesn’t have an official name. I call it the The Cowlyd and its featured in Simon Warren’s 100 climbs of Wales book where he gives it an 11/10. Thats how hard it is considered. Its simply a service road that goes up to the Llyn Cowlyd, a reservoir on top the mountain.

That was only the 2nd time I had rode up it. The first time I found it by by fluke after spotting it on a map – no Garmin. Last October I tried again but my Garmin passed out due to the rain. I’m going back later this week to get the climb on my Garmin and get a ride registered on Strava and hopefully get on the KOM Leaderboard for it. I don’t normally care about KOMs or Leaderboards but this one is a bit unique. I won’t be top as I’m on my cross bike + pannier rack so I just want a climb of it registered.

B for Beast, B for Brutal

I can’t explain in words how steep, relentless and brutal The Cowlyd is. OK…I just did! For years the hardest climb I believed I had ever ridden was the Bwlch-y-Groes from the Dinas Mawddwy side near Dolgellau. Thats a beast. It was a popular climb on the old Milk Race back in the day. Loads of anecdotal stories of the Eastern European riders having to get off and walk. You get the picture? steep…very steep.

You ride along a scenic lane after you turn off the A470 and after a short while, you can see the road ahead climbing straight up the escarpment. When you hit the foot of the climb, its a right hand hairpin under some trees and you come out of them and climb gradually around to the left and then you can see the road straight up ahead. Mega-steep and it gets even worse when you hit the arnco barriered section (see pic below) near the top.

The last time I rode this I was racing, I was 60kg and I got up it on a 39×25 gear. I thought my calf muscles were gonna pop. My arms ached, my shoulders ached. It took just brute strength to get up it and it was one of only a couple of times ever in my life I considered stopping on a climb. The longest mile of bike torture ever.

Bwlch-y-Groes: this is the steepest section near the top

The Cowlyd is WORSE.

It is just unrelentingly steep (430m ascent in 3km), undulating and packed with hairpins (at least 8 I think) which are rare in the UK. I know I have explained the climb in some detail before in my Killer Climbs, Garmin dies post from last year so I won’t explain it again until I actually ride it this week. I just wanted to point out that this time I will hopefully have a Strava ride logged, be on the KOM leaderboard and have some pics of the climb sorted which I’ll take on the way down as I have to stop to let my rims cool down!

Thanks for reading

The Cowlyd: it needs more >> on the map
3D Aerial shot of the The Cowlyd climb from the Conwy Valley floor
2 miles of torture

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