Friday, 20 December 2013

My 2013 Ruddy Hard Cycling Climbs

Having completed my first whole year of cycling which included many Sportives in some lovely parts of the country I thought I would look back and list out the hardest climbs I’ve done this year in the UK. I will happily hold my hands up and say I’m not the best climber in the world in fact far from it but undoubtedly due to the fact I like to walk around hills and mountains there is a connection as I do like the challenge of climbing hills on a bike.

So here they are my top 10 ruddy hard climbs in 2013.

#1 Crowcombe Climb (Somerset – Quantock Hills)
Part of the Somerset Hills Fondo Sportive this ascent does not climb up the side of a mountain infact it starts in a nice sleepy Somerset village then as you ride out the village and take the left fork you are faced with a wall of tarmac in front of you, the ascent is just less than a mile but the climb is relentless 20-25% all the way up in an almost straight line, thankfully it is a quiet road as I needed to zigzag across the road to get up. Although only a relatively short climb this really is a beast and easily claims my No.1 spot.

#2 High Hill Lane out of Settle (Yorkshire Dales)
The next 9 climbs are very close and could easily be in a different order, but I’m doing these in order of how difficult I found them. I did this climb as part of the White Rose Classic Sportive. The combination of the first very steep section up High Hill lane added to the long gradual climb thereafter is why this is in second place. The initial steep climb out of Settle really is a brute kicking up over 20% then easing but still climbing as you pass Scaleber Waterfall and onto Black Gill Lane.

#3 Crag Side Road (Semer Water, Yorkshire Dales)
This really is a wicked climb a bit of a hidden gem as not many references seem to be around for it and could quite easily have been in second place. This climb is in Raydale which itself seems to be forgotten dale amongst its more illustrious neighbour Wensleydale. The climb starts down on the shore line of Semer Water and immediately has a short 25% climb up to the crossroads, taking the road sign posted Hawes you can see the route of the road as it climbs up out of the valley. The ascent continues at around 15% until you come to a tight hair pin where again it kicks up over 20% lungs are now bursting and legs burning, but fear not it eases off and when you get to the left hand bend you’ve reached the top. I spent a week in Raydale earlier this year and did this climb a few times during the week which I believe set me in good stead the rest of the year.

#4 Langbar (Yorkshire Dales)
Another from the White Rose Classic Sportive and this one was literally right at the end so the legs were already tired when I reached it. The Langbar climb starts gently until you come face to face with the real climb ahead 20%+. Maybe because I was already tired when I hit this but I found this tough and to make matters worse there was a photographer half way up!!

#5 Dead Friars Bank / Horseshoe Hill (Durham Dales)
First entry from the Etape Pennines Sportive and it is the length of this climb which puts this in the top 5, after a very enjoyable descent down to Baybridge a sharp right hand and immediately you are climbing steeply up through the trees and the climbing just keeps on going never going over 20% but constantly around 15% for over 2km it then eases before rising sharply again onto Dead Friars then easing again as you pass under Horseshoe Hill.

#6 New House to Middlehope Hill climb (Durham Dales)
Second of three Etape Pennines entries, this starts very steeply passing houses and gains height rapidly it is only after negotiating three tight corners that the gradient finally eases however it is not time to relax, some hard graft is still required as the road climbs steadily up to the coppice of trees on Middlehope Hill.

#7 Bwlch y Groes (Snowdonia)
The softies route from Llanuwchllyn. I’m certainly not scared of the other tougher route I’ve just not had the opportunity to cycle it, perhaps one for 2014. Back to this one and although it is not really that steep it gains a lot of height and is the longest climb of the list. I actually really like this climb and it is a firm favourite of mine I will happily do this again and again; it gradually climbs up past farm after farm then a short sharp climb through the trees and the wonderful views open up this is a superb section from here up to the car park.

#8 Llanberis Pass (Snowdonia)
The Iconic Llanberis Pass, I have descended and ascended this road, again like #7 it is not overly steep but long and gradual, the type of climb that I really like. You really do feel small as the Snowdon and Glyderau massif’s tower above you on each side, just awesome.

#9 Hirnant from Lake Vyrnwy (Snowdonia)
A long drag from Lake Vyrnwy it starts with the steepest section up through some trees which is almost like two mini sections in one. Then a bit of rest bite passing a scenic bridge before climbing again, up through the trees, with what seemed like loads of false summits, when emerging from the forest you’re nearly there, still ascending gradually before topping out just by a ‘Snowdonia’ sign ready for a nice descent down the Hirnant valley.

#10 Langdon Common Climb (Durham Dales)
The final Etape Pennines entry and also the highest entry at 2,057ft after passing through Langdon Beck turn right to head up onto Langdon Common, this starts with a small climb up over a cattle grid then a nice descent down to cross a bridge over the beck before starting the main climb up onto the moor, the climb is steep but not overly steep it does however kick up over 15% near the top, if you can and it is a nice day try to look over your shoulder as the views are very nice.

Other notable climbs I’ve done this year.
Red Burn Climb (Durham Dales), Drws-y-Coed (Snowdonia), Cheddar Gorge (Somerset), Llan Ffestiniog (Snowdonia), Crimea Pass (Snowdonia), Pen y Pass (Snowdonia) & Michaelgate (Lincoln).

You will notice that there are no entries from the Lake District yet, I’m hoping and very confident that my 2014 list will include quite a number from the Lakes J
What have I done locally? well Whiteleaf (Princess Risborough) stands out, Bison Hill (Whipsnade Zoo) then of course there is my local hill Brill, which I have been up more times than I can count.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed riding them. Well actually at the time I didn’t enjoy them it was only after completing them I enjoyed that I look back with a smile on my face.


  1. Well Phil, you have really done some tough climbs! :D I love climbing but I reckon some of your routes would have me grunting and groaning I fear. Having said that there are one or two climbs where I live that are equally eye watering so again, sometime next year you must come over and try a few :)

    I particularly like that fact that most tough climbs are also in areas of outstanding natural beauty or double up as great hill walks (both really). For a walker and a biker thats a double bubble :)

    1. Oh I was grunting and groaning while going up them, but I do look back on them with a smile on my face and a sense of achievement. I fully intend on heading over to your neck of the woods for some more ruddy hard climbs and will definitely give you a shout when I do.

  2. Good, I reckon you'll be more than fine but there are some toughies over here and I dont want any snivelling! :D

    Look forward to it :)

  3. iklektik disleksēk6 January 2014 at 00:11

    That's a nice little list. Next time your in the Mendips. Remember to climb Draycott Hill (aka Draycott Steep). It's only 2 miles from the bottom of Cheddar Gorge. Head down the A371 towards Wells and it's a left hand turn down a road called "Long Road! in Draycott. I'm not to sure what the gradient is, but I have never had a easy climb to bridleway where the gradient shallows off. I personally find it harder than Porlock Hill and Crowcombe, because of the relentless gradient once you turn left when you have passed the house on the left hand side of the road.

    Other great climb down the A39 towards Minehead and Porlock. That is in cycling distance from Crowcombe is Luccombe to Dunkery Beacon and Porlock Hill. Oh, if you have some time to kill when your in the Mendips and want to climb a tough little climb. You can always head out towards Weston-super-Mare and climb Monks Hill in Kewstoke. If so please remember to start at the bottom down Crooks Lane, because it makes the climb a little tougher and longer. The sign at the the bottom says 25%, but I am almost sure the left hand corner is 30+%. Also not to far from Monks Hill just outside Weston-super-Mare is Canada Combe in Hutton. The most challenging way up this climb is if you start if from the very bottom on Banwell Road just outside Elborough.

    1. Thanks for the comment iklek....... :-) Wow plenty of climbs to get my teeth into there, I did the Somerset Gran Fondo last year which is how I eneded up doing Crowcombe. Sadly I doubt I will be doing it this year. Just checked out the climbs mentioned on OS maps, yep they look pretty mean. Next time I'm in the area I will try some of them, the Draycott one especially looks nasty as it is just straight up and as you say relentless. 2014 could be a busy time on the bike for me so much to think about and do.

    2. iklektik disleksēk6 January 2014 at 14:53

      Well, to be honest, Draycott Steep doesn't look to bad on Google Maps, but I can tell you it's one hell of a tough climb. I have to give it 110% every time I go up there. I have never seen anyone going up there or coming down when I decided to climb it. Most people go up Burrington Combe, Blagdon Hill, Highfield Lane, Harptree Hill, Shipman Road and Blagdon Hill via Station Road / High Street / Street End / Rhodyate and Two Trees because they are a lot easier.

      A friend send me this insane climb last week. It could quite easily be the steepest street in the world and it's halfway up the mountain! :,+38390+Santa+%C3%9Arsula,+Santa+Cruz+de+Tenerife,+Canarias,+Spain&ie=UTF8&hl=en&oi=geospell&ct=clnk&cd=1&geocode=FVabsQEd4msE_w&split=0

      If the link doesn't work it's Calle el Monroy, 38390 Santa Úrsula, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canarias, Spain

      All the very best,


    3. :-D No chance!!! I'm surprised the Google street view van managed to get up it. I always thought Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand was the steepest, but this looks worse.

  4. iklektik disleksēk6 January 2014 at 00:17

    Sorry for the bad grammar and punctuation! My name should tell you the reason why. ;)

    1. :-D no worries, if you read some of my posts you will notice I'm not exactly gifted when it comes to writing.

    2. iklektik disleksēk6 January 2014 at 14:54

      Thank you, Phil. ;)

    3. iklektik disleksēk6 January 2014 at 20:02

      Draycott Hill is down "New Road" not "Long Road. Doh! ;)

  5. iklektik disleksēk8 January 2014 at 19:38

    It must have been a 4x4 van. I think, it might be the steepest street in the world (All factors). But I almost sure there is a street somewhere on the palnet that is steeper (All factors).

    Here a couple of great climbs that aren't very well known, but I found were very hard:

    1. Newcastle, Shropshire - Spoad Wood to Cwm Collo - crossroads. (Shropshire).

    If you head South out of Newcastle, Shropshire on the B4368 and take the second right just before, Pugh H S & Son, Upper Spoad, Craven Arms, SY7 8PB ‎you will find it. The very top of the climb is at the Cwm Collo crossroads.

    2. Lower Lydbrook (Vention Lane) to The Pludds (Forest of Dean).

    (Vention Lane is up there with Porlock Hill and has one section that is at a guess 30+%).

    Head up Vention Lane, Lower Lydbrook of the B4234, and at the T-Junction turn left or right on to Joys Green Road to The Pludds.

    If you turn left at the T-Junction (Vention Lane). Turn right up Eddys Lane - High Street to The Pludds.

    If you turn right at the T-Junction (Vention Lane). Turn left up Horsea - Highbeech Road - Which comes out at the end of Eddys Lane and the start of High Street, The Pludds.