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2020's Top 9 Climbs

With all the madnesses and lockdowns and tiered restrictions of 2020, I've not managed as much regional exploring as usual this year. Plans to explore the Pennines and Northern Moors more and head further into foreign Yorkish lands had to be shelved. The Lakes are the other side of a county line from me and further South in Lancashire hasn't been appealing with COVID-19 rates higher than home.

But that's meant exploring closer to home - and no weekly work trips South to That London has also meant elevation. Lots of elevation. 99,000m of climbing (a little over 11 Everest ascents) on my bike this year is much more than ever before. Even more than the year I rode Ride Across Britain (and therefore more than 30% further in the calendar year). Lots of up. Lots of highlights.

So with all the "Top 9" posts flying around Instagram at the end of the year, here are my nine favourite climbs (some new and some old) from 2020:

A single steep switchback on remote Cumbrian #deadendclub farm road. Caught perfectly in the summer golden hour sun. This one isn't much of a climb (the whole thing being a few miles at <5% average, but this one switchback is very steep!). You can find out more about my ride up there in this blog post here.

More detail about the Farm at Adamthwaite and the history behind it can be found here.

Probably my favourite hill. Got over it a few times this year, in spring and in winter (snow!). Never disappoints. This photo was taken on a long day out on the GRVL bike completing the High Salter Fell road from Wray to Slaidburn and back. And what a way back this was!

You can read about that day out here in May ⛰😍

Since moving to the Cold Dark North just over half a decade ago, I have made it an annual pilgrimage to climb the highest road in Britain. They don't get bigger or better than this one on this island we call home.

This ascent was as part of the frankly brilliant #ExploreLocal 100km ride from Penrith that takes in Hartside Fell and the Eden Valley too - can thoroughly recommend this ride - and the others in that collection that you can find here if you're keen. 🏔😍

I hadn't ridden this one for a few years. Remembered why almost immediately.

It's a sharp, sheltered horror show of a climb sits on the East side of Cartmel Fell and is always worth a try. The surface is the key factor - the previous time I had ridden it, it was a wet, gravelly, tree covered slip-fest - but since then it had been rolled with perfect tarmac. I hear that even during 2020 Cumbria County Council have conspired to "dress" that back to some sort of gritty monstrosity. Either way, it's a banging few minutes of pain you simply must experience. ⛰😍

At times when 2020 has got too much to take I've invariably escaped to beautiful Barbondale. My happy place. Should be the first road to ride on anyone's list for 2021 and beyond. Whatever higher power there might be, it was shining down on it here. 💚💙

Another dead end (if you're on your fancy bike). Remote and untouched. The Forest of Bowland at its breathtaking best.

If you're on a GRVL/CX or don't much care for the welfare of your fancy bike then you can extend this ride over Littledale and down into Caton and the Lune Valley beyond. It's 100% ridable on skinny tyres but you'll be finding sheep shit in your brakes for months. ⛰😍

I think this is the best vista in the Dales. You have to climb or descend the beastly White Shaw Moss to get it, but both are worth it - as is the stunning, and remote high valley behind me to the south through Kingsdale - a sort of magical valley on a mountain top with incredible views to the South over the Lancashire Fells and the Forest of Bowland.

Not one to try until the spring though, the gritters don't tend to make it up this high. 🏔😍

The Lakes are what I've missed most this year in our local lockdowns. But a rare trip to the Northern Lakes in the "autumn easing" meant an overdue chance to breathe in my favourite of the National Park's peak.

As well as discovering a brilliant new #deadendclub climb on the far side of Derwent Water on the way back, I was reminded of why (IMHO) this climb from Buttermere is the harder side of Honister's two savage slopes. 🙏🏻👋🏻

The private dead end road up to the Stwlan Dam above Blaenau Ffestiniog in Snowdonia had been on the to-do-list for a while. A family holiday in North Wales was the perfect opportunity to tick off this astonishing road.

If you're in Snowdonia, there are a myriad of great climbs and quiet lanes that you can sample but for sheer road p*rn, this is the one I would thoroughly recommend ⛰🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿👏🏻

What's the best new climb you found this year? 🙏🏻⛰

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