Pic du Midi de Bigorre via Col du Tourmalet

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For an overview map and details on every route I have cycled in the Pyrenées see here.

Wooohooooo

Wooohooooo

Above: view from Pic du Midi. Lac d’Oncet (2253 metres) below and the road above Tourmalet.

Route 1,823,288 – powered by www.bikemap.net

I’ve dreamed of doing this forever. Climb Col du Tourmalet, the most famous pass in the Pyrenées and then go much higher on an unpaved route to the towering Pic du Midi de Bigorre.

I started in Luz-Saint-Saveur, the bottom of the west side of Col du Tourmalet. I think this is the more scenic side (vs the La Mongie atrocity of a ski station on the east side).

While the road goes up from the start, it doesn’t really get interesting until about halfway after passing the town of Barèges.

Note, at roughly 10kms the route splits. There is a smaller road to the road now called the Voie Laurent Fignon. I suggest taking this. It’s the way the Tour has usually climbed. And even better, after the bridge, it’s closed to cars – a nice respite.

After less than 4 kms it rejoins the main road. As per the map above, I climbed this segment and descended the main road.

After rejoining the main road and looking up, I could see Pic du Midi – my goal – high in the mountains. I’d been riding for an hour and yet still had a very long way to go (pic includes a friendly stranger):
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The last kilometre before Tourmalet is easily its toughest:

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My previous two times up Tourmalet were too early in the season to see Le Géant du Tourmalet, so I was excited to get my photo with him:

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After some refreshments, it was time to get to the real work at hand. The road up to Pic du Midi starts exactly at Col du Tourmalet. You cannot miss it beside the gift shop. It starts off with a few not-too-steep kilometres and a very good gravel surface.

Lots of nice views of the Tourmalet road:

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A view of Pic du Midi about 5 kilometres from summit (just before the really tough stuff started):

Above Tourmalet.  Pic du Midi high above.

Above Tourmalet. Pic du Midi high above.

After about 4 kilometres the route reaches Col de Sencours and Lac d’Oncet beside it to the right. View from above:

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From this point on things get harder. It’s steeper and the quality of the road deteriorates (slippery with lots of big stones).

But wow, it just keep getting funner and funner the higher it goes:

The old road well above Col du Tourmalet

The old road well above Col du Tourmalet

Steep and slippery! :
Steep

Nice hairpin. Climbing to Pic du Midi.

Nice hairpin. Climbing to Pic du Midi.

At Col des Laquets, the road basically ends. In fact the climbbybike profile just gives up here.

There is approximately 1 kilometre of hiking to be done and I carried the bike the entire way. I am not sure how steep it is, I put 24% on the profile given some GPS data, but I don’t know. The lower stretch isn’t terrible but it just gets harder.

But I wasn’t going to quit now. Time to hike:
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I will say it’s easy to get in a conversation with anyone when you are carrying a bike in a place like this. So I chatted and rested a couple of times on the way up.

Finally:

The Observatory at summit

The Observatory at summit

2877 metres

2877 metres

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This is easily on my list of top 5 days on a bike. Unbelievably fun.

9.9 Awesome

Maybe the best day ever on a bike. Woooohoooooo. If you get the chance. Do this ride.

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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

10 Comments

  1. Chapeau.I have read one other account of this and the person ended up carrying their bike over snowfields.
    My first time up the Tourmalet ended ignominiously at the summit when I couldn’t unclip and fell over in front of some French dustbin men. The only words I could utter were “Je suis fatigue” – which pretty much summed up the climb.

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  4. “I think this is the more scenic side (vs the La Mongie atrocity of a ski station on the east side).”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    Awesome effort riding all the way to Pic du Midi. I hiked up there back in July (and just wrote about it today coincidentally) and saw five or six mountain bikers up there. All of them carried their bike the last kilometer and I couldn’t see how it could be done any other way! It’s a tough hike even without a bike so big KUDOS to you!

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  7. That is a really cool trip. I intend to follow your advice and do this trip this summer. Looks absolutely stunning, thanks for your report!

  8. Hi Will,

    Re you blog ;

    http://www.cycling-challenge.com/pic-du-midi-de-bigorre-via-col-du-tourmalet/

    We are hoping to take the cable car, with our touring bikes and camping kit

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hillspecial/1779698655/

    from La Mongie up to the top, July or August 2014

    then look at the views, before the ride down the track to the tourmalet and then onto to near Gavarnie to camp for the next night,

    We’ve been reading your blog – {and your other ones too !!} all looks rideable with our loaded touring bikes, 32 mm tyres, 700 c wheeled bikes, but the first km or so down from the observatory looks like a foot path – so does the track not continue right to the top then?

    Do you think we’ll be able to push / carry our bikes , with panniers & saddlebags, camping kit , down this first km of foot path to the track?

    We cycled up in 1995, 19 years ago by summer 2014 :-) there were also cars using the track back then – we left our bikes at the edge of the car park and walked up the last km to the top – I have some photographs somewhere – pre digital camera days, 35 mm film camera – not scanned then in as yet.

    As your blog is dated 2012, I hoped you might have some more recent information.

    Thank you

    Hill

    On yer STEEL bike , I’d rather be cycling.

    Think Bike, think work life balance.

    http://www.bustedcarbon.com/

  9. Hi Paul, yes, You can easily push your bikes down that top kilometre. It is a rough, rocky hiking trail, but if you take your time I see absolutely no problems. Parts of the road below get a little steep and rocky for a descent, but no problems if you are sensible. Riding up was one of the funnest days I have ever had on a bike. Beautiful place.

    Gavarnie is great. Get above the tourist mess at Cirque de Gavarnie for quieter beauty — camping near Port de Boucharo would be amazing I think. Good luck.

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