In his final post for this series, Wayne Jeff takes us through his ride up the east side of Col D’Aubisque. Thanks Wayne for taking us on your adventure with you!
The Aubisque is the second most climbed peak in the Tour, and can be reached from any of three approaches. I rode the Eastern side from Argeles Gazost via the Col du Solour (right of picture) but am told that the Spandelles approach is also an extremely good ride and I regret not getting time to give it a crack – next time? The 12km approach from Saint Savin to Marsous is an open and easy ride of mostly 3-4% grade with a short stretch of 7%. It is probably the busiest section of road that I travelled on during my stay, but it still feels quite relaxed and doesn’t present any safety concerns.
The road splits in the village of Arrens, where the traffic abates almost completely and it is from here that the Solour section starts in earnest with the road kicking up to 8%. It’s a fairly consistent climb, only briefly abating until the summit which comes after a tough 9% final km.
Half way up, the road was barred by three damn big cows standing in the middle. They have big horns around here as well, and when you are riding on your lonesome you start to wonder whether they are always here (and hence just observing) or whether it’s going to turn all Pamplona! In the end thankfully they were docile enough and moved when they eventually felt like it.
The Solour climb is set in very lush high-country landscape, with a good cover of trees keeping it cool against sun which was getting quite hot on the east facing slope. While it’s a solid climb, it is neither too long nor too steep and in the end hitting the summit is a satisfying feeling and affords some spectacular views.
From the Solour summit the road to the Aubisque is cut into the side of a cliff, and as you look across it’s scary. Over the Solour summit the sun had disappeared on the western side, the wind was gusting, there was a misty drizzle and the temperature dropped by what felt like 10 degrees. The thought crossed my mind that I might get blown off the cliff going across, as the “guard rail” is only a series of stones about 30cm high – not much comfort in the event of a slide out or a puncture!
The stretch across to the Aubisque is a short downhill followed by a dodgy unlit tunnel of about 150m which keeps the elevated levels of adrenaline pumping, and essentially the practice is to simply pray that you don’t come across any cars, rocks or animals. One guy I met told me he was brought down in there by a sheep once.
The final climb was an easy enough 3km or so at around 7-8.5%. A short grind to the top and voila! Time for a quick picture, (though a horse nearly trampled my bike which would have taken some explaining), and then hop back on and get down the very fast flowing descent. More a great ride than a great climb, but it was fun and had a bit of everything.
Enjoyment Score 8/10, Difficulty 6.5/10