Sunday, July 10, 2016

Climbing the Col du Tourmalet

This summer saw me fulfill some lifelong dreams, among them getting the chance to climb the legendary, mythical Tourmalet.  My new wife and I rode up from the St Marie de Campan side of the beast, where Eugene Christophe had repaired his fork back in the 1913 tour.  Everywhere in France, it seems, is covered with history.

The day was very hot, and Beth and I climbed at a slow pace, stopping several times, including at the ski area of La Mongie.  The gradient, once underway, is brutally unrelenting, with the road’s km markers always letting you know what you are in for over the next km.  Most of the way up is fairly wooded and covered; however, the forest opens up above La Mongie into Pyrrenean meadows as the road twists and winds its way up.

In the forested section below, the road is mostly straightforward, but higher up and it twists and turns the way good mountain roads so often do.

One can just make out the La Mongie Ski station at the center of the picture.

At the top, there are placards and monuments announcing the history of the place, as well as a souvenir shop selling jerseys and other trinkets.

The Octave Lapize memorial at the top.

The clouds were rolling in as we descended, and a couple of hours later, the area erupted with violent thunderstorms bringing hail the size of sugar cubes.  We were both very glad to be sheltered and eating at a fine restaurant by this time.