Day 10 - Louvie Juzon to Argeles Gazost
Today was never going to be about distance. It was about one thing - Le Col d'Aubisque!
I didn't set off particularly early, maybe some time after 8 and I stopped after just one km for breakfast. This consisted of a PAC, a PAR and a Croissant. All were excellent and consumed with vigor.
I had just a few miles to the village of Laruns where the climb starts. It was a hive of activity, with plenty of cyclists preparing to do the climb. I noted that of course, I was the only one on a fully loaded touring bike!
There was a slight problem at the start in that there were loads of signs saying the road was closed about 8km up. I asked a local about it - who conveniently spoke English - and he said it might be possible to get through on a bike, just not in a car. So I decided to risk it.
To start with, as is so often the case, the climb was fairly gentle. But it soon started to ramp up a bit. Everyone else was going past me - many commenting on the insanity of carrying so much stuff on my bike!
I just kept plodding away, making steady progress. As the 8km mark was approaching, I started to notice a lot of people who had passed me coming back down. Was the road really impassable? Or were they just not that determined?
The road started to get really muddy and there was a route barré sign. This is where most people were turning back. Not I!
I eventually got to a point that would be very difficult to pass in a car. There was basically a river flowing across the road and a load of deep mud that the water had decided to bring along. Fortunately there were three German motorcyclists who weren't going to give up and they started making a channel through the mud. I went through it, got very cold, wet feet - but I was through!
The next obstacle was somewhat more disturbing - half the road had collapsed over the side leaving only a section a few feet wide. I was just taking a photo when an English bloke pulled along side me and explained it had all been in the news and how it needed to be sorted in time for Le Tour. He said it should be fine further up, so I set off. I noticed however, that he had turned around!
It was at this point that I was on my own. I didn't see anybody until I saw some workmen near the top moving mud off the road. There were plenty of mud slides.
I was right in the clouds by this point. I couldn't see a thing and I was soaked. I felt very alone. Especially when I went through the town of Gourette which was completely deserted.
Once I got above about 5000 ft, things started to improve as I was starting to break out of the clouds a bit. It was just a final push to the top. Bizarrely, it was pretty busy as a bunch of people had arrived, but they'd done the climb from the other direction which wasn't closed.
I had a big baguette, some chocolate and coffee at the café before plunging into the gloom for the descent. I say descent, it started going up again fairly quickly! This wasn't so bad as the next summit was an official col too. Bonus!
The descent was pretty horrible between about 3000 and 4000ft as that was where all the clouds were hanging out. Below that it was fine and the road had been freshly resurfaced - for Le Tour next month no doubt.
I was extremely tired by this point and decided to find a campsite. Fortunately there are loads of them around here, but unfortunately they're mostly soulless dumps. I ended up doubling back on myself a few miles as I couldn't decide which one was the least shite! The one I'm at is OK and there is a food selling establishment nearby.
Except the food selling establishment nearby is now shut despite saying it's open until 9. Typical. So I'm now heading towards where Google maps says there are loads of restaurants... I could eat a horse. Maybe I will if it's on the menu!