September 30, 2012

Final Trip Post, Pyrenees 2012

Tourmalet has rested for several days at the top of this site because it was just so fun .... challenging, exciting, exhilarating, the very best of cycling. That climb wasn't the absolute end of my trip, or of the cycling, but it was the final highpoint. Literally and figuratively.

Readers might remember that rain was forecast for the next day, and indeed it did rain. In the morning there was no visibility above the lowest hillsides around town, the high country was completely out of sight, and rain was forecast for all day. The temperature had dropped with the wind, and the rain had moved in.

I was disappointed if this meant cancelling my planned visit to Cirque de Gavarnie, a UNESCO World Heritage site, honored for its natural beauty. On the other hand, a long climb in the rain wasn't interesting if it would end only in heavy fog and rain. A look at the webcam at the cirque confirmed: nothing in sight but clouds, the camera showed a grey field. Checked with my hostess, who is an active environmentalist and hiker, and she confirmed that the storm was unlikely to lift until late afternoon.

Time for a walk in the rain. It was pleasant enough, but it wasn't a big climb up to a spectacular geological site. For a few moments, from time to time the clouds lifted. Even the low peaks right around town were.... in snow! This photo is nowhere near the high peaks, it is just over town.

There is a ruined castle above the town.

Luz Saint Sauveur is a center of mountain activities, not just cycling but also hiking, hang-gliding, climbing, skiing, etc. There is a good network of well-used trails from town into the hills and mountains. I used some of them, through the woods, sometimes on small roads, visited a few higher nearby villages, then returned to Saint-Sauveur. Sure enough, by late afternoon the sun was returning.

By early evening the sky had cleared, the sun came out, and it was spectacularly beautiful, in that crystalline clear, blue sky, dusting of fresh snow way that high mountainous country can be.


The next day brought a 21 mile downhill ride (there was a whopping 280 feet of climbing over those 21 miles!) to Lourdes, where I caught a train back to Toulouse. From Toulouse, a plane to London, then Boston. The second photo is Lourdes. What a climate: palm trees and snow in one image.

I was a bit disappointed to see the trip come to an end without having ridden to Cirque de Gavarnie, but having had such good luck with the weather, climbed so many amazing cols, ridden such beautiful countryside, and met so many committed, friendly, helpful people ... I have no cause for complaint!

It's time to go home, the trip has been magnificent, and the Pyrenees remain, for me, indeed a cycling paradise.

 Before too long I'll include a list of lodging, and other potentially practical information.


  1. What breathtaking riding! Liked following your posts; it looked like a beautiful trip.

    1. Thanks for reading .... it was incredibly beautiful and amazing riding. And I really appreciate your taking time to comment ... happy pedalling!

  2. Yes, please do throw up that practical info. All good for the inevitable Pyrenees tour I'll be making for all those clients I don't yet have! I'm looking forward to hearing your plans for next summer. I can only think of a few climbs to rival Tourmalet...

    1. I will post it, probably not right this minute though!

      Your clients and my plans for next year ... neither in place yet, but both will get there.

      So, your job must be to continue thinking of climbs;<) One thing I loved was how different the experience of each climb was, and how unquantifiable, varying from day to day, rider to rider. The statistics, grade, length, help but don't really tell the story.

  3. What a great trip! I am officially jealous. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

    1. Hi Steve

      Thanks! And even more, thanks for reading, and adding your voice to the comments. I appreciate it!

      My trip was indeed so incredible, and I am very, very fortunate ... to have had the chance to ride it, to meet the wonderful people I did, and to experience a bit of the culture there.

  4. What an amazing trip. Sorry I could not comment too much. For some reason my iPad does not agree with your blog too much. I guess this means Gavarnie is the incentive to come back (not that you'll need much convincing!).

    1. Hey Aaron,

      Thanks for reading and I am glad to know you were along via the internet. I had a problem commenting on your site when you were in the Rockies. It was an awesome, wonderful trip ... yes, maybe start next inLuz St. Sauveur, with Gavarnie, but other parts of Le Sud beckon also. And indeed, I need no convincing!


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