Cycling to Lac de Cap de Long – 2175m - A Relentless Climb

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Tuesday 28 October 2014

Cycling to Lac de Cap de Long – 2175m - A Relentless Climb

Sadly, thanks to a unfortunate reversing incident by me on Sunday as we left Cauterets, our intervalley move to Arreau in the Vallee d'Aure (which lies further to the east in the Haute Pyrenees), was more stressful than we'd anticipated. In addition to some minor damage to the motorhome rear bumper, it also put Esther's bike out of action until we could get our hands on a new rear wheel which had scuppered our plans to tackle the Col d'Aspin on Monday while we searched for the part instead. Fortunately we did manage to find a bike shop a little further along the valley at Saint Lary Soulan and so were able to begin Tuesday with 2 functioning bikes and our plans to make the most of the unseasonal October sunshine back on track.

Since we'd already travelled deeper into the Vallee d'Aure we decided to choose a new cycle route and settled on the 'Route des Lacs' which began in nearby Fabian at 1050m altitude before climbing to the mighty Lac de Cap de Long at 2175m right on the border of the Pyrenees National Park and the Reserve Naturelle de Neouvielle. There are in fact more than 70 lakes in this small part of the Pyrenees, dotted throughout the giant nooks and crannies formed by the mountains, (some natural and some man-made), with Lac de Cap de Long being the largest holding 9 million cubic metres of water behind an enormous dam.

The climb began right out of Fabian, starting steep and staying that way as the 14km route to the lake wound through a deep gorge, primarily following the river and taking in countless waterfalls. With the first few kilometres on the northern flank of the valley we managed to enjoy some of the warm sunshine and work up a good sweat. Unfortunately we soon crossed a bridge carrying us right into the shadow of the surrounding cliffs and pretty much stayed there until very close to the top, meaning the early sweat turned from a cooling layer into a freezing one which could only be overcome by keeping going.

As this particular route hasn't featured in the Tour de France it doesn't have the luxury of kilometre markers revealing the upcoming gradient. There were, however, some ancient waymarkers which indicated altitude and we could work out from what was left of the painted signs that we were rising at between 7 and 10% as we worked our way up the road. With an average gradient of 8% over the whole route it was just relentless and as we neared the top I did begin to fade a little and was seriously in need of a banana. As usual Esther just got quicker and quicker. At least my slow pace gave her lots of time to take pictures.

Arriving at the lake after 2 hours of solid climbing was like entering an arena of rock. Near vertical rocky cliffs bounded both sides of the lake which stretched out of sight as it bent round to the left, with summits of the Haute Pyrenees visible in the distance whilst behind us the ground just dropped steeply away back down the valley we had just climbed. The air was crisp despite the sunshine and we definitely felt the bite of autumn was we layered up against the chill.

We did consider a short walk, but the path we had found along the lakeside had been wiped out by several rock slides that looked quite recent so we settled instead for rolling over the dam to avoid the creeping shadow for as long as possible before braving the icy decent. Despite our layers it was bitter with the windchill but the view was just as lovely and the ride had been well worth a few goosebumps. Besides, it only made the gas heating in the motorhome more welcome than ever as we clustered around the small fire defrosting slowly before a hearty stir fry. A great day.

Cycle Information: 
Motorhome Base: Saint Lary Soulan
Start/ End Point: Saint Lary Soulan
Distance: approx 14km from Argnouet-Fabian
Ascent: 1125m
Average Gradient: 8%

Other Related Posts:
Road Cycling in the Hautes-Pyrénées - The Most Famous & Difficult Climbs of the Tour de France

7 Spectacular Cycling Climbs From Vallée d'Aure, Hautes-Pyrénées - Arreau & Saint-Lary-Soulan

Tackling 4 Amazing Cycling Climbs in the Ariege-Pyrénées, France - and 4 for the Future!

See All Our Cycling Climbs in the Pyrenees

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