Cycling From Guillestre to Ceillac (1639m) - An Unexpected Ascent in the Queyras Regional Park - French Alps

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Saturday 11 July 2015

Cycling From Guillestre to Ceillac (1639m) - An Unexpected Ascent in the Queyras Regional Park - French Alps

Waking up this morning to some discussion of where me might move to tomorrow when our time on Camping Saint James-les-Pins comes to an end, we settled on potentially heading further into the Queryas to Ceillac and from there try some of the hiking Tour of the Queyras (GR54). However, there was one problem. We didn't know if the road to Ceillac was suitable for our motorhome? One way to find out we decided was to cycle to Ceillac. We'd done part of the route a few days before and the final ascent, Esther assured me, was just a couple of hundred metres of extra climbing! How hard could it be? Yet, as I was to find out, always check altitudes yourself as well.

The opening part of our ride from Guillestre to Ceillac was as we remembered, ascending steeply at first and then more steadily, undulating along the stunning Guil Valley, with a roaring river far below the precipitous road. There were a few tunnels (one quite long) to negotiate until in no time at all we had arrived at the Le Pont du Pierre/Maison du Roi reservoir, where the road forks left to continue up the valley or right towards Ceillac.

We could see some opening hairpins that looked quite steep along our chosen direction, but reassured ourselves that this just meant it would be even easier near the top. How wrong we were.

To cut a long story short, a quick internet search reveals that the ascent to Ceillac from Maison du Roi is 8.2 km long, rising from 1057m to 1639m (582m) at an average of 7.1%, with several sections over 10%. In fact, since the final 1.5km is really quite flat the opening 6km is a real effort!

However, we knew nothing about this as we commenced the hairpins, telling ourselves with each successive switchback that it was going to flatten off soon. But it didn't. It took us until about 4km along the road to realise that we must have been completely wrong about the altitude of Ceillac after all.

But, we'd started so we'd finish and with 'only' 4km of climbing left we resolved to see it through. Besides, the surrounding mountains, forests and cascading river that was cutting along the valley we were riding up were awesome. Although it was steeper than we expected we really didn't want the ride to end.

But end it did and as we emerged onto the flattened plateau that is home to the village of Ceillac we looked along the plain to see a ring of high mountains as far as we could see. It was a very magical setting beneath the sun and blue sky.

Rolling into the pretty little village centre to check out the potential for using it as a motorhome base we found the tourist information, learned what we needed to know and found a shady bench to relax and meditate on before cruising home again (via the Bio Monde in Guillestre to replenish our fresh food supplies).

Despite the fact it had been a much physically harder ride than we had expected, it was also a much more beautiful and inspiring one as well and left us with absolutely no regrets at our choice of route!

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