Day 3: Orolon to Gourette

 

This was our first day of climbing. There were two routes possible to reach the base of the Col d'Aubisque. The easier route involved rolling over the foothills to the Ossau valley, then up the valley to the town of Laruns, then up the climb on the Aubisque to the ski resort at Gourette, about 4 km below the top of the col. The "extra credit" route involved an extra climb up the Col du Marie Blanc; a handful of our group opted for this path. Tom's bike arrived the night before, so after putting the bike together in the morning he was ready to ride.
Col du Marie Blanc  

As you can see, this was a tough climb up the west side. The altigraphs are marked in km on the bottom and meters on the side; the numbers along the curve are the average grade (%) for that km.

 

On the road to Laruns

 

Col d'Aubisque (Part I)

In Laruns our group stopped for lunch; while we were stopped the wind started to pick up. Little did we know there was a huge thunderstorm coming, just in time for our climb up the Col d'Aubisque to Gourette.

Aubisque was a long hard climb; as shown on the altigraph at left the first 9 km out of Laruns are pretty nice but then it gets steep. Out group broke up into smaller groups for the climb. As Kara and I started up the hill it started to rain, then rained harder, then hailed, then the lightning and thunder blew over in several phases. We took shelter under an eave with a French cyclist during the hail, then slogged on until I decided I really didn't LIKE being on my bike on a mountain with lightning crashing all around. I got off for a bit, Kara waiting patiently; lightning hit nearby and a tingle of electricity went through my left leg. Yikes! After I cowered for a bit we got back on the bikes only to find the van and thus a sheltered ride for the last 3 km to Gourette.

 

Kara and our French cyclist friend. Mike, Liz and Bob in from the rain. Our hotel in Gourette (the next morning!).

TOTAL for day: 36 miles, 3600 feet.

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