Argeles-Gazost - Hautacam

Hautacam & Col du Tramassel 45km, 1280m

There's not a lot of character to this ride.

It's a short, steep, switch backing test of legs to a dull ski station, then a whiz back down.

Er... that's it.

But it has a name that one remembers from the (few) appearances in the Tour, so it's very popular with cyclists. 

Leaving Argeles Gazost at 8:20 one Sunday morning (Hautacam is signed from the town), I was among the first to the summit, but passed many, many riders on my descent.

Initially through trees an a few villages of little interest, then a big led-hand bend offering stupendous of the valley below, and you're on open slopes to the top.  Switchbacks can be found anywhere, some of which have a really steep +11% kick to them.

I was passed by tens of cars and vans, all loaded with mountain bikes, all heading for a big junior competition on the summit.  Which strangely, is not called "Hautacam".  

The Hautacam climb-markers end at a large car park, and the's a Tour de France finish line sprayed on the road at its far end.

However, the road climb, and now new climb-markers, keeps going a further kilometre or so, up a good road to the Col du Tramassel.

Here there's a cafe, yet another car park, and on my visit, lots and lots of VTTs.

I didn't spend long up here.  I just took a couple of photos, pulled on my arm-warmers and gillet, then started back down.

I was back at the van before 10:30, and ready to leave.
Because after a few nights in Argeles-Gazost, we were getting itchy wheels.  We both felt it was time to do some hiking, except this time I'd try to lead us up the right mountain.

So with ourselves washed and all batteries charged at the campsite we headed for Gavarnie.

Gavarnie is one of the most spectacularly located towns in the Pyrenees with stupendous scenery all around. As a consequence, it has paid a high price.

Most summer days this small town is utterly overwhelmed by coach loads of tourists and other visitors like us.

Most are content to totter up the track to the main view point.  Some perch precariously on the backs of horses and donkeys (don't get me started) then wobble back down again having ticked Gavarnie off their to-do list.

Fortunately, there's a large Aire de Camping Car (in the book) just above the town with a water supply.  So that is where we headed to sort hiking kit, crampons and ice axes, ready for an early start. 

What's this about? We took our campervan down the Pyrenees this summer, riding classic cols and hiking great walks. Now I'm sharing the info about best campsites for the best rides.

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