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Collado d'Arnat s(u)

This was one ride, where I got two passes for the price of one. Nothing on my Michelin Spain atlas hinted at the presence of Collado d'Arnat. A short section over the top is unpaved, you could even call it deep gravel. But it is only about a km or so. Amazingly this seems to be enough to keep vehicles of all kinds away from here, in spite of the incredible scenery on the east side. I only saw 2 cars on no cyclists on a Saturday in May during the section over the top (between Somes de la Vansa and N160)

1.(00.0km,0870m)START-END WEST: low point along Riu de la Vantsa
2.(07.3km,1273m)Collado de l'Arnat
3.(09.0km,1340m)TOP: Collado de l'Arnat s(u)
4.(25.0km,0560m)START-END EAST: bridge over river le Segre at jct with road to La Seu d'Urgell


From North.
Attempting to go to La Seu d'Urgell via Montan (from the Tuxent area) is psychologically difficult. Signs repeatedly point the La Seu bound traveler to head up for Collado de Trava instead. I was wondering if there was a mistake on my map, showing a path heading directly west and meeting up with La Seu bound N145. It looked like it would be about the same distance. The signs urging me to return via Coll. Trava appeared again in Sombes de la Vansa - last chance to change my mind - I didn't.

But maps in the scale 1:400 thousand can be deceiving. A wonderfully smooth road soon after leaving the couple of houses, that make up Sorribes, lead me downhill. So far - so good. But there was one more pass on the program today, that I had no idea about - this one. Unfortunately it started raining on this side, so I do not have many pictures. The road climbs out of a limestone canyon, its various cliffs melting into one another in shades of purple, as the last rays of sun reflect from a very dark cloud. The road heads for the same gap as a set of powerlines - surely that is the top. But actually the road keeps on climbing while the powerlines disappear out of sight below, then the road becomes unpaved. A large amphitheater of landscape appears on the left. I wanted to believe that is the way down, but actually it is just another vantage point on the climb behind me. Finally there is a gently summit point as the road starts to descend into a new landscape. This happens some distance past the spot that is marked Collado d'Arnat on the map.

From South. (described downwards) The village near the top is named Montan. It is nothing special. It almost seems like a modern farm.  But the canyon landscape is special. It has a more totured look on this side - more angles, more obtuse triangels, fewer equilaterals.The great experience of this particular ride is still ahead. It happens when the road approaches the limestone cilff on the west side of this plateau. First it follows its edge, as if looking for a way down and not finding one yet. Instead the cyclist finds new perspectives on the landscape below. When the road finally does find  a way down it does so with the help of 18 tight switchbacks into the canyon. They do not show up on the Michelin atlas. And that is just one of the reasons why this way to La Seu d'Urgell is quite a bit longer than it looks on my particular map.

After all that lonely road riding the busy highway looked scary from above. But actually it turns out, that it has a good shoulder all along the way, with lots of signs demanding 1.5meter clearance to cyclists from motorists. After joining the main road direction La Seu (this is not part of the profile). the road immediately plunges into a 700 meter tunnel. But this too is no reason for concern, good bike lane, brightly lit all the way.

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A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Collado de Trava