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Port de Larrau

This is an infamously steep climb in the Pyrenees. The "steep" part refers only to the French side. The fame persists in spite of the fact, that the pass was only used twice in the Tour de France. The landscape does not seem to justify this long steep climb. There are no vertical rock walls and dagger like peaks. But this route has a another way to stick in one's memory, partly for its steepness, and partly for the expansive sweeping tundra slopes between Col d'Erroymendi on the French side and the summit tunnel on the Spanish side. The summit is located below Pic Orhi, with 2017m the most westerly peak above 2000m in the Pyrennees.

1.(00.0km,0770m)START-END SOUTH: Ochagavia/Otsagabia
2.(08.4km,0900m)approach from Isaba over Paso Laza joins from right
3.(18.9km,1573m)Port de Larrau
4.(23.8km,1350m)Col de'Erroimendi
5.(31.0km,0640m)junction with road to Col Bagargui on left, just before reaching village of Larrau
6.(39.8km,0300m)jct with D918 and loop to Col de Labays
7.(48.0km,0230m)START-END NORTH: Tardet-Sorholus


From South.
In order for the profile to be strictly increasing, I started it in Ochagavia. My own route, a popular day loop over Col de la Pierre St Martin, joins the profile at point 2. Here a peaceful forest road from Isaba joins after having crossed 1329m high Paso Laza The latter is just a gentle forest saddle.

No matter how you approach, it gets steeper here (at point 2). When the road finally gets above treeline, the top of the landscape dissolves into mist. But as time goes on, the fog clears, and the road looks out over an enormous green loaf shapes. The most impressive view is to the south onto a ridge that seems to run like a vertebrae, perpendicular to the spine of the Pyrenees. On top is a medium length straight tunnel. On the other side the view opens onto a long traverse through the upper part of a big tundra bowl.

From North. (also described upwards). When turning onto the profile at point 6, this road is a quiet peaceful curving road through the forest. The only sounds come from the stream Le Saison. Around Laguinge-Restoue many parked cars on the side of the road are evidence of the hikers in the nearby green canyons, and also of the delicious food, that is being served in roadside restaurants, on this weekend that I am passing through here.

The village Larrau marks the transition to the second part of this profile. For a while grassy slopes replace the forest next to the road. Soon a small inconspicuous sign points down a narrow bumpy road, the way to Col Bagargui, another one of those deceptively steep, little roads in the French Pyrenees. Looking back on the route behind, a green ridge begins to look like a moss covered ship hull, turned upside down from this vantage point.

An especially steep section starts, where several switchbacks precede a reentry into the forest. These switchbacks do not actually go up a steep cliff, but give more the appearance of swinging curves up a regular green hill. A small parking lot invites to study the trace of Col de Bagarrgui on the opposite ridge, and also an opportunity to rest. The next section in dense forest seems like the steepest to me, with few turns and no views to let the mind wander.

When the road finally climbs above treeline much of the work is over, but a few of the steepest, very short sections remain. It seems like somebody wanted to construct a straight road up the mountain, rather than with curvy steepness mitigation efforts. What looks like the summit from below, is really Col d'Erroymendi, not a pass or summit at all as far as the road is concerned. But it is the first truly alpine and spectacular view along the entire  journey. Much of the work is over and most of the scenery and pleasure is ahead. The road traverses along a big tundra bowl. Port de Larrau is not far away, but getting there takes longer than expected, because of the curvy detours back into the flowing mountainscape, made up of adjoining tundra amphitheaters. As a final workout several regular straight ramps lead up to the true summit. Here a rustic, in my case always completely empty dirt parking lot, with a number of old signs serve as stageset for summit photographs.


Cycling-Tour de France: As already mentioned, up to 2014 this summit has been only twice on the route of the Tour de France, 1996 and 2007. The 1996 stage over this pass is often cited for Miguel Induran's last mountain stage ever. This was close to his home territory and a considerable loss of time during the climb was a disappointment for him.

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


( < Col de la Pierre Saint-MartinAlto de Zuriza s(u) > )
Port de Larrau, Paso Laza x2 , Col de Bagargui x2, Arthaburo s(u) , additional out and back : Isaba > Paso Laza > Iraty <> out and back to end of pavement on D18 south to Spanish border >> Col de Irrau(shp) > Arthaburo s(u) > turnaround point at jct where road starts climbing again to Azpegi << back along the same route but with the help of two cars, one from after turnaroud point to just after Irati, and one from near Col d'Erroimendi to the summit of Larrau with a small Citroen station wagon belonging to a Basque shephard.
Notes: the gps data for this ride are on a computer that was stolen in the Frankfurt airport train station, along with a lot of other things. But I remember the cycled portion was about 85 miles with just a little less than 14000ft of climbing, according to a garmin etrex30. This ride went spectacularly wrong. I was trying to get back across the Spanish border on the track south of Irati, shown as road on my map, but apparently only a hiking trail in reality. When this proved to be infeasible, at least in the time I had, I tried to make a larger loop over Azpegi s(u). When I ran out of time for that I tried to hitch back on the route that I came. During the entire return I saw less than a handful of cars, and two of them offered me rides, which I accepted. The second ride was with a Basque shepard who drove me the last kms to the top of Larrau in a small Citroen station wagon with my bike in the back - Return shortly after dark.

A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Col de la Pierre St-Martin