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Col de Portet(ow)

This is a famously steep and difficult Tour de France climb in the high Pyrenees. Both sides are French, yet the north side has no road. Pavement stops at the top. Though it would be interesting to know if you can get a mountain bike down the other side to make a loop ride.

1.(00.0km,0780m) START-END NORTH:camping de Loustou, Vielle Aure
2.(03.0km,0810m)roundabout on north side of St-Lary-Soulan
3.(08.8km,1300m)Soulan
4.(11.9km,1530m)jct with road to ski station and Plateau d'Adet
5.(20.1km,2215m)TOP: Col de Portet

Approaches

From North.
You can see the initial long ramps of this climb behind the ski town St Lary Soulan in the valley. When riding it, you quickly get a birds eye view of where you were just 15 minutes before. This is a long steep climb and it is relentless. The town Soulan provides a reason to stop, even if some may want to call it an excuse. But actually I stopped longer here on the way down, because the late light on the surrounding mountains was incredible, and I just had to photograph it.

The climbing continues. Just when I thought I had just a little more than enough, a cyclist came speeding and screaming down the road yelling advice, that it is about to become easier for me. And sure enough, looking at the profile just before reaching point 4, there is a stretch with with a discernibly smaller slope - even when seen in context of the whole profile, it's barely worth mentioning. But the descending cyclist had good advice - sure enough, approaching the junction with the road to Plateau d'Adet and its mammoth ski station city, there is time for a rest - relatively speaking.

But the profile leads up the harder of the two roads, and the second part of the climb is about to start. From here on, the road is rougher and rocks somewhere on the road are the rule, not the exception. The road does its best to climb out of this high valley, limiting the view on two sides. But in the end, the road doesn't do much more than keep up with the climbing valley floor. In the back is where the vista is - very dramatic on the way back with late light.

Switchbacks above treeline slowly work themselves towards the obvious gap above. The infamous tunnel near the top is really just a short ski overrun. In spite of this it is fairly dark inside. There is an easy trail around it, that does not take longer than 2 minutes.

Once you get to the pass, even for the last 10 meters before reaching it, all you see in front is the racing graffiti. The remnants of pavement of the road are still between you and the view on the other side. A final steep push reveals new mountains to the west. A far reaching tundra plateau to the north invites for a hike. A short spur road to the north leads into these high rolling hills. The obvious hiking goal is Mt Pichalay[2626m], or one of the knobs in the chain leading up to it.


From South. From the top of the pass you can see a dirt road reaching down maybe 50 meters to service a ski lift. No roads are visible further below. The map shows a trail connecting with a spur from the "Lakes Road". I have no experience with it.


cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow


Dayride with this  point as highest one way summit (and over no 2 way summit):

PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED

( < Superbagnere(ow) | Col d'Azet > )

Col de Portet(ow): Vielle Aure <> Col de Portet[ow] <> turnaround point on short spur from summit north, with detour in village on way back: 28.8miles with 4985ft of climbing in 3:42hrs (garmin etrex30 r5:19.5.2)
Notes: the only unpaved part is the short spur at the summit. From there the day also included a hike not quite reaching nearby [Mount] Pichaley in a roundabout way (2626m). hiking(h) and biking(b) statitstics below
h+b: max-min=8383ft-2556ft=5827ft, 33.8mies with 6588ft of climbing in 6:06hrs
h only: max-min=8377-7002=1375, 4.1miles with 1634ft of climbing in 2:10hrs

History

Cycling - Tour de France: The reason I saw so much racing graffiti on the upper part was not, because it has such a long history as a Tour de France climb, but because it was on the itinerary so recently. The summit was included for the first time in 2018. It was only 65 km, but also included Col d'Azet and Col de Peyresourde, and of course it ended on top of the Col de Portet. The rider arriving on top first, arrived with no other rider visible behind him.

However - the lower part of the profile, leading also to the ski station at Plateau d'Adet has been used 10 times, between 1974 and 2014. Naturally these stages also finished on top, and the ski station certainly has more room for all those racing crew caravans and multiple entourages than Col de Portet. The longest of these stage started in Andorra and was 230 km long, another La Seu d'Urgell in Spain with a length of 209km.