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Col de Portillon

Crossing the Pyrenees between Spain and France is usually a big climb and scenic experience. But here in this area the high part of the main ridge remains firmly in Spanish territory. I say "high part", because apparently you can make the argument that this is still the main ridge of the Pyrenees - even if I don't follow this reasoning. Anyway - crossing between these two countries involves this steep, but not exactly extraordinarily scenic, but instead minor pass.

I have used the pictures of panoramio and flickr contributors, as well as other web sites to illustrate this page. There are copyright notices and links  to all original pictures. My own pictures were on a computer, that was stolen at the train station Frankfurt Airport (model Acer Aspire One (serial# NUSGPAA01625101C947600F)


1.(00.0km,0720m) START-END EAST: N141 branches off N230, just south of Bossost
2.(08.4km,1293m) TOP: Col de Portillon
3.(17.2km,0650m) START-END WEST: Saint Mamet

 the French side - Copyright: Nathalie Mandrou (Panoramio);    piclink
the summit - Copyright: jasper fidder  piclink


From West.
It is a relief to turn off N230 away from all that traffic and start climbing in peace, and these switchbacks in the forest are perfect for that. At one of the switchbacks a Tour de France cyclist monument waits, accompanied by one of the few good views up the valley. The tour used the summit 18 times, first time in 1957. But in recent years it has not been used, in favor of the recently paved Col de Bales.

The summit is in needle forest, and also a virtual sign forest. The spaces next to the road are filled with parked cars and RVs, and people milling about, looking for something of apparent interest. But there really isn't too much. I too take the obligatory summit photograph. It is virtually identical to one that I found on Panoramio, just that my bike looks a little different and is not packed as orderly.

From East. (described downwards). The road seems to have no bottom, even if in reality it doesn't go much lower than where it started on the other side. At two different switchbacks I suddenly clinch my brakepads into screeching position, in order to stop my vehicle and take pictures of snow capped high Pyrenean peaks, framed by luxuriant foliage - for me the most interesting scenes since leaving Vielha. I would bet it is from the same point as the first picture on this page. I think in a car the scene passes to quickly to perceive it, and it would be too difficult to instantly bring tons of metal to a stop.

At the bottom wait the two adjoining towns Saint-Mamet and Bagneres-de-Luchon. The latter spa town features a magnificent, long tourist promenade, with the main snow capped ridge of the Pyrenees in the far background - what an elegant setting. It can also serve as basetown for many Pyrenean pass rides. On today's ride the town at the bottom was actually more fascinating than the pass above.

A Day on a Tour with this point as intermediate summit is on page: Col de Peyresroude