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Col de Puymorens

One of the main historical crossings of the Pyrenees is still a very cyclable route. This is the main road N20 between Puigcerda - Spain on one side and Ax les Thermes - France on the other. Andorra is also just a turnoff away. During my crossing on a Monday traffic was manageable, but the road to Andorra over Pas de la Casa had been closed for weeks, because of an earth slide. So my experience is probably not representative. In any case, there is also a peage-tunnel below the pass. So the several miles over the top of the pass are always wonderful cycling.

1.(00.0km,1160m) START-END SOUTH:Bourg-Madame
2.(13.8km,1380m)Latour de Carol
4.(19.3km,1550m)tunnel entrance, south side
5.(21.4km,1640m)Porte de Pumnorens (this is a village)
6.(27.6km,1915m)TOP: Col du Puymorens
7.(14.0km,1420m)l'Hostitalet, just after tunnel etrance, north side
9.(54.8km,0740m)START-END NORTH: Ax les Thermes


From South.
Just after Latour de Carol the road enters a V shaped valley. Just before Porte Puymorens, the biking improves by several powers of 10, as the traffic (in my case even the automobile rally people) disappear into the tunnel, and leave the road to those who want to enjoy its surroundings. The road celebrates with an extended meander to the west, and then climbs above the village Porte-Puymorens. Its medieval houses now look like a railroad display from above - but without the railroad. The Tren Jaune also has its own tunnel below.

From below it looks like there is a small city on top of the pass - built with fortification strength walls. But when you reach the top, it turns out to be not only abandoned, but also vandalized.

From North. (described downwards). The road rolls into high alpine valleys. They look drier than the summit. While still far above treeline the road to Pas de la Casa to Andorra forks to the left. It is closed when I pass by, Security guards watch that no foot is set on pavement past the turnoff.

There is another short alternative to parallel the main road on an old highway, just a few kmm before l'Hostitalet. It too was "barre". L'Hostitalet is an historic stopping point for pass travelers. An old railroad station and old Inn buildings compete for attention. Unfortunately the tunnel traffic emerges here too. From here it's a fairly long descend through another uniformly v shaped valley.

cLiCk on image , arrows , or thumbnails to advance slideshow

Dayride with this point as highest summit:


( < Plateau de Salinas s(u)Col de Mel > )

Col de Puymorens x2: Latour de Carol <> Col de Puymorens <> l'Hospitalet <> Merens <> turnaround point several km below Merens: 50.7m  with 5670ft 9.of climbing in 5:32hrs (garmin etrex30 r5:19.5.13)
Notes: another strong Mistral day - coming back I was blown up the pass.


This pass marked the boundary between France and Spain until 1659. On that year the "treaty of the Pyrenees" gave the area with "villages north of the Pyrenees" to France. Exactly what "north of the Pyrenees" meant still had to be worked out. Also - the nearby French settlement Llivia was officially a villa and not a village, so it became part of Spain. The final product was renegotiated in the Treaty of Bayonne and today both the pass and the villa(ge) are part of France. In today's Europe without border crossing it is often very difficult to tell which country you are in. This is expecially true on the southern base of the pass around Llivia, Bourg-Madame and Puigcerda, where the border takes some confusing twists and turns.

Cycling - Tour de France: This major road was on 6 Tour stages: in 1957, 64,65, 73, 76 and 93