The old spa town Luchon must be
one of the most inspiring towns, amongst those
that play a big part along the route of theTour
de France. With this town as an anchor point,
riders race over Col de
Peyresourde and Col de Portalet, and
others. Sometimes the race also includes a climb
to the ski area, named Superbagneres, above the
old spa town. The road is steep and scenically
sensational, but even more important - it is
wide, well paved and all the turns have a fairly
wide radius. And perhaps even more important
that that: On top of Superbagnere is a super
large parking lot, that can easily accommodate a
train of entourages. Luchon itself stands in
contrast to that. It is a charming little spa
town with a wonderful main street. The buildings
and arcades of old trees frame the mountain
views at every street crossing. In my mind, I am
sure, that the main street was oriented for the
perfect view of the mountains above (although I
am still only guessing).
START-END EAST:north side of Bagneres de
2.(06.0km,0900m)jct with road to Hospice
3.(09.6km,1120m)jct with D46a to waterfall
at end of valley
4.(18.7km,1780m)TOP: Superbagneres Hotel
From North. The road
leaves town, passes two convenient campgrounds and
then starts climbing steeply right away. This
first part, where to road remains tethered to the
bottom of the valley floor, is actually the
steepest part of the entire climb. Near the
junction with the loop to Hospice de France the
road levels out a bit.
And after that the scenery gets interesting, so
there is no more reason to just climb for pain's
sake. By the time the road reaches the junction
with the valley road to Cascade d'Envers, the size
of the monumental amphitheater of mountains, that
the road will attempt to climb out of, is clear.
It does so with large far flung switchbacks, that
allow for a fast trip when coming back down.
The monumental hotel at the top appears like a
fortress to capitalism. Up close it doesn't look
quite as well preserved, especially with the
concrete addition, or is that the servants
quarters ? Everything is mothballed in the summer,
including the mini golf course. Out behind the
hotel waits a great reciprocal view of the
cemetery in Bangere de Luchon. It is the best
vantage point onto the mountains from the village.
And from up here all the graves are discernible
through a good telephoto lens.
The first ski lift station is hardly much higher
than the hotel, and is reachable on a dirt track.
There are multiple ways down with a mountain bike.
But my objective was to get a little higher on
foot, since it was a very hot day. This road
summit is perfect for that. An alpine trail leaves
direction several sanctuaries, just past the first
lift station to the north.
cLiCk on image , arrows
, or thumbnails to advance slideshow
Pictures from the hike from the ski station are here
Dayride with this one-way point as highest summit,
and no two way summit points:
PARTIALLY PAVED / UNPAVED
( < Col de Mente
| Col de Portet
Superbagnere(ow): Bagneres de Luchon <>
Superbagnere(ow) <> GR4 trailhead: 23.9miles
with 4360ft of climbing in 3:13hrs (garmin etrex30
Notes: day also included a hike from
turnaround point to peak at 2380m (7808ft).
Climbing while walking: 546m~1791ft; total
climbing: 6151ft - the first mountain day with
absolutely perfect weather - the only unpaved part
in the ride is the sort section from the ski
station to the trailhead.
the resort: the resort was already opened in
the early 20th century. Apparently a rack and pinion
railway was first used to get to the top. I saw no
signs or reminders of this along the way anywhere.
Cycling - Tour de France : The
climb to the top of the ski area was included in the
Tour de France the first time in 1961, the first of
6 stages that all ended on top of the mountain. 1961
was also the longest day of those 6 stages. The
stage started in Toulouse and went over 208km.1986
also was a long stage, that started in Pau and ended
on top of the mountain 186km later. It was Greg
Lemond's first Tour de France stage win, and he
managed to win it with more than a minute between
him and the next competitor.