RSS Feed Col d'Aubisque - One of Cycling's Great Climbs

Col d'Aubisque The Col du Tourmalet is generally recognised as the star of the Pyrenees and is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our cycling holiday to the region. It is the highest pass, arguably the toughest climb and has been featured in more Tour de France stages than any other mountain.

However, situated across the Gave de Pau valley is probably, at the same time, the most beautiful and the most inhospitable climb in the Pyrenees - the Col d'Aubisque. Unlike Tourmalet and the other notorious climbs in this part of the Pyrenees, such as Luz Ardiden and Hautacam, the Aubisque is rarely a decisive part of the Tour de France route.

It has been featured over sixty times, yet is nearly always a transition from the western to the central Pyrenees. For a touring cyclist, however, it offers arguably the finest views in the Pyrenees and is, without doubt, one of the most satisfying mountains to climb.

Beauty and Aubisque

The Pyrenees offers the best scenery in France for cyclists. The peaks are more rugged and dramatic and there is less traffic and a greater sense of isolation than in the Alps. And of all the climbs in the Pyrenees, the Aubisque is the most awe-inspiring. It is difficult to describe the sheer beauty of Aubisque, from all three of its ascents; however, various elements combine to make it the ideal setting. The rolling green hills to the north, the rocky mountains to the west, the picturesque valley to the east and the narrow, winding road - passing through small villages and alongside fields with sheep and cows roaming freely.

The most beautiful ascent is from Argeles-Gazost, via the Col du Solour. The first few kilometres are fairly busy, but the traffic soon thins out as the road starts to kick up hill. After reaching the Soulor, the road passes into the Cirque de Litour - a majestic horseshoe that loops around the side of the mountain - with precipitous drops displaying the valley below. The final ascent up to the top of Aubisque is to the backdrop of mountains whose rocky top makes them appear as though capped by snow, even in summer.

The more traditional and harder route to climb Aubisque begins from the town of Laruns on the west side of the mountain. The scenery here is pleasant for the first few kilometres, but really becomes spectacular after passing the ski resort of Gourette. It becomes increasingly isolated and bleak - with little development at the top except for one restaurant and some statues of bicycles.

The beauty is enhanced further by the fact that it is relatively rare. There exists something of a micro- climate over Aubisque which sees it get more rain and cloud than the other climbs in the area. It can often be completely clear over Tourmalet and in the valley, but the moody Aubisque will be covered in a thick layer of cloud. The moment the cloud breaks though, is one of the most spectacular sights you will come across while cycling.

Cirque du Litour

The Difficulty of the Climb

Aubisque is a Hors Categorie (Above Classification) climb from the west and a '1ere categorie' (1st Category) climb via the two routes to Soulor. So, it is a challenge whichever way you choose to tackle it.

The tougher west side has an average gradient of 7.2% over 16.6km, with the last 8km averaging a shade over 8%. From Argeles-Gazost, the other popular route, it is 30km at an average of around 4.3%. However, this includes a significant downhill section and several kilometres that are either flat or a very slight incline, so there are also sections of steep, sustained climbing.

Other Climbs in the Area

One of the great things about Aubisque is how close it is to several other great climbs. As well as the Col du Soulor, which consists of a considerable part of the climb from Argeles-Gazost - there are several more mountains starting in the valleys to the east and the west.

In the east, starting from Argeles-Gazost, it is just a handful of kilometres to Hautacam, and around 20km to the start of Luz Ardiden and Tourmalet. A little further along the same road you can also climb up to the fantastic Cirque du Gavarnie.

To the west of Aubisque, starting from Laruns is the Col du Pourtalet, a tough climb which is steep near the top, as it takes you over the border into Spain. A little further along the valley is the Col de Marie- Blanque, a two faced climb which is easy and gentle from one side, yet torturous from the other.

The Pyrenees

Aubsique really sums up all that is great about cycling in the Pyrenees. The scenery is incredible, the road is relatively quiet and there is a huge amount of fantastic climbs in very close proximity.