Port de Larrau
Don’t rain on my parade
After riding the Col du Soudet, I hoped that the pleasant weather would continue.
My optimism, however, was soon to be tested.
Distant thunder rumbled, and the skies darkened as large vertical raindrops bounced off the nearby path.
“Keep calm Mr Mannering,” I told myself as I packed a few things away from the wet stuff.
I thought the rain was ‘in’ for a while, but as the wind picked up, it passed.
As entertaining as it was, I wasn’t keen on revisiting the Massat Old Testament experience.
Good news, though, was that my new tent survived its soak test.
Huddled in the shelter of my new tent, I checked on tomorrow’s forecast; dire.
All the weather apps forecast high percentage rain risks for the day.
One weather app forecast was an hour rain break at 10:00, while the other forecast a two-hour rain break at 14:00.
Too many weather apps, I concluded.
(A man with a clock knows time. A man with two clocks is never sure. It’s the same principle with weather apps).
I woke up bright and early and stuck my head out of the tent for a weather check.
Ooh, the cloud base was high and patches of blue.
A sign from above
My decision was to take a gamble on the 10:00 slot.
If it wasn’t clear, then I was prepared to wait until it was. I had to make the climb today.
The mighty Yaris roared, and I was Laugibar bound for climb No.1, the Port de Larrau.
I went out to check the sky after finding a car park close to the start point.
It’s a sign from above Phil. A rainbow!!!
Go for it.
FERME – WTF
A short distance down the road was the bridge, which signalled the start of the segment.
There was also a sign.
Port de Larrau Espagne–Ferme.
My blood drained until I thought about it.
“Hmmm, probably just a barrier across the road.”
I was confident/hopeful/praying that there would be no gun toting gendarmes on guard, so I went for it.
A reasonable 1Km then the usual latest trend for climbs in this area of undulating medium to high percentages inclines.
When I first rode this type of climb, it felt like being straight jabbed to the face.
You can take a few, but after a while they tell, but now I had a face that was used to it.
With very few hairpins to help you out, it was just a steady 10-11% push.
The mountain felt that things were going well and so threw in some light rain.
I decided against a rain jacket on the assumption that I would have drowned in my sweat, as it was still quite warm.
Undaunted, I pressed on, making my way over the 15% section.
I got smashed
As I rounded the mountain, a strong breeze quickly cleared the rain, and the sun made an appearance.
The previously welcomed breeze now turned into a gale force wind.
The ferocity smashed me sideways and then head on. I felt like I was wearing a parachute.
I had never ridden against such a strong, gusting wind as this.
The vertical drop on my side of the road looked even steeper as the gusts shunted me closer to it.
Going over would have been a helicopter rescue at best. At worst, lost forever.
I moved to the other side of the road for safety and had to drop to an 18-inch gearing.
(An 18-inch gear is ridiculously low. If you tried to ride it on the flat, you would think your chain had come off).
For the first time on my adventure, all my leg muscles ached.
This was not a ride; it was a fight against a gale force and its accomplice, the 11% gradient.
When the climb turned, I gained some composure with the incline now at sedate 7%.
This joy was only short-lived.
The road descended as the climb turned again. The wind, however, was not as kind as the gradient and pushing a 32-inch gear downhill was a struggle!
I approached the final 200m and the unmanned half road barrier (obviously, Spain thought it was ok and kept it open).
The summit couldn’t have come too soon. It was a horrific ride.
The final exam. I had climbed Port de Larrau.
Photos were the next interesting challenge.
The landscape was stunning, and the line of the roads really captured the climb. All I had to do was try to stand the bike up in the wind.
Occasional lulls helped, and I was not always quick enough to stop it crashing to the ground. (sorry).
The descent was interesting too, sometimes descending an 11% I needed to pedal.
On other occasions, it was like being pushed by an express train.
(Thank you, Swiss Stop brake shoes, worth every penny).
I was glad to be back down for shelter and the finish.
At the local auberge, I celebrated with sandwiches, a coffee, a coke, and a cake to take stock and reflect.
I asked the owner about the FERME sign for the mountain.
“Yes, they close the mountain when winds are high; it is very dangerous.”
I checked the weather app, and it reported winds were gusting 75Kmh.
Yep, they were for sure.
Nothing happening here
Back at the campsite, it had been a calm and balmy day. ?
After that, I just fell into the pool with the grace of a hammer being thrown into a lake
Things could have been different
My original intention had been to start my adventure with this climb and progress in the opposite direction.
If I had, I am not sure I would have carried on after that battering.
So, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central are complete.
Tomorrow it’s the long drive back to Caen where a Brittany Ferry carpet awaits.