No other words for it….
Today Harley and I revisited two of my favourite places on earth, Col D’Izoard and Col du Galibier. Even if I wasn’t on a motorbike they would still rank in my book, but on two wheels they are the pinnacle as far as I’m concerned.
As I warned earlier, I wasn’t planning to stop on the climbs, but I took loads of pics on the tops. Like I said in my post of this morning, the weather was wonderful and has stayed great all day. Tonight we are just west of Gap, but back to the hills.
The climb to Izoard started pretty much from the car park. The first gem is the Gorge of the Combe du Queyras. It’s very tight, the road in places is literally carved into the sheer walls of the gorge. There is nowhere to stop, but I had the video camera running so when I figure out how to post vids or get a You Tube account I’ll put the footage on line. I’m sure if you Google it there will be loads of pictures, anyway it’s pretty awesome.
My beloved D902, the road that links many of the high Cols takes a sharp right just before the pretty village of Chateau Queyras and then the climb really starts. The road passes through a number of small hamlets; one thing I have noticed quite a bit this year, is the number of homemade signs asking motorcyclists to slow down and obey the speed limits. This is bad, for a number of reasons and clearly some bikers must be peeing off the locals with their antics, it ain’t hard to slow down for a few minutes whilst you pass through someone’s world, is it? The French, being fond of direct action and protest, will not put up with being taken for granted or abused. The roads will probably be blocked, probably with cattle or tractors, then we will all get kicked of the mountains, it’s in our own hands! Daily rant now over, thank you for your patience!
Anyway lets look at some pictures…
Summit cairn, Col D’Izoard, 2361m (7746ft)
Looking South, we just came up there!
The road ahead.
I’ve seen that bike somewhere before!
Right ho, that was D’Iz, I love the place. Nice brisk ride down to Briancon next, I’ve got some tales to tell about up and down D’Iz, in another post though.
By the way, I think Briancon is an embarrassment to the French Alps. I sure someone who has been there skiing will tell me it’s great, maybe that’s what it needs, a big dump of snow to cover most of it up…to me it’s a dump!
So after getting away from Briancon, we enjoyed the fast climb to Col du Lautaret. It sits on the D1091 which is the main road to Grenoble, but big trucks are banned, excellent, lets play! There are a couple of ski villages en-route, but apart from that its 27km of virtually clear sweeping road…in other words, Harleyland! I think the old girl loved it. At Lautaret, you turn right and are straight into the famous Galibier, spiritual High Alps home of Le Tour de France.
I am deeply and passionately in love with Galibier. I find the place has a spirituality that is hard to define. Like I have said before, I’m not big on religion, but there is something about Galibier that has moved me to tears each time I visit. I have always had a love the high places and over the years spent many days on the mountains. A long time ago I came to understand that some of them want you there and others don’t, it’s nothing personal, it’s just how it is and it can be different to each person. To me Galibier is one of the former and very, very special.
Gotta say that the road can be pretty scary in places, no guard fence, rail or stones…just a drop!
As you near the summit there is a tunnel that cuts under the Col itself, if you are not going on to Valloire as we weren’t, the trick is to go over the Col and back through the tunnel, which we did.
At the Refuge du Galibier is a Café and gift shop, it sell some of the most amazing tat that you could imagine, and quite a bit that you couldn’t. It also does the most superb omelettes, so I had to stop, would have been rude not to really!
Buoyed up by that splendid treat, or was it the start of altitude sickness, the Café is at 2556m (8307ft) and that is above the height that it can start and I had been there some time, but I decided to go back through the tunnel; yes I know Dookes+tunnel= ? Well this time it was nearly a big off! Just as I got through the tunnel on the north side I went through a patch of water…wrong, water over ice! I haven’t had the courage to look at the video yet, but it was a biggie! Fortunately, or bloody luckily, I managed to grab the old girl and steer out of it…all that training does work you know! I don’t really know what I did, but I do remember thinking not to put on loads of brake, sit deep and steer like crazy. Something helped us though, maybe it was the spirit that is Galibier, I don’t know, but I will go back, I have to!
Anyway, after that excitement we went back up from the north side and from the summit set off here to Gap.
Mileage today: 151. Trip total: 1476.
Tomorrow, the Rhône valley and the Massif Central; with a little job to do in Valence for my friend Sandra…it’s her home town!
It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock on roll…