Cycling Cirque de Troumouse
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I highly recommend cycling the Cirque de Troumouse climb if you are in the Hautes Pyrenees and have the opportunity to do so. This ride is classified as one of my hidden gems in this part of the Pyrenees. Due to its location within the Pyrenees National Park, the Cirque de Troumouse climb has never been featured in the Tour de France. The Tour’s loss is your gain though as it is an absolutely stunning hors catégorie climb that has it all. Topping out at an elevation of 2 110m (6 923ft) it is also one of the highest climbs in the Pyrenees.
I have ridden this climb on three occasions now and always love it. Make no mistake it is a tough one, but well worth the effort. The final 3km to the top are now car-free so don’t be fooled into thinking that once you get to the car park and auberge the ride is over. Bikes are permitted to ride past the boom gate and onto the top. I did hear of someone who thought the auberge was the top and turned around and headed back down so don’t make the same mistake.
Once at the top I always love sitting and taking in the 360-degree mountain views. You definitely feel very small. It’s always nice to roll back to the auberge for a well-earned drink and some food before the descent.
The Seek Travel Ride website currently boasts over 40 cycling routes in the Pyrenees, so make sure you see what else is on offer. All the routes have been compiled based on our own experience of visiting and cycling in the Pyrenees over the past 10 years.
Cycling up the Gorge de Luz
This route begins from Argeles Gazost, although you could certainly start the ride from any of the towns between there and Luz Saint-Sauveur. Personally, I have always enjoyed the warm-up winding through the valley and on up through the Gorge de Luz gives you. A few kilometres from Luz Saint-Sauveur you will ride past the Pont Napoléon bridge. A quick stop here affords you fantastic views of the deep, rocky gorge and valley. In the summer months, you may be fortunate to watch some people bungee jumping from the bridge!
The town of Gédre marks the start of the climb. There are public toilets and water fountains if you need to stop before heading up the climb itself. I usually have a quick stop here and make sure the water bottles are full. If you are cycling on a summer day the climb is very exposed and it gets quite hot in my experience.
Once you make your way through the cobbled streets and take a series of hairpin bends you will immediately take a left turn. Whilst your ride to get to this point is all uphill – the real climbing begins now.
The Cirque de Troumouse climb begins
There is no other way about it – the road to the summit is hard. Steep ramps of over 13% await you, and if you are riding this climb in the heat of summer you will be exposed to the full force of the sun. The first section winds its way up the valley climbing all the time. After 8km you will pass a small toll booth and this marks the start of the first of two sets of hairpins. The first section has 16 hairpin bends in all if you feel the need to count them down.
The road is narrow and cut up and it is quite common to see sheep and cattle grazing on the pasture beside it. If you are lucky you may even spot a marmot! The spectacular views you are afforded as you gain elevation will hopefully distract you from the double-digit gradients. Unlike other climbs in the Pyrenees, there are no markers on the side of the road stating the distance to the top and the average gradient of the following kilometre.
Spectacular road leads to the summit of Cirque de Troumouse
As you reach the top of the first hairpins the gradient eases before a quick descent past the auberge on your left. You may be hoping the climbing is finished, but the road ahead tells a different story. One final set of switchbacks and 3 km/1.8 mi of climbing awaits you. As I mentioned earlier don’t make the mistake and think this is the top. Keep on through the car park and head towards the road you can see in the distance. It is obvious where it is.
The first couple of times I rode this climb cars were permitted all the way to the top. It has only been in the last couple of years that the car park has been moved back to the auberge. People who arrive by car can now catch a small shuttle service that runs through the day.
From the auberge, the road to the top stays consistently between 10 – 11%. The view back down the mountain is spectacular and as you climb you see the road weaving its way back and forth across the mountains. I have many a photo of this piece of road, it never gets old. This second set of hairpins boasts another 10 bends bringing your tally to 26 for the climb.
A small rest area at the top signifies the end of the climbing. If you feel like a short hike there are walking trails to be found at the summit. Personally, I think the views of the hairpin road with the surrounding large mountains is one of the most spectacular in the whole of the Pyrenees – make sure you take some photos!
It’s always a great sense of achievement getting to the top and I always spend some time enjoying the mountains and remoteness of it all. The best thing is that the ride home is pretty much downhill all the way and it is nice knowing that the tough work is over for the day. Unless, of course, you decide to tackle one of the nearby climbs.
- Distance – 91 km / 56 miles
- Meters climbed – 2 218m / 7 276 ft
- Max elevation – 2 110m / 6 923 ft
Food, water, and toilets
There are numerous villages on the route which offer up the chance to replenish your food and water supplies and use public toilets.
- Argeles Gazost – there are two public toilet facilities in Argeles in the town centre and shops, supermarkets, and cafés for food and water. You can top your water bottles for free at one of the taps in the town centre.
- Luz Saint-Saveur – there is a public toilet behind the Tourist Information Centre and plenty of places for food and drink.
- Gédre – there are public toilets, cafés, and water. When we climb Cirque de Troumouse we usually have a quick stop here and fill water bottles.
- Cirque de Troumouse – There is an auberge located at the base of the last set of switchbacks, 3kms/ 1.8 mi from the summit of the climb.
Other similar nearby routes
Cycling to Cirque de Troumouse is just one of many great cycling routes in the Hautes Pyrenees that you can enjoy. Here are some others that you may also like to try
- Col des Tentes – another one of the hidden gems of the Pyrenees.
- Col du Tourmalet – this one needs no introduction. A true icon of the Pyrenees and definitely one for the bucket list
- Luz Ardiden – if you like hairpin bends then this one is for you. 26 hairpin bends, 5 more than Alpe d’Huez