Cycling the Col d’Aubisque via Col du Borderes and Col du Soulor

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This was the very first ride I did when we arrived in the Pyrenees in 2013 and I have been lucky to cycle it a number of times since. On that first ride, we had left Argeles Gazost under clear blue skies and headed towards the Col du Soulor. As we got close to the top of the Soulor we could see clouds engulfing the top of the mountain peaks but neither of us thought anything of it.

As we hit the next climb to the Col d’Aubisque we turned a corner and all of a sudden a thick fog covered everything and we could not see more than a few metres in front of us. We slowly made our way to the top and headed into the café at the top as the temperature dropped significantly also. After a few minutes, we headed back down and once again met the sunshine as we neared Col du Soulor. Thankfully all the other rides I have done since have been nice and clear but it is not unusual for the peaks to be covered in cloud.

This route to the top of Col d’Aubisque starts in Argeles Gazost and takes in Col des Borderes and Col du Solour first before the shorter ascent to the top of Col d’Aubisque. This is a slightly alternative route to the one people take up and back the main road and gives you a taste of some of the other parts of the region. I guarantee you will love the descent back home from the top of Col du Soulor to Argeles, it is great fun.

Click here to see a list of all of our cycling routes available in the Pyrenees. We have mapped out 40 rides across five regions within the Pyrenees mountain range for you to explore. The routes incorporate all the famous cycling cols and have downloadable GPX files to help you with navigation.

Col d'Aubisque road cycling Panorama

The first climb – Col des Borderes

This cycling route takes you from Argeles Gazost to the small village of Saint-Savin and has great views of the mountains all around. The road is constantly uphill as you wind your way up through beautiful tree-lined countryside beside a small stream. The looming heights of the surrounding mountains are a good indication of what is to come. Once you reach the town of Estaing, take a turn to the right to climb Col des Borderes. From here the summit is 3 km up a short but very steep climb, before dropping down to the village of Arrens Marsous and the bottom of Col du Soulor.

I always enjoy the ride up the valley after leaving Saint Savin and climbing out of one valley into the next. This road has some steep pinches in places, but also some downhills to give you a little respite now and again. I always think it is a tough but great warm-up for the rest of the ride.

If you need some water or a bite to eat, I recommend stopping in Arens Marsous. There is a water fountain to top your bottles as well as a small supermarket and cafés.

Climb no 2. Cycling the Col du Soulor

The climb to Col du Soulor starts as soon as you leave Arens Marsous and you will see the markers on the side of the road indicating the official start. I always love seeing how quickly you rise up out of the valley and start looking back down where you came from. The gradient is never too bad on this climb but there are a couple of short steep pitches to negotiate.

The climb to Col du Soulor is 7.5km in length and maintains a fairly steady gradient for the whole climb. As you keep passing the kilometre markers on the roadside you start to understand what these climbs are really like. Soak in those amazing views as you make your way to the top. It is quite common to see flocks of sheep grazing on the surrounding roadside pastures as you get closer to the summit.

Once at the top I always enjoy a stop at the café and soaking in the amazing view of the Cirque du Litor which you will ride across on your way to the Col d’Aubisque. The summit is popular in summer and there are usually some friendly donkeys and horses thrown into the mix as well.

Cycling the Col d’Aubisque

From the top of the Col du Soulor, the road drops down to the Cirque du Litor, which is seemingly perched on the side of a cliff. Personally, I think this is one of the most spectacular roads you could ever wish to ride. You will pass through two short tunnels before heading up to the top of the Col d’Aubisque. The actual climb of the Col d’Aubisque from this approach is not very long but don’t be misled by the average gradient of 4.6% as the final sections are much steeper.

A word of warning, the second tunnel on the Cirque du Litor is quite dark and the surface is a little bumpy. I have always ridden it without lights and you get to the daylight in just enough time. Taking off your sunglasses is something I recommend you do, it makes a big difference.

Tour de France atmosphere

Once you crest the summit you will see the famous giant bikes, each representing a jersey in the Tour de France. During the peak summer cycling season, the summit is a hive of activity. Cycling the Col d’Aubisque is a bucket list climb for thousands of people so enjoy the atmosphere. Often you are not just sharing the climb with other cyclists but also herds of cattle too!

Be sure to take some time to soak in the view before retracing your steps back to Arrens Marsous. From here you take the main road all the way back to Argeles Gazost on beautiful smooth pavement, which makes for an amazing descent and one of my favourites in the Pyrenees.

Suggested cycling route

Distance: 67.7km / 42.1mi

Start elevation: 469m / 1,538ft

Max elevation: 1,708m / 5,608ft

Metres climbed: 2,150m / 7,053ft

Metres descended: 2,154m / 7,068ft

Categorised climbs: 3

Food and water

There is a café or bar at both the top of Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque. You will pass through the villages of Arrens Marsous, Aucun, and Arras-en-Lavedan on your way back home all of which have options for food and water should you wish to stop. There are plenty of facilities in Argeles Gazost, the start and finish point.

Highlights

  • Taking in 3 Cols in one ride!
  • The magical road of the Cirque du Litor has to be seen to be believed.
  • Sharing the famous Cols with the animals on the mountains – sheep, cows, donkeys, and horses are often to be found.
  • The big bikes at the top of Aubisque remind you of its pedigree as a Tour de France climb!
Gradient profile for Col des Borderes from Bun

Col du Borderes

Length: 7.5km

Average gradient: 6.5%

Start point: Bun

Elevation at the top: 1,156m

Col du Soulor

Length: 7.3km

Average gradient: 7.7%

Start point: Arrens Marsous

Elevation at the top: 1,474m

Gradient profile Col du Soulor from Arrens Marsous
Gradient profile of Col d'Aubisque from D918

Col d’Aubisque

Length: 6.6 km

Average gradient: 6.6%%

Start point: Col du Soulor

Elevation at the top: 1,709m

Discover the Pyrenees

Cycling the Col d’Aubsique climb is just one of many great cycling routes to discover in the Pyrenees. This area of the Pyrenees is very popular with cyclists who are keen to ride some of the famous climbs of the Tour de France for themselves.

We have plenty of information available on our website to get you orientated and help you plan your cycling holiday in this part of France. I suggest starting with our page outlining the best base for a cycling holiday in the Pyrenees which covers all the basics. You might also like our page about bike hire in the Pyrenees if you are looking to hire a bike while you are on holiday.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below or send me an email at info@seektravelride.com and I will only be too happy to assist.

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2 thoughts on “Pyrenees – Col d’Aubisque”

  1. Hi,

    I’ll be in the Cycling the Col d’Aubisque via Col du Borderes and Col du Soulor in March of 2024. Is March too early in the season for this ride?

    1. Hi Brian – you will be able to cycle the Col du Borderes and the Col du Soulor but unfortunately the Col d’Aubisque will be closed so not an option for you in March.

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