Cycling the Hautacam
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I think that cycling the Hautacam is probably one of the toughest rides that I have done in the Pyrenees. Most other people I have spoken to about this tend to agree with that thought. Why? The gradients seem to forever change which means getting into a nice rhythm is hard to do. One minute you are heading downhill and the next the gradient is in double figures.
In my opinion, the first half of the climb is tough but not too bad. But once you reach the village of Artalens-Souin you take a big bend to the left and from here ride gets much tougher with gradients up to 15% in some places. If it is a hot day this climb offers little cover by way of trees and it is hot. To date, I have only climbed this on two occasions but plan to do it again in 2023.
This cycling route includes a loop around the valley before you start the climb to Hautacam. I highly recommend some sort of warm-up as the climb gets going soon after leaving Argeles Gazost. You could also consider heading up the Gorge de Luz for a short while if you would like a few more kilometres in the legs before you start the climb.
This page includes all the information you need to plan your own ascent of this tough climb. Once at the top, you have stunning views over the valley and many villages dotted along its length. Our Hautacam page has lots of practical information about this climb so be sure to check it out.
Be sure to check out our Cycling Routes in the Pyrenees for lots more suggested routes in the Pyrenees. We currently have over 40 different routes spanning the length of the Pyrenees to help you plan your cycling holiday to this part of France. These routes have been put together based on our own experiences of visiting and cycling in the Pyrenees over the past 10 years.
Suggested Hautacam cycling route
Distance: 51.1km / 31.8mimi
Start elevation: 470m / 1,541ft
Max elevation: 1,635m / 5,364ft
Metres climbed: 1,513m / 4,965ft
Metres descended: 1,513m / 4,965ft
Categorised climbs: 1
What the Hautacam lacks in length it makes up with sheer steep and relentless ramps. The gradient is always forever changing which means it is hard to get into a smooth climbing rhythm to settle into on the climb. One kilometre is 6% the next will hover over 10% and it continues this way for the entire climb. Whilst there is a brief downhill section partway along the climb, there are also sustained ramps of over 15% so make sure you keep this in mind and measure your efforts.
Stunning rural vistas
Whilst you may be cursing the unrelenting steep gradients on the climb, make sure you take a moment to enjoy the stunning views afforded to you as you begin to rise in altitude. The views down across the Vallée du Lavedan are spectacular and will hopefully provide you with some distraction as you tick the kilometres off. Green lush pastures meld into the surrounding peaks leaving you with a true sense of the tranquil beauty and ‘rustic’ feel of the Pyrenees. I always enjoy this aspect of the climb.
Reaching the Hautacam summit
The third last kilometre is by far the hardest and averages well over 10%. After this last test of the legs, the final two kilometres are relatively easier and your goal of the summit will be upon you. The summit itself is a rather uninspiring ski station car park. I recommend heading on further up the road for another 1.5 km until you reach the very top known as the Col du Tramessel. Given you have come this far what is another bit of climbing? Once at the top enjoy the views and the fast descent back the way you came to Argeles Gazost.
Food and water
There is the opportunity to replenish food and water as you pass through the villages along the Hautacam climb. At the top of the climb, there is a restaurant should you wish to grab a bite to eat before the descent.
- The climb of Hautacam has some of the most stunning vistas of the Valée du Lavedan.
- Choosing to continue up the climb for a further 1.5 km means you get to tick off two climbs in one go – Hautacam and Col de Tramassel!
The Col de Tramassel is only an extra 1.5 km /1 mi from the top of Hautacam and worth the extra altitude to get to.