Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 11, 12- Rest then Barcelonnette to Valberg

We were long overdue for a day off, so day 11 was it. Two of our group members rented a car and 
we cruised the mountains south of Barcelonnette. What a nice break, especially for our rear ends
which were not fairing well this trip. Tomorrow we would ride to Valberg a nice little ski resort on
the outskirts of our home turf in Vence.

Barcelonnette to Valberg-Just when we thought the tough climbing was over Valberg proved us wrong.  We were introduced to the col de la Cayolle.  Though not as steep as Bonnette, it was as long.  This climb was clear;y more scenic than Bonnette and a lot more enjoyable with a better engineered gradient.  We rode up with Les and Sue and Glenn got some great shots of us cresting the summit.  A long decent after the climb to our lunch stop in Guillaumes then a grind with mixed climbing into Valberg.....ahh a cold beer awaited us at the local ski resort tavern!

Day 10- Barcelonette- The great Col de la Bonnette

We had planned a rest day but the weather did not look like it would be good the next day so we made an impromptu decision to ride the “Bonette”.  We charged off at 11:30am with two sandwiches in our bag and four bottles of water.  This would be the toughest climb that we have ever attempted.  It was over 14 miles long and would climb to over 9,000 feet, about 5,000 feet of vertical.  Gulp.  The climb started at the base in Jausiers.  From there it was all up.  The beauty of this climb were the array of landscapes that you experience from beautiful meadows with grazing sheep to rocky granite cliffs, and then barren, above tree line mountain tops.  All in all it took us three hours to climb.  Most of the climb average 6-7% with an occasional 10%+.  What made this climb tough was the length.  Conditions at the top were rapidly changing and a thunderstorm was brewing.  We quickly donned our rain coats and headed down.  It took only 30 minutes to get to the bottom.  What an experience.  This was truly the greatest alpine climb we had ever done.

The beginning of the climb looking back down to Jausiers

About two-thirds the way to the top....

      Where the hell is the top..... 

The top and the oncoming thundershower!