Col d'Aubisque - Argelès-Gazost Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

5.8
FIETS
18.1 mi
DISTANCE
4,638 ft
GAINED
4.2 %
AVG. GRADE

FULL CLIMB STATS

INTRO

Cycling Col d'Aubisque from the bike climbing mecca of Argelès-Gazost is an exceptional experience. At nearly 30 kilometers, this is one of the longer climbs in the Pyrenees and a bucket list cycling climb for those interested in the history as well as the beauty of cycling in the Pyrenees.

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For those looking to stay in the area we would recommend the Pyrenees Cycling Lodge. Located in the beautiful medieval village of Saint Savin and hosted by Mark & Niamh, the Lodge is run by cyclists for cyclists. It is a great location for any cycling adventure in the Pyrenees with several renowned climbs within 100km of the property and 6 Tour de France climbs within 15km. Visit their website or contact them directly at pyreneescyclinglodge@gmail.com .

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MEMBER RATING

Difficulty: Strenuous
4
Road
4
Traffic
5
Scenery

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Dec 6, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
Dec 6, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
This is a long climb in several steps with some flatter parts in between. The first climb out of Argeles Gazost is challenging with lots of traffic. The second climb up to the Soulor is also difficult. Once you reach the Soulor, you get into the real Pyrenees - animals on the road, farmers selling cheese, and stunning views!
May 5, 2021
difficulty: Strenuous
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
May 5, 2021
scenery: 5
traffic: 4
road: 4
I climbed the Aubisque by way of Soulour and the Cirque du Litor. I highly, highly recommend doing that route sometime. Ascending Soulour is a delightful challenge, but it doesn't prepare you for the awe-inspiring sight that assaults you as you round a corner and see the road you'll use to traverse Litor. It's a scratch of a road, a knife-edge scraped into a sheer cliff. Needle-hole tunnels and blinding greenery keep the eye restless, ever- shifting, but grateful for the distraction as the road pitches up again on that final battle up to Aubisque. An incomparable experience.
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CLIMB SUMMARY

Cycling Col d’Aubisque from Argeles Gazost

Ride 29 kilometers gaining 1,560 meters at average grade 4.2% (6.7% climb only).

Visit our 2022 Tour de France Page.  Col d’Aubisque TdF history is at the bottom of this page.

Col d’Aubisque is famous because of it’s long inclusion in the Tour de France, dating back to 1910 when tour organizer Henri Desgrange decided to include mountains in the race.  Thus, on Stage 10, July 21, 1910, the Circle of Death was coined as riders were confronted with 4 mountain climbs (Col du Peyresourde, Col d’Aspin, Col du Tourmalet and, finally, Col d’Aubisque) over the course of 326 kilometers between Luchon and Beyonne  (see more Aubisque Tour history,

below).

Beginning of the climb is in Argeles Gazost.

This is the longest and, in our opinion, because of the epic section of cliff and tunnel between Col du Soulor and Col d’Aubisque, the most epic of 2 amazing ascents to Col d'Aubisque.  Of course, you get the best of both worlds by riding from Argeles Gazost to the Col, then down to Laruns and back up from that side.  This is a wonderful out and back of about just under 100 kilometers and about 3,100 meters gained.

We enter Arrens at approximately 12 kilometers.

It is 7 kilometers from Arrens at 8% to Col du Soulor.

Leaving Arrens

Official Col du Soulor climb begins just after passing Arrens, 7 kilometers from the Col.

Photos in sequence clockwise from top left.

Col du Soulor is at the 19.5 kilometer mark.

Sign just after the 2.8 km descent from Col du Soulor and scenes between the 2 cols.

We descend 170 meters at -6%.

There are some kilometer markers (not every kilometer as of 2018).  The official start of the Col d’Aubisque route is actually before the end of the descent from Col du Soulor, at 21.6 kilometers and 7.5 km from Col d’Aubisque at an average grade of 4.1%.

The cliff begins at about the 22.5 kilometer point and runs just under 2 kilometers.

Top right photo:  bikeraceinfo.com ; Bottom right:  Edwin Seldenthus as published in velopeloton.com.

Center and left photos:  PJAMMCycling

Tunnel at 23 kilometers.

 

Memorial to former president of Béarnais Cyclo Club.

Bach lost an arm in WWI yet would climb Col d’Aubisque by bike until his death in 1945.

There is a monument and col sign marking the finish of this grand climb.

There are 3 giant bicycles just past the col sign and monument.  

TOUR DE FRANCE HISTORY

TOP 10 MOST FREQUENT CLIMBS OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE

AND 10 FAMOUS ONES AFTER THAT

Climb name

Mountain Range

Times Featured in Tour de France

Most recent

First included

Col du Tourmalet

Pyrenees

88

2021

1910

Col d'Aspin

Pyrenees

73

2022

1910

Col d'Aubisque

Pyrenees

73

2022

1910

Col de Peyresourde

Pyrenees

68

2021

1910

Col du Galibier

Alps

63

2022

1911

Col de Portet d'Aspet

Pyrenees

58

2021

1910

Col des Aravis

Alps

41

2020

1911

Col d'Izoard

Alps

36

2019

1922

Col de Vars

Alps

35

2019

1922

Col d'Allos

Alps

34

2015

1911

Alpe d'Huez

Alps

32

2022

1952

Col du Télégraphe

Alps

31

2022

1911

Col de la Madeleine

Alps

29

2020

1969

Col de la Croix de Fer

Alps

21

2022

1947

Mont Ventoux

Alps

18

2021

1951

Col du Soulor

Pyrenees

16

2019

1912

Col du Glandon

Alps

14

2015

1947

Puy de Dome

Massif Central

12

1988

1952

Luz Ardiden

Pyrenees

9

2021

1985

Col de l'Iseran

Alps

8

2019

1938

Col d’Aubisque is tied with Col d’Aspin for all-time second most TdF appearances.

©  PJAMMCycing.com

The Col d’Aubisque bike climb is one of the most famous climbs in the French Pyrenees and France.  Aubisque first appeared in the Tour de France in 1910, and as of 2022 has been included 73 times.   The climb was included twelve years straight after its post-war inauguration in 1947, and has been a stage finish three times, which is fairly significant for a pass.  For the 24 years between 1947 and 1970, the Aubisque was included in the Tour all but three years.  The pass was also included once (2016) in the Vuelta a Espan֘a.  

 

Stage 10 TdF 1911.  

Photo:  bikeraceinfo.com (an exceptional resource for all Grand Tours).

We rode this route in 2011 and 2018 . . . guess what . . . still the same. 👍

Same cliff, same mountain, same tunnel (as pictured above) over 100 years later.

Aubisque is our choice for Top TdF Nostalgic Climb.

The descent from Eaux Bonnes (western approach) towards Col du Soulor was and is a dangerous route - it’s a narrow road with sheer cliffs. On Stage 13, July 17, 1951, this hazardous stretch of road was the scene of one of the most horrific and famous crashes in Tour history.  The unlikely leader on this day was the pleasant and good natured Dutchman Wim van Est.  This Tour included pure and true cycling legends Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, and Louison Bobet, and, while an accomplished pursuit racer, van Est was never expected to compete for the overall classification in the greatest of the Grand Tours.  Nonetheless,  on July 26, during Stage 12, van Est, who started the day over nine minutes behind leader Roger Levêque, broke away and won the stage, finding himself in the yellow jersey by :02:29.

Cycling Col d'Aubisque  from Argeles Gazost - aerial drone photo from ravine of roadway and tunnel

A deadly road.

However, winning the flat Stage 12 by using his specialty sprint to gain time on the peloton is one thing, but a sprinter holding a slim lead over the Aubisque would be quite another.  And so it was that Van Est had lost his lead as he summited the mighty Aubisque and set about to regain some of what he had lost.  However, the narrow and windy road descending from Col d’Aubisque towards Col du Soulor is a poor choice for downhill heroics.  And so it was that fell and tumbled 70 meters down and nearly sheer mountainside. It was not just the fall that remains in our memories from this day, but the way Van Est was extricated from his predicament and that he was still alive and able to climb up the mountain back to the road under his own power.

Photo:  Edwin Seldenthus as published in velopeloton.com.

Here is  amazing YouTube footage of the rescue of Wim van Est.  He was helped up the mountainside by a chain of tires strung together by spectators and his support team.  Still alive and unbelievably without major injury, Van Est insisted on continuing the race, but was convinced by wiser authority to go to the hospital.

Making lemonade out of lemons (or $ out of near death?) -- when he flew off the Aubisque cliff, Van Est fortuitously (in hindsight anyway) was wearing a team issued Pontiac wrist watch which became the launching point for Van Est focused advertising campaign with this slogan:  “Seventy meters deep I dropped, my heart stood still but my Pontiac never stopped.”

All the greats have raced on the Aubisque

Louison Bobet, Stage 11 1954 TdF (champion 1953-1955)

 Photo:  bikeraceinfo.com

The Aubisque has a rich TdF history that began with its very first appearance in The Tour.  For the 1910 Tour,  legendary TdF organizer, Henri Desgrance, decided to include Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque climbs, as well as three smaller ones on Stage 10 (insane!) - this later became known as The Circle of Death.  The first rider over Col du Tourmalet on July 21, 1910 was eventual 1910 tour winner Frenchman Octave Lapize.  Lapize was overtaken on the next climb (Col d’Aubisque) and as he reached its summit he unleashed on tour organizers  - this is not disputed - what he said, however, is variously reported as either some or all of the following:  “murderers,” “assassins,” and/or “criminals.” The french version is most commonly reported asVous êtes des assassins!" which translates to “You are murderers.”   Sadly, Lapize was to die seven years later from injuries sustained when his fighter plane was shot down during WWI.  

Octave Lapize -- the first rider (hiker?) over Tourmalet, 1910.

Photo:  Cycling Passion, Octave Lapize walks over the Col du Tourmalet.

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