Thrill of climbing incredible summits is simply addictive

On top of the Col du Tourmalet in the French Pyrenees are (left) Iain Curry and Matthew Facey.
On top of the Col du Tourmalet in the French Pyrenees are (left) Iain Curry and Matthew Facey. Iain Curry

IT WAS never supposed to get this serious.

One kilometre from the summit of the infamous Col du Tourmalet in France's Pyrenees mountain range - my body destroyed and my mind hallucinating - I cursed the day I decided to turn a pedal on a road bike.

The snow was thick by the roadside, the freezing mist had cut visibility down to barely 10 metres, and my legs alternated between searing pain and numb acceptance of the task: reach the 2115m summit or die trying.

It felt a long way from the leisurely training rides back home.

A fair-weather cyclist, I typically enjoyed rides under sunny skies and in balmy temperatures.

But there was always a gnawing desire to test myself on those spectacular routes beamed through our television sets each June and July during the Tour de France.

There were no sunflowers or blue skies on this Pyrenees spring day.

My training partner Matt and I had committed to climbing the 35km to the Tourmalet's summit that Saturday, and we were greeted with sideways rain from the start.

The higher we climbed the more the mercury plummeted, and rain soon turned to snow. With frost forming on my now inadequate Lycra leggings, it was fortunate my heart rate was so high from the effort to keep me warm.

After almost two hours of endurance, the misty summit appeared. The last kilometre was the most arduous, but the elation at reaching the Tourmalet's peak was otherworldly.

We posed for a few photos on the summit, but a temperature of -2{+o}C meant we had to brave the descent immediately. Frost had formed so solidly on my shoe cleats that I couldn't clip into my bike pedals.

Downhill was a memorably freezing free-wheeling pursuit, and reaching speeds of over 70kmh intensified the cold. But positively, we reached the cafe sooner.

In no time we were by a roaring fire, giant French coffee in hand. It remains the best drink I've ever had.

This extreme cycle climbing is addictive, and is one of the most rewarding a cyclist can achieve.

The thrill of reaching these incredible summits under your own steam, especially with a good friend riding alongside, keeps you coming back for more.

>>More Travel stories


  • Mt Baw Baw, Victoria
  • Alpe d'Huez, French Alps
  • Col du Tourmalet, French Pyrenees
  • Mont Ventoux, Provence, France
  • Monte Zoncolan, Italy
  • Alto Del Angliru, Spain
  • Mt Haleakalu, Maui, Hawaii
  • Mt Washington, USA

Topics:  cycling france travel

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